Essays and Features

Whatever is Left of the Levantine Spirit?

Elie Chalala

The Arab world lives in a state of nostalgia for bygone days, when much of the hatred and intolerance of today had not set in, and the demographic minorities of what was once called the Levant were not escaping to Europe and elsewhere. But the Levant of peaceful coexistence between religious and ethnic minorities and the Muslim majority has suffered a physical blow with the rise of the terroristic Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)...Using the word Levant has raised much curiosity, both intellectual and political. Identifying the vicious and obscurantist ISIS movement with the region called the Levant, a place which historically has represented the polar opposite of ISIS ideology, causes dissonance. 

 

The Arab world lives in a state of nostalgia for bygone days, when much of the hatred and intolerance of today had not set in, and the demographic minorities of what was once called the Levant were not escaping to Europe and elsewhere. But the Levant of peaceful coexistence between religious and ethnic minorities and the Muslim majority has suffered a physical blow with the rise of the terroristic Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Rescuing Christianity in Syria!

Salam Kawakibi

While the number of Christians has decreased under the Syrian government – a government that claims to be the “the protector of minorities” – from 15% in 1970 to 4.6% in 2008, the regime still insists on exaggerating the percentage to about 10%. The church itself places it at about 7%. The state’s rationale in offering a rosy picture appears clear: it provides a convenient propaganda tool from which the regime benefits in its “public relations.” 

Many factors contributed to the decreased numbers of Syrian Christians before the 2011 revolutionary uprising. These included immigration based on economic or political reasons, and low birth rates compared to other religious communities, with the latter a factor generally attributed to higher educational levels.

Europe’s New Refugee Problem Requires Explanation beyond War!

Bobby Gulshan

The scenes of refugees drowning by the hundreds in the seas between Turkey and Greece as they attempt to reach Europe are harrowing . They come from all corners of the Middle East, not only from Syria, but also Lebanon and Iraq. Lebanon recently received the corpses of a family of eight who died when they illegally took a ship from Turkey heading to Europe. All this while the photo of the Syrian toddler, Aylan Kurdi, remains fresh in the minds of the world.

 

The scenes of refugees drowning by the hundreds in the seas between Turkey and Greece as they attempt to reach Europe are harrowing. They come from all corners of the Middle East, not only from Syria, but also Lebanon and Iraq. Lebanon recently received the corpses of a family of eight who died when they illegally took a ship from Turkey heading to Europe. All this while the photo of the Syrian toddler, Aylan Kurdi, remains fresh in the minds of the world.

‘The Secret of Being a Woman' on Etel Adnan's Quest

Mona Takieddine Amyuni

I read Etel Adnan. I meet her sometimes in Beirut. I try all the time to discover the kind of writer she is, the woman she is, how she perceives herself and the world around her. She tells us that her books are the houses she builds for herself, that she settles nowhere, that she lives all over the world in newspapers, railway stations, cafés, airports. Feeling different early in life, she writes in “Journey:” “Memories are as fresh as cool water and a cool breeze floats over one’s fever.”

Etel Adnan describes a group of friends who gather frequently in Mill Valley, California, ostensibly to paint.  Instead, they are fully involved in the issue of perception. In her book “Journey to Mount Tamalpais,” she quotes one woman in this group: “To perceive is to be both objective and subjective. It is to be in the process of becoming one with whatever it is, while also becoming separate from it.” And, she adds, the moment of perception is a moment of art. 

Etel Adnan’s ‘THE ARAB APOCALYPSE’

Mona Takieddine Amyuni

In a meeting with my students at the American University of Beirut on December 14, 2000, the Lebanese-American poet Etel Adnan told us that she began writing her long, prophetic poem “The Arab Apocalypse” (The Post-Apollo Press, 1989) in January 1975 in Beirut, two months before the outbreak of the Lebanese War (1975-1990).  “Then, the war took the poem over,” said Adnan, and she added: “The war wrote this poem. I started with tensions and rhythms and later wrote 59 pages corresponding to the 59 days of the Tal-el-Zaatar (a Palestinian camp in the outskirts of Beirut, destroyed by the Lebanese Forces in 1976) siege and destruction.”

In a meeting with my students at the American University of Beirut on December 14, 2000, the Lebanese-American poet Etel Adnan told us that she began writing her long, prophetic poem “The Arab Apocalypse” (The Post-Apollo Press, 1989) in January 1975 in Beirut, two months before the outbreak of the Lebanese War (1975-1990).  “Then, the war took the poem over,” said Adnan, and she added: “The war wrote this poem.

Andrée Chedid’s 'Wounded Beirut'

Mona Takieddine Amyuni

I have coined the phrase “Wounded Beirut” as an expression of the state of my bleeding heart and my city’s as I lived and suffered the war that decimated my country between1975-1990.  I witnessed the agony of my city being reduced to ruins, and yet, refusing to die. Indeed, “Wounded Beirut” summarizes in my imagination all that we did, witnessed, and resisted throughout those long, tragic war years.  Writing about my city has certainly been part of the healing process and a tribute to Beirut.

Black Winds

In many languages
men devastate the land

tear it up with gun-fire
Smash it with terror
bury it under the dead

In the spiral of ages
In the black winds of hatred
love is too light.

‘The Jewish Quarter:’

Second Title 
Ramadan Drama Revisits 40’s Egyptian-Jewish Relations
By 
Elie Chalala

“The Jewish Quarter” has sent some unsettling messages about the “Ramadan series” (or soaps), prompting commentaries in the Arab press and beyond, and finally meriting a feature article in the New York Times. This 30 episode serial, which runs through the month of Ramadan in Egypt, offers a viewpoint unlike that featured in any other serial before or after the Arab Spring.

 

Nawal Al Saadawi Speaks on Intellectuals, Politics, and Sexuality

Elie Chalala

Nawal el-Saadawi remains one of the most famous Arab feminists. She is also considered a radical and uncompromising activist. Her radicalism spans a wide range of gender issues, and perhaps most irritating to Arab governments has been her insistence on the interconnectedness of sexuality and politics, a perspective which leads her to conclude that they need not be separated.

Nawal el-Saadawi remains one of the most famous Arab feminists. By the same token, many consider her one of the most radical and uncompromising activists. Her radicalism spans a wide range of issues, including women’s sexuality, the circumcisions of young girls, and, perhaps most irritating to Arab governments, her insistence on the interconnectedness of sexuality and politics, a perspective which leads her to conclude that they need not be separated.

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