All Soul’s Day blues
Posted by worriedlebanese on 02/11/2009
As I drove back home today in the pouring rain, I noticed three women entering a cemetery holding flowers (and umbrellas). They were probably visiting a relative’s grave. The neighbourhood they were in is a strange one. It’s made up of six or seven walled in cemeteries, each belonging to a different community. Most cemeteries lie on a planned highway’s path. Two of them are more or less abandoned.
This menacing highway was planned in the 1960s, and expropriation orders were issued. Two stretches have been built on both sides of the neighbourhood, but they do not pass through it. The Protestant community evacuated its cemetery couple of years ago (at the same time it evacuated another cemetery by the seaside in downtown Beirut that was expropriated by a private company). The Syriaque Catholic cemetery is still in use.
As for the Jewish cemetery, it looks rather warn down. Like the neighbouring cemeteries it suffered a lot of damage during the war because it lied on the demarcation line between East and West Beirut. But very little money was put into restoring it, while the neighbouring catholic and armenian cemeteries have been fully restored by the families of the deceased. Withstanding its desolate state, the Jewish cemetery is the main reason why all the other cemeteries are preserved. The government is afraid that any action against it would be interpreted as one directed against the Jewish community.
Do the three women I saw this morning entering a cemetery know that they owe the preservation of the grave they are visiting to the Jewish cemetery? If they did, I’m sure they’d try to visit it and put a stone next to a grave.