Juliette Elmir Sa’adeh And Our Syrian Dreams And Nightmares Part 2

Khalil Haddad was the salt of the earth. His hometown in Lebanon was tiny Baskinta, way up north. His accent, which decades in America failed to soften, remained lovely and true to home. His demeanor was gregarious, his nature very kind and giving, his smile constant, his storytelling legendary.

We called him Amou (uncle) Khalil, as all Arab youngsters call their male elders. But Amou Khalil, a dear friend of my father’s since their school days at International College (IC), loved us as a family uncle would, and we loved him back.

We first met Amou Khalil in Washington D.C in the late 1970s. In age, we four siblings were anywhere between very young (21) and little (10). I hovered in the middle, at 15.
From high school at Holton Arms through my undergraduate years at Georgetown University, Amou Khalil was ever present. And then life, as is often its wont, found us continents apart.

A Lebanese Habit

People are talking in biblical terms these days in Lebanon. Damnation, retribution, reckonings, deliverance, and the lot.

We’ve always felt accursed, mind you. Special, yes, and beautiful. Clever too. And all the more accursed because of it. A peculiar psychology, I’ll admit. Something about the geography and its laws, the friends we keep, the admirers we have, the way the stars are aligned, the small “gods” watching over us and the great many bowing to them.

The State of Us

“Stand before a picture as before a prince…Waiting to see whether it will speak and what it will say.” 


Every once in a while, a lone photo emerges to render the human condition in all its pain and beauty. A vista that says it all.

Comes now one among a flood of snapshots of an earthquake that has disturbed the quiet of southeastern Turkey and added to the devastation in the north of war-torn Syria.

The Curious Case of Middle Lebanon

Two weekends ago, I walked from Clemenceau, where I live, to Gimmeyzeh for a rendezvous at Ginnette café with a friend.
It was a quiet, sunny Sunday morning. The walk didn’t take more than the usual 20 minutes. I took the downtown route, because the center (aka Solidere) is lifeless on Sundays. I didn’t have to suffer the car and electricity generators’ fumes.

Israel and its Cracks

I read a Thinking Fits post about Israel yesterday that I wrote in 2010. It didn’t feel like a lifetime ago, but if I’d had a child that year, they would be in 8th grade now. I know. It’s a rather depressing way of measuring the passage of time.

Not Random Journal Entries

December 23rd: I looked up تقوقع in google translate. I got “squat.” Terrible! They ought to do something about that tool. But I suppose the state of us is a kind of emotional and mental squat. Some obviously squatting way more than others in this country. Around us. In Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Iraq.

“In Search of Fathers” Part 2

An afternoon in 1972, a quiet conversation between two old Palestinian warriors in a living room filled with books. The two had not seen each other in decades, one presumes. Once protagonists on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees, now they fidgeted awkwardly in their seats as they chatted.

“In Search of Fathers” Part 1

I was barely into the first few pages of Raja Shehadeh’s We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I, when a 24-year-old inscription rushed back to mind.

In 1998, my friend Christopher Dickey (1951-2020), an author and then Newsweek’s Middle East Editor, came visiting in Beirut, bearing with him the advance uncorrected reader’s proof of Summer of Deliverance. Chris was the son of the very famous (and no less infamous) James Dickey, the poet and novelist. The bestseller Deliverance, which came out in 1970, was his debut novel.

Pining for Palestine

It happened when I started watching Losing Alice, an Israeli series that debuted on Apple TV in 2020. By the end of the first two episodes, I noticed a pining kind of curiosity carrying me through the show.

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