Letter from Lebanon: 'We Are Busy Rebuilding'
Letter from Lebanon: We Are Busy
For the past month my Christian village in Mount Lebanon, like hundreds of others, has been host to Shiia Muslim refugees from the south of the country escaping from the huge destruction of their villages in the war you would have heard about on the news.
The moment the United Nations ceasefire came into effect, however, the refugees got into their cars and vans and headed quickly back south to rebuild their homes, their businesses and their communities.
No one in Lebanon, no matter which religion they belong to, was surprised by the fast return of the Shiia.
Every Lebanese knows that 90 years ago the Armenians of Turkey came to our country to escape war, and that 58 years ago the Palestinian Sunni Muslim and Greek Orthodox Christians, also came to our country to escape persecution.
In 2006, the Armenians and the Palestinians, half a million in total together, remain in Lebanon because - until now - they have never been allowed to return to their homelands.
The southern Lebanese don't want to end up as dependent on welfare, the welfare of the UN or the welfare of the government. They have their own social services, provided by the Party of God or, in Arabic, Hizbullah, which is represented in the government.
Lebanon isn't like Egypt or Syria, which have "one-party" states or like Jordan or the Arab Gulf countries, which have powerful kings.
Lebanon is much more open with low taxes, low tariffs, a free enterprise culture with a very small Central Government which can only work when the representatives of all the 18 communities show each other goodwill and cooperate together.
So far there is a strong feeling of support, nation-wide, for Prime Minister Siniora because he is compassionate and he is fair. He doesn't play political games but accepts the facts on the ground and tries to make the system work as best it can.
It isn't a perfect democracy, but unlike Israel we haven't kicked out one community and stuck them in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. Unlike Syria, we have much more individual freedom from the government. It isn't like Cyrpus where the two communities are separated by a permanent barrier - with U.N. soldiers patrolling to keep the sides apart.
There will be an investment boom in Lebanon, so long as the government in the United States supports our democracy and starts being realistic.
If the U.S. government is sincere about promoting democracy in this region, it will ask Israel to release Lebanese prisoners held in Israel, to release maps of the mines that kill Lebanese civilians and that were planted in Lebanon by the Israel Defence Force between 1978 and 2000 and the U.S. will also ask Israel to settle, in a fair and reasonable way, the needs of the Palestinians and, yes, the Syrian Government too - its main argument with Israel relates to its Golan Heights that the Israel invaded in 1967 and later annexed into Israel against many U.N. resolutions.
And maybe the U.S. government does think that enough civilians have suffered and that it is time to, after three generations, at last deliver a fair peace in this conflict that hurts ordinary Palestinians, Israelis, Lebanese and Syrians.
If so, my advice to Kiwi businesses is to rush to send representatives to Beirut and get established here.
This is the most dynamic city in the Arab world. Lebanon's 3.5 million citizens have networks, there are 10 million Lebanese people living around the world from South America to West Africa, the Arabian Gulf to East Asia
It is not a matter of oil, gold
or diamond mines or other things..
It is simply our history that makes them shiver..
GOD BLESS US, as we will remain the children of the Cedar Land.
STATISTICS ABOUT LEBANON:
1. Lebanon has 18 religious communities
2. It has 40 daily newspapers
3. It has 42 universities
4 It has over 100 banks (that is banks and not branches of a bank)
5. 70% of the students are in private schools
6. There's 1 doctor per 10 people in Lebanon (In Europe & America, there's 1 doctor per
7. The name LEBANON appears 75 times in the Old Testament
8. The name CEDAR (Lebanon's tree) appears 75 times too in the Old Testament!!
9. Beirut was destroyed and rebuilt 7 times (this is why it's compared to The Phoenix).
10. There are 3.5 Million Lebanese in Lebanon
11. There are around 10 Million Lebanese outside Lebanon!
OTHER INTERESTING FACTS:
the country, was occupied by over 16 countries:
Egyptians-Hittites-Assyrians- Babylonians- Persians-
Alexander the greats Army- the Roman Empire
Byzantine- the Arabian Peninsula-The Crusaders- the Ottoman
Empire- Britain-France- Israel- Syria.
2. Byblos (city in Lebanon) is the oldest, continuously living city in the world.
3. Lebanon's name has been around for 4,000 yrs non- stop (it's the oldest country/ nation's name in the world!)
4. Lebanon is the only Asian/African country that doesn't have a desert.
5. There are 15 rivers in Lebanon (all of them coming from its own mountains)
6. Lebanon is one of the most populated countries in its archeological sites, in the world!!!
7. The first alphabet was created in Byblos (city in Lebanon)
8. The only remaining temple of Jupiter (the main Roman god) is in Baalbeck, Lebanon (The City of the Sun)
9. The name of BYBLOS comes from the BIBLE
10. Lebanon is the country
that has the most books written about it.
11. Lebanon is the only non-dictatorial country in the Arab world (it has a President!) 12. According to Christianity Jesus Christ made his 1st miracle in Lebanon, in Sidon (The miracle of turning water into wine).
13. The Phoenicians (Original People of Lebanon) built the 1st boat, and they were the first to sail ever!
14. Phoenicians also reached America long before Christopher Columbus did.
15. The 1st law school in the world was built in Lebanon, in Downtown Beirut.
16. People say that the cedars were planted by God's own hands (This is why they're called "The Cedars of God", and this is why Lebanon is called "God's Country on Earth."
Is it not a real Crime against Humanity to destroy a country with such history?
A network of enterprise and business.
New Zealand has expertise in milk, cheese and butter production, in farming and forestry, in medicines, in fisheries and in many other things. To get a presence in the Lebanese market is to get an opening into the entire Arab World because Lebanon is the commercial capital of this world which is becoming more urban, more developed and less backward because of "globalization".
And while I personally would be able to help with the distribution of any medicines or other aid that Kiwis would like to send over to our communities that are rebuilding, the truth is that the best contribution that New Zealand can make to stability and peace in this region is through trade, commerce, business and the cultural understanding that comes with that.