Beirut, I Love you
Whirling Trees detail
Our tree in Hasbaya. 2014
Whirling Trees - gallery view
Whirling Trees - detail
In May 2000, I visited the home town of my ancestors for the first time. The South of Lebanon had been occupied by the Israeli army for my entire life. When the army fled, we went down the next day to see our home. The home that my grandfather built, my father grew up in, but I had yet to see. Because our house was built on a hilltop, the Israeli army took it and turned it into a military detention center. With a clear view over Hasbaya and villages beyond, they could monitor Lebanese activity from there.
There was a grand oak tree that my father used to play in. My grandfather as a youth dreamed of building his family home under this tree. And he did. However, upon our return home, we saw that the army had built a cement bunker under the tree. The challenge lay in how to dismantle the bunker without harming the tree.
Trees stand as silent witness to wars and atrocities around us. They also are witness to beautiful life moments... that time we pulled out a book, mesmerised and read for hours... that time, he stole a kiss from her... that time she knew that 96 years had been a good long life and that it would be time to go soon...
This work is a celebration to all the trees that endured, that protected, that sheltered, that transmuted pain in the land into love and light.
I am happy to report that our tree today stands tall and healthy.
But the Israeli army were not the first nor the last to settle on these lands. During the French occupation of the Levant, Asmahan's uncle, Zayn al Attrash, along with my great grandfather Fadallah al Attrash, composed a war poem - a qasida, as they were escaping from the French. Years later, Zayd gave the poem to Asmahan who turned it into a song. Ya Dirati- My Home.
These are the lines that make up the tree "My home, don't blame us. Blame those who betrayed you. We quenched the thirst of our swords with blood of our foes. Unlink the traitors, we will never cheapen you for a price.
As my trees slowly whirl, they take into consideration that there may yet be more occupations to come.
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