Lebanese amb. to Lebanese Jews: All citizens must unite to save country

About 50 people attended a "family reunion" intended to warm ties with Jews who left Lebanon and their descendants.

The facade of Maghen Abraham, Beirut's last synagogue, in downtown Beirut in 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS)
The facade of Maghen Abraham, Beirut's last synagogue, in downtown Beirut in 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

About 50 Jews and other people from Lebanon or with roots in Lebanon took part in a "family reunion" at Lebanon's Embassy in Paris on Monday, after they were invited last month to join the event by the embassy.

The Lebanese news source Annahar called the event a "diplomatic precedent...in the presence of representatives of all the spiritual families that make up the 'Mosaic of the Land of Cedars.'"

According to Annahar, France's Chief Rabbi Haïm Korsia took part in the event as well, along with Lebanese Jews spanning four generations, including both those who left Lebanon and those born outside of the country. A photo from the event showed a crowd of people of all ages standing on the staircase in the embassy, along with the Lebanese ambassador and chief rabbi.

According to the report, some of the Jews who took part in the event still visit Lebanon due to interests in the Jewish endowments in the country.

One woman, age 70, who left Lebanon 30 years ago, asked Lebanese Ambassador Rami Adwan "Why now?" with Adwan replying "The Lebanese state has sometimes breached its duties. This state is currently in danger, and all its citizens belonging to different sects must unite to save it."

Adwan stated that he insisted on the event in order to show the Lebanese Jews that the government is there for them, adding that some parties tried to pressure him to cancel it due to claims that there could be "Zionists supporting the State of Israel" among the attendees.

The event apparently drew some criticism from figures in the Lebanese community in France who claimed that the event was part of the agenda of Gebran Bassil, the head of the Christian Free Patriotic Movement in Lebanon, and was conducted for him, although Adwan denied the claims, saying it was for the good of all of Lebanon, outside of party politics.

While many social media users expressed support for the event and saw it as a sign of hope, many social media users also expressed opposition, warning that such an event could be a prelude to normalization with Israel or just an attempt to appease Western powers amid Lebanon's ongoing internal crises.

"This is a special event, for me," said Nagi Gergi Zeidan, the author of the book "Jews of Lebanon," to Annahar. "What Ambassador Adwan did, all Lebanese officials have failed to do. In this meeting, I found the Lebanon that should be, and this homeland was expressed by Ambassador Adwan in his speech when he stressed the necessity of the return of the Lebanese Jews to the homeland."

Lebanese citizens living in France told the Lebanese news source that they were comforted by Adwan's initiative, as they had feared having personal or professional contact with the Jewish community due to "political ill-will."

The invitation sent by the embassy to Lebanese Jews last month read: "The presence of the Lebanese Jewish community in Lebanon and in the countries where many Lebanese have made their home is a source of pride and marks the uniqueness of our country."

"Lebanon is today, more than ever, attached to the promotion of its inclusive model and we know very well that our future depends only on our capacities to remain united, and on our will to remain open to the world and its richness," read the invitation.

The embassy added that it was organizing the "family reunion" in honor of the Jewish community, with determination to find common roots and aspirations for a world at peace.

The invitation to the event was sent to a number of Lebanese residents of France from all sects, according to Annahar.

The Annahar report on the planned event in October stressed that 'a country that presents itself to the world as a 'model of coexistence' cannot remain silent about the feeling of a group of its citizens of 'ostracism,' while Israel, which presents itself to the world on the basis that it is the 'state of the Jews,' hosts three thousand Lebanese who sought refuge in it after its withdrawal from southern Lebanon, twenty-one years ago."

A report on the event by MTV Lebanon stated that the event is "a step to reconnect what has been cut off" and "an occasion to recall that the Jews of Lebanon were, and still are, Lebanese citizens."

Lebanon once had a thriving Jewish community and its Jewish population actually grew after the State of Israel declared independence in 1948, although the Jewish population then largely fled the country after the 1967 Six Day War and the Lebanese Civil War which began in 1975 amid increasing antisemitism.

There are only 29 Jews believed to be left in Lebanon, although there are no official estimates of the number of Jews left in the country. Those left in the country live in hiding, praying in secret, despite the restoration of the Magen Abraham synagogue in Beirut in recent years.