Mobile  |  About us  |  Photos  |  Videos  |  Subscriptions  |  RSS Feeds  |  Today's Paper  |  Classifieds  |  Contact Us
The Daily Star
04:57 PM Beirut time
30 °C
Blom Index
Lebanon News
Follow this story Print RSS Feed ePaper share this
Maaloula family marks Christmas far from home
Lara Qaloumi and her children gather around a Christmas tree at their shelter home in Maghdouche, east of Sidon, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
Lara Qaloumi and her children gather around a Christmas tree at their shelter home in Maghdouche, east of Sidon, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
A+ A-

MAGHDOUSHE, Lebanon: Like many Syrian Christian refugees, Bassam Qaloumi and his family, from the ancient Christian village of Maaloula, are celebrating Christmas this year in Lebanon, clinging to the hope that one day they’ll return home.

However, what they didn’t expect was that they would spend the holiday in a prefabricated one-room house originally built for agricultural workers in the southern village of Maghdoushe, which has received dozens of Muslim families and four Christian families from Syria.

“I decorated the tree given to my children so I could bring some joy to their hearts,” Qaloumi said, speaking in the room he began calling home six months ago, when he fled clashes in Maaloula.

“We’re squeezed in this small room, as you can see,” Qaloumi, flanked by his wife Lara, son Louis and daughter Catherina, said of the accommodations in Maghdoushe, east of the southern coastal city of Sidon.

“Christmas this year is sad, but I decorated the tree, which one of Maghdoushe residents offered, so the children would feel the joy of the holidays.”

“We were living in a spacious house in Maaloula, where [once] there was peace and generosity and we would receive all our relatives and neighbors,” Lara recalls while tending to the family meal simmering on the stove.

“We used to decorate a huge Christmas tree with a [Nativity] crèche underneath,” she said, sharing in her husband’s complaints of the stark changes the family has had to endure since leaving Maaloula.

The mainly Christian town of Maaloula, north of Damascus, has changed hands several times in the war raging next door. It is considered a symbol of the ancient Christian presence in Syria, and its 5,000 residents are among the few in the world who still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ.

“We lived in peace, Muslims and Christians together,” Lara Qaloumi recalls of her town. “Today we are living off the generosity of good people. I cry whenever I hear the sound of the church bells.”

“Joy has been taken away from us,” she sighs, hoping that the war in her country will soon come to an end.

While playing in the 20-square-meter shelter, Louis, like many kids of his age, wants to know what Santa Claus has brought him this year.

“I hope Santa brings me a nice present,” he says while playing with a plastic Santa doll.

He also misses his village. “I want to go back to my school at the Saint Taqla Monastery in Maaloula,” he says.

Bassam Qaloumi said he sold all the cows he owned at the cattle ranch in Maaloula at a low price so he “could flee” to Lebanon. “Gunmen had entered Maaloula. They came for us.”

“I hope my relatives will be released and I pray to God that the kidnapped nuns are returned.”

Earlier this month, rebels seized a group of nuns from their convent in Maaloula. They appeared in footage a week later, saying fierce bombardment had forced them to leave the monastery with the rebels. There are conflicting reports as to whether or not the nuns left under duress.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 27, 2013, on page 4.
Home Lebanon News

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

comments powered by Disqus
More from
Mohammed Zaatari
Tripoli security plan sparks unrest, rockets strike Bekaa towns
Wanted Islamist escapes assassination in Sidon
Machnouk: Palestinians must give up arms
Sidon vendors mutilate themselves in protest
Army arrests key Al-Qaeda agent

Baabda 2014
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Linked In Follow us on Google+ Subscribe to our Live Feed
Pictures of the day
A selection of images from around the world- Thursday April 24, 2014
View all view all
Rami G. Khouri
Rami G. Khouri
Israel shows Zionism’s true colors
Michael Young
Michael Young
For Christians, blessed are the dividers
David Ignatius
David Ignatius
An Iran deal is close, but we’re not there yet
View all view all
Click to View Articles
Privacy Policy | Anti-Spamming Policy | Disclaimer | Copyright Notice
© 2014 The Daily Star - All Rights Reserved - Designed and Developed By IDS