On Palestinian camps

Al Akhbar is probably the first Lebanese newspaper to have added a section on Palestinian camps to its publication, along with political news, society, economics, etc, as part of its ‘local’ news pages.

From a conversation I had with a relative

–   Yes yes some of the things Hizbullah figures say I understand and can relate to, but other claims just give me the creeps.

–   Like what exactly?

–   Well for example their claim of a ‘divine victory’

–   So? What’s creepy about it?

–   The fact that they want to insert God in everything they do.

–   Maybe because they prayed God that he would give them the strength to fight and vanquish, and once it had happened they attributed this victory to the fulfilment of their prayers.

–   Oh but that’s exactly what’s wrong here. They should be fighting for patriotic reasons. The moving idea should be ‘patriotism’ and not God.

–   But if they are asking God to help them, it is for ‘patriotic reasons’ as they want to defend their land or repel occupation. Besides what’s nobler as an idea patriotism or God?

–  Yeah but that’s not how one should pray. I don’t mix patriotism and God.

–  Don’t you pray at night for your friends and people you love to have a promising future, to stay healthy? To wake up and still be on the same roof? Aren’t they doing the same thing adding to that they are asking God to give them the strength to fight?

–  Yes but I don’t ask God to give me strength, God cannot change things for me, I change them. I only pray when I can’t do anything about things, like when someone has cancer or something.

–  I don’t really understand here. Are you saying that there are certain things one can ask God but not other things? Strength and will, discipline, and perseverance are not things one ask God to give. But magical tricks are such as curing this or that person or creating affluence while staying idle. In reality everything is asked by God according to all religious traditions, you are just restricting your prayers to a very specific set of requests, those that fall in the category of “it is now in God’s hand” no?

–  I don’t know…  we just pray differently…

Rome to Beirut or Tel Aviv

The airport of Rome sticks the gate of the plane going to Beirut to the one going to Tel Aviv. Every single time I use Italian airports for flight connections it is the same story. It could be taken as a lesson of ill-directed pride. It could be read as something like: for us you are the same, chunks of lands juxtaposed, bunch of brown people with similar attributes, so your gates should be just like Paris and Brussels, gates next to each other. Or it could be read as laziness to separate both gates just because there is a conflict between the two post-colonial countries even tough ironically enough, the actual planes are separated because of “security issues”…

I usually go and sit between the Israeli crowd. As I am early, only one Rabbi sits there with his usual big belly eating a sandwich. I take out my laptop and starts listening to Bach’s art of the fugue (blabla). Try that, listen to Bach gently setting a serene almost mystical atmosphere while seeing Israelis arrive. Slowly emerge out of nowhere passenger after passenger and this weird feeling of being surrounded by something different, hostile but exiting overtake me. “Khkhkh” that’s all I can hear. I try to rationalize things thinking that these are individuals, mostly harmless “civilians” as prevailing political legal structures would have it, but my mind seem to evade my will. I always play this game actually. Every time I travel and the occasion presents itself I do that, I go and sit with the Israelis, and each time, I try to feel somewhat differently, this overbearing feeling of irritation but struggle to understand and subliminally ‘reach out’.

This time I listen to a conversation next to me, and it is in Lebanese Arabic. At first, it seems like these two men are Lebanese, like me, and thought of playing this stupid game of “sitting between the Israelis.” But it turns out these are Lebanese who live in Israel. Later on, I sat between the Lebanese, the ones sitting for the plane leaving to Beirut, and I watched the other Lebanese board on the plane to Tel Aviv. I want to wave them goodbye, do something, anything. And then the brouhaha of spoken Lebanese slowly embraced me and gradually tame my ardors. There were more pressing voices bursting into my thoughts. Our own divisions is the subject of the day. The recent armed clashes in Beirut, the various political squabbles following the election of the new parliament, the appointment of Saad Hariri as prime minister, the Sunni-Shi’ite conflict, the increasingly scared Christians and their ill-understood liberty, and so on, and so on…

I give a couple of clicks to my computer and listen to Zaki Murad, that great Jewish Egyptian singer of the early 1900s: Yes’ed layalik, laya…alik, ya…a…a…amar! Akh ya Zaki…