21 July 2006

6eeba

When I related in an earlier post the story of my uncle who was saved by his friend of another faith, it made me think of something that has been threatened lately in Lebanese or Arab society: the 6eeba (teeba) of people. Even though we know of stories from all over the world and from every society, stories about people protecting members of other communities in times of war, such as during WWII in Nazi Europe, or the great Underground Railroad during the slavery period in the U.S., I couldn't help and think particularly of Arab society and the current social and moral crisis that it has been going through lately, as well as Lebanese society particularly and 3Amili (Southern Lebanese) society specifically.*

I have always had a deeply felt admiration and love for the "6eeba" of 3Amili people, that pure, innocent, friendly, affectionate, compassionate, giving, good-natured, goodwilled charactersitic that is found in those agrarian villagers that are now dying away. In the U.S., such people are called "salt of the Earth." In my mind and imagination, this characteristic represents the true Lebanon that people of all faiths have known for centuries, and have lived together and with each other accordingly. The Lebanon of goodwill and purity of heart, "teeba", not the Lebanon of imposed sectarian strife that stealthily crept into that ancient land, during a dark, moonless night, in the briefcase of diplomats, or in the underbelly of a military supply ship, or in the bloody ink of spiteful propaganda. This characteristic of people is especially found in villagers, and I have come to know it in the villagers of Jabal 3Amil. You can still touch it when looking at or listening to the old people.

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* [The hilly/mountainous region of South Lebanon is also called Jabal 3Amil, or Mount 3Amil, a reference to one of the 12 migrating tribes of the ancient Yemeni civilization of Sabaء, the tribe of 3Amila, which finally settled in South Lebanon during the pre-Islamic era.]

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