Be of Good Cheer from Lebanon
While there’s not much to be shouting for joy about, there are some small treasures worth exploring for the upcoming holidays that come straight from the heart. I’m talking about a book collection, cuisine elements, and a food emporium ready to serve you.
Being a new jiddu, I was quickly drawn to a series of children’s books that promises to both honor our traditions and give the author the opportunity to honor her own family. The series begins with Elissa Uncovers…The Origin of the Alphabet (https://www.elissadiscovers.com/), and comes from the genius of Lebanon-born Nancy Zakhour, who now lives in the US. She notes on her website, “Making an impact on readers, especially children, is the best way she can pay tribute to her beloved parents and grandparents.”
Even the name of the protagonist, Elissa, has its roots in ancient tales of many lands, and is fitting for a young girl learning about life from her family. The intent is to give today’s parents, no matter the ethnicity, a fun way to discuss not only the book’s main themes, but the sub-themes of universality, kindness, inclusiveness, and other family values. By having a young girl as the main character who has curiosity and cleverness in her – beyond the typical portrayal of youth – the book intends to emphasize the role of young girls who are underappreciated.
A third book is in the works following the second, Elissa and the World of Olives, which is due to be published before the holidays. They will be published in three languages – English, Arabic, and Spanish – emphasizing that these books are for all children (and all adults), telling stories that go beyond any particular heritage. The next book is about food, and it promises to be both entertaining and educational.
You can find more details, reviews, and insights on the website, and various formats are available online from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Beit el Baraka
I again want to bring to your attention to Beit el Baraka (https://www.facebook.com/beitelbaraka.org/), the incredible humanitarian NGO that provides a number of fee-free services to people still suffering from the effects of the Beirut Port explosion, those living on the margins, school children, unemployed women, and others who face the ravages of poverty and helplessness in today’s Lebanon. They have worked with some 226,000 beneficiaries to date.
If you have ever been to the Sursock Museum, you will see their latest project which was to restore the building that was badly damaged by the blast in exchange for creating a food hall on the ground floor that features food products made in Lebanon for that taste of home you’re missing. Their food brand, Beit Kanz, donates its receipts to the Beit el Baraka projects in order to provide support for the needy and for school-aged children. Produced by local kitchens, Beit Kanz also provides incomes for women and men who work under strict health guidelines.
You can find the details of their many projects, heart-warming accounts of their activities, and instructions for donating to their organization on their website, www.beitelbaraka.org.
Fair Trade Lebanon
The unique approach of Fair Trade Lebanon (https://www.fairtradelebanon.org/en/about-us/story) is to build up the commercial exports of Lebanon in order to create income that is not dependent on the vagaries of the Lebanese economy. FTL has created and trained businesses that bring the best of Lebanon’s products to the world – from wine and cheese to a great variety of processed foods – all to exacting export standards.
I have a strong affinity for FTL as they focus on two strong Lebanese traits: commercial acumen and productivity. It works to strengthen small and medium-sized enterprises in the agri-food sector, trains the beneficiaries in marketing for exports, sponsors Lebanese companies in trade shows hosted by various countries, and works on the long-term with their clients, not one-shot efforts.
Time to feed the soul and attend one of Rafca Fares’ concerts coming up. You can hear a sample on her YouTube channel: (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnIjoYJSCMsV2TN5bG5qLvQ) or via her Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Rafca.Singer/).
Her schedule is October 22 at Saint Sharbel Church in Somerset, New Jersey; October 29 at Our Lady of Lebanon in Washington, DC; and November 4 at the Velvet Rose Hall in Orange, California. Details are available via her Facebook page. Proceeds benefit St. Joseph’s Monastery as it hopes to make the transition from diesel to solar power.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.