Lebanon’s Phoenix Rising

The hills of Lebanon, photographed May 2006 (Steve Jones)


How many singers sang songs to Beirut, starting with our beloved Fairuz to the exquisite Majida el Roumi? Every word in those songs is written in blood, the precious blood of the Lebanese people that have suffered all their lives.

I am not writing this article to condemn the atrocious Israeli war on Lebanon that started on that abyssal day of July 12, 2006, nor to debate who is mainly responsible for it. I am writing to give hope - the hope that every Lebanese citizen needs right now. Hope for every family who has lost a child, a mother or a father. Hope for every family whose house was destroyed. Hope for every Lebanese student who thinks he has no future in his country anymore. Hope for every investor who withdrew his business from this country.

In Majida el Roumi’s song to Beirut, she sings, “Beirut, lady of the world, get up from under the ruins like a pine flower in April.”

Have you ever seen or smelled a pine flower in April? If you are Lebanese, I think you should have. It has a pure white color, and what color is better than white to remove all this black? As for the smell, this fragrance that tells a new beginning, gives you a little chill when experienced for the first time. What better fragrance to wipe out the smell of burnt fuel, rubble and bombs?

As for the red color and its odor, blood can neither be removed nor wiped out. It will be engraved in our hearts and our minds to remind us of all those who perished honorably for us to continue. We shall never forget them.

I am a 21-year-old Lebanese who has recently graduated from the American University Beirut; I was accepted for a one-year masters program in London. As sad as I am to have to leave my country for a year, I have made a pact to myself to return to my homeland - whatever it takes - after this year. Most of my family members and friends tell me that I am lucky to leave and to have a new beginning elsewhere, but I tell them I am lucky to be born in a country such as Lebanon. I am lucky to be born in the country of Khalil Gibran. I am lucky to be born in the country of the Rahbani brothers. I am lucky to be born in the country of Fairuz. I am lucky to be born in a capital that was once referred to as Paris of the East. I could continue forever if I wanted.

I want to return to see the cedar tree grow in my garden. I want to return to see the flashy lights of downtown Beirut on a Saturday night. I want to return to my Sunday lunches with my whole family. I want to return to those snowy white mountains. I want to return to those sandy gold beaches. I want to return and raise a family in Lebanon and most importantly, I want to return to build our Lebanon, the land of my ancestors, the land of the brave and the mighty.

If you ever went to Jezzine city in the south, there is a big statue of Mary at the entrance of the city, watching over the destroyed south. This statue is crying at the moment. I want to help wipe her tears. There is a myth about the Phoenix, a bird that is capable of rising from its ashes. The phoenix will no longer be a legend, my friends, as after this war - which may last weeks, months or even years - Lebanon will rise high and aim for the moon. If it misses, it will surely land on the stars. For all those who left our Lebanon, I tell them: We’ll meet again, my friends.

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Marwan Khoueiry is 21 years old and a recent gradaute of the American University of Beirut.