Song for Lebanon
In the current climate, when a Middle East war may come from any direction, it’s worth sitting back and hearing beauty, the opposite of war and hate. After reading Idan Landau’s post (in Hebrew) predicting an imminent “war of choice” by Israel against Hezbollah, I watched the video he featured of the Israeli performer, Karolina, singing an enchanting song dedicated to Lebanon. Yes, it’s still possible in a society swimming in war hysteria to hear such beauty.
The problem is that songs are mere art. They are evanescent. They make a ripple in a pool, then they’re gone. But war is a brutal thing. It kills. It tears apart, people and countries. To hear Idan’s frightening assessment of how close we are to a new, unnecessary Middle East war, brought chills. There is definitely the smell of gunpowder in the air. So here is a small, momentary antidote to warm the soul:
A cherry tree resting in a cloud
The smell of jasmine, the lemons of Lebanon, mon cheri
The distance of a mere footstep from here
Above a white ridge
If only I could spy your beauty, Lebanon, mon amour
My torn sister
I await you with a kiss
To sing in Sidon and Tyre, Lebanon, mon amour
A cherry tree resting in a cloud
The story is not yet over, Lebanon, mon amour
To be clear, this is not a rousing anti-war song. It’s not a broadside. In fact, it’s unclear who, if anyone, the songwriter blames for Lebanon’s being her “wounded sister.” It could be Israel. It could be Hezbollah. It could be anyone.
Karolina responded to my questions about the origin and meaning of the song saying:
I actually wrote a song of love between two sisters, LEBANON and ISRAEL.
They really want to be together, close to each other…
It is not a political song at all. It is a love song, and a sad love.
In this crazy time both in Israel and the region, it’s not easy to write a song that speaks of love, rather than war & hate. But any song that rejects the prevailing mood of incitement to war is, in effect, a political song. I realize why Karolina prefers that people not consider it political, since that might limit its impact or diminish the number of Israelis who might listen to it. But I’d prefer not to hide the light of this song under a bushel. It’s message is more implicit, perhaps less confrontational (and less powerful) than Chava Alberstein’s Had Gadya. But Alberstein lost her Israeli audience over the song, was banned from airplay and went into exile for ten years. Karolina chooses not to take that path.
There may be some who decry this attempt as too little, too late, too tepid in light of the massive destruction Israel has levelled against Lebanon going back to 1982. Though there is a point to this, the mere fact that an Israeli is singing a song devoted to this troubled, battered nation is testimony to Carolina’s urge to shun the hatred and violence which characterized Israel’s relationship with that country over the past forty years. That’s worth celebrating…
NOTE: Middle East Eye has published my latest article critiquing the NY Times expose, claiming Israel’s long-term military alliance with Egypt against Islamists in Sinai has been a “secret.” Give it a read and please promote on social media.
14 thoughts on “Song for Lebanon – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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It’s all so very convenient when the jaws of death are closing around Netanyahu’s throat that suddenly the need for war arises. I don’t discount that there are real and existential dangers to the State of Israel but my friends and I have said for some time that this current Prime Minister is willing to risk everything to stay in power.
I admire your optimism Richards I really do, i wish I could share in that but this one is too close to home for me.
Considering that Israel was never a neighbor until it was established, there is no sisterhood about either of them. Jewish Lebanese for example betrayed Lebanon by defecting to Israel and leading the attacks on Lebanon in 2006; it was a shameful betrayal. Lebanese Jews stopped being Lebanese with any right to being Lebanese; the moment they left Lebanon and took up zionist arms to attack her and Palestinian and Kurdish refugees. Their role in the darkness of the Israeli invasions has yet to even be acknowledged; but what was done was absolute horror. This is most likely a threat to Lebanese if it was by an Israel; but if it were made by a Palestinian then it makes total sense and isn’t hostile.
Why no poems for Palestinians? Why are the obsessed with Lebanese? This pops up just as Israel continues to threaten Lebanon. There are no coincidences.
All in all, Israel wants to attack the Lebanese again, it has no respect for its sovereignty, its legitimate rights to self defense, its laws that allow the people to form militias, or how it runs itself and who runs it nor who it chooses to ally with…. and thats all that matters.
Israelis can write all the fluff they want, whether they want to admit it about their origins or not; they are the historical aggressors, attackers, occupiers and invaders of Lebanon. Until the state answers for its crimes against humanity, against the people of Lebanon, compensates each and every Lebanese, Palestinian families can return home in particular, signs a treaty promising a not an armistice but a total demilitarization of any areas at Lebanon’s borders and returns whats left of occupied Lebanese lands; it is all empty talk that not a single Lebanese is interested in hearing.
That’s the truth of the matter. Israel blew any chances of any peace when it attacked Lebanon in 2006. Now it can only answer for its crimes and after that there can be talk of a treaty.
But the Palestinians are apart of that. There can be no peace without Palestinian refugees being made the priority.
“Jewish Lebanese for example betrayed Lebanon by defecting to Israel and leading the attacks on Lebanon in 2006”
Do you have proof that Jewish Lebanese ‘led’ the attack in 2006? I think there were never more than 10,000 Jews in Lebanon in the ’50’s and probably %60 or more were women and children.
So think they gathered in the north to invade Lebanon. There
You entire post is riddled with falsehood or an example of non compos mentis.
@ marty: this is one time when I agree with you. THere were no Jews in Lebanon in 2006. So how could they have led anything?
Your comment is disingenuous, the modern state of Lebanon came about from the French Mandate for Syria (as did Syria and Iraq for that matter). Prior to that for the longest period of time it was part of the Ottoman Empire.
‘Your comment is disingenuous, the modern state of Lebanon came about from the French Mandate for Syria (as did Syria and Iraq for that matter). Prior to that for the longest period of time it was part of the Ottoman Empire.’
I get tired of this. The nation state as we understand it is a modern invention — two hundred years ago, few of them existed.
We do not, on that account, feel that nine-tens of humanity has no right to national self-expression. No one suggests that the Irish should be placed back under British rule, or that Lithuania belongs to Russia, or that Germany and Italy should be dismembered. We in fact sympathize with Tibetans and others forced to kneel under the yoke of an alien power.
…well, we sympathize unless Israel might want to take a bite. Isn’t that about it?
“I get tired of this… the nation state as we understand it is [sic] a modern invention “ and yet you have no problem in hypocritically using that very concept to further your own bias, using your own arguemnt, why do you single out the plight of the Arabs in Palestine as being more worthy than any others? Surely it is a worthy cause, but the hypocrisy is deafening.
[comment deleted: accusations of anti-Semitism may not be thrown about here wily-nily. Nor did you make clear who you were accusing of anti-Semitism. I frown upon such accusations especially if they aren’t supported by solid, credible evidence.]
‘…why do you single out the plight of the Arabs in Palestine as being more worthy than any others? Surely it is a worthy cause, but the hypocrisy is deafening.’
Actually, I have said precisely the opposite — but you accuse me of ‘hypocrisy’ without even bothering to acquaint yourself with my views.
Should I bother to try to talk to someone who just blindly sprays spittle all over his interlocutor? You tell me.
‘All in all, Israel wants to attack the Lebanese again…’
They are neighbors. Israel has attacked all her neighbors. Jordan and Egypt would be off-bounds at the moment, so…
Israel’s actually unique in that respect, you know. Hitler never had a go at Switzerland, and Stalin managed to refrain from molesting Turkey. Among modern nations, Israel is special.
I appreciate you trying to find light in the dark — something other than the reek of sewage. However, there is a certain sense of a desire to take possession in these lyrics, you know.
In context, I imagine Lebanon might find the sentiments less than reassuring. She might prefer prefer indifference.
The sense of a “desire to take possession” arises only in your interpretation of it, it’s certainly not in the lyrics, on the contrary, she says she would like to espy its beauty (which Richard translated as “spy”). I don’t understand how you can speak for the intentions of 100% of israelis, and still feel like you’re right.
@ raviv: “espy” IS perhaps a better translation, though a bit archaic. Not commonly used these days.