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Cedars, Lebanese & Tomorrow

Today? It is just like yesterday, but much worse!

That is unless… WE ACT…

Maybe this short story describes things better.

Lebanon is a Holy Land. Its cedars are mentioned 103 times in the Bible and Jesus’ first miracle, turning water into wine, took place near the Phoenician city of Tyre.

Once upon a time, The Lebanon’s forests and hills were thickly covered with cedar trees. All eyed the Cedars of Lebanon. The more kings and VIPs requested the timber for their palatial domains, temples, ships, and as recently as not long ago, by the Ottoman Empire who helped themselves to Cedar trees to build their railway too… The more the inhabitants of the Land of the Cedars happily provided:

In Lebanese slang they probably said:

“Your Eye is Welcome”

“Can I add some Mountain Rocks to your order?”

“How many trees do you want?”

“If you were to up your order so many, I will sweeten your deal”

“You just tell me what you need, and I will fulfill your order”

“Believe me, once you get used to me and to the quality of MY product, you will not go anywhere else”

Over selling and upselling is how it should be in business, and the Lebanese excel at it… Unfortunately, it was not at their OWN expense.

It took a foreigner, Hadrian, the Roman emperor (117-138 AD) to order the halt of the destruction of the cedars by claiming them as an imperial domain.

The first recorded number of Cedar trees in the Bsharri area of Northern Lebanon was in 1550, almost a half millennial ago, when the French traveler, Pierre Belon, counted a mere 28 trees, Yes, 28 Cedar trees. Subsequent travelers counted numbers as low as 16. In 1876, Queen Victoria paid for a high stone wall to protect the “cedars of God” grove from goats.

The Lebanese finally took over the care for their cedar tree which is the emblem on their national flag. In 1985, the “Committee of the Friends of the Cedar Forest” initiated treatment of diseased trees and a reforestation program. In 1998, the Cedars of God were added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

It is futile to remind the Lebanese of how they fared, from bad to worse, over the last 50 years, but in few lines, they lived a civil war, invasions, a fake high living standard, made about by a Ponzi scheme which overrated their national currency to the point that they even halted most of their manufacturing and resorted to a $20bn annual import bill. They further relied on cheap foreign labor for anything from construction work, trash collection, and domestic help. They displayed complete nonchalance over how they are ruled and how much corruption and mismanagement surrounded them, until the greatest shock of economic collapse.

Maybe the story of the Cedars above should leave the Lebanese with the faintest light over the horizon. It took 4000 years to teach us to appreciate our what the holy book wrote about the cedars. We now have only months, prior to the next parliamentary and presidential elections to plan, proceed and implement the right changes – New Electoral Laws – So that we do not by just default, re-elect the same bunch, and watch and live the demise of the Republic.