Lebanon News

Nassar family concludes symbolic Lebanese flag’s journey across country

Hamad stands near the flag in Beirut. (Mahmoud Kheir/The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: After spending the summer visiting all 1,655 villages and towns in Lebanon, the Nassar family arrived at Martyrs Square Monday evening, the climax of their “Lebanese flag trip,” where they were met by Beirut’s mayor.

Hani Nassar, a teacher, and his wife Barbara – who is battling bone cancer – and children Leonie and Leonard, 11 and 10-years-old, embarked on their journey on July 1 in Sidon and have since traveled across the country in a caravan painted as the Lebanese flag.

The aims of the journey, Hani Nassar said, were to show the coexistence of the Lebanese people; to reveal the beauty of the country and its people and finally to show the resilience of the human spirit.

While they had set out to spend all 80 days in the caravan, in the end they only spent 15 nights in the vehicle, having been welcomed into so many homes, all across the country.

“People told us we were not allowed to sleep in the caravan, and they opened their homes to us, even though we were strangers,” Nassar said.

“We slept in the houses of all sects and experienced firsthand the beauty of Lebanese diversity,” he added.

In each qada the family met with local mukhtars and municipal representatives, each of whom signed the flag that was travelling with them – at 10,452 decimeter squared, it represents the size of Lebanon in squared kilometers.

This gathering of signatures, Nassar said, was a symbol of the unity of the Lebanese people. The people they met on the tour, he added, revealed the “unity under one flag, one nation, one president, and one army.”

Nassar said that while it was “natural that everyone has his own flag, and his own color, it is unnatural to forget that it is Lebanese flag that unites us all,” he added.

It was also important to remind the Lebanese of the worth of domestic tourism, Nassar said, and as such the family has taken over 13,000 photos on their journey, both “in areas that we were allowed to take photos of, and the areas where we were not,” Nassar said.

Every day they have uploaded photos, from every corner of Lebanon, to their Facebook group where people have been following their journey.

“When people have vacation time they often travel abroad, but it’s important to know your own country first. We call on you all to see the beauty of Lebanon through these photos,” Nassar said.

He also thanked his wife, as she was their “biggest supporter.”

“You are the one who encouraged us. You’re Lebanese and you’re a symbol of strength and immortality. Even if the body dies, you will live on.”

The family then presented Beirut Mayor Bilal Hammad with a small pine tree, as they have done in each qada, as an expression of “all the beautiful friendships they have made across the country.”

Hammad said that the Nassar family’s project had touched him personally, and “represents the challenges in Lebanon. After everything Beirut has been through it remains standing and it remains resilient.”

The Nassar family, Hammad said, should inspire all Lebanese, and all politicians, through their will to live and their resilience.

“Let the Lebanese politicians be inspired by the work of this family and hopefully we will be rid of these political problems and we can let the country live and breathe,” Hammad said. “The Lebanese people are strong and challenge all difficulties in order to live,”

“The Lebanese loves the Lebanese, the Christian loves the Muslim, the Shiite loves the Sunni, the Catholic loves the Maronite and the Maronite loves the Sunni,” he continued. “The things that divide us are political problems.”

The family will soon present their flag to President Michel Sleiman. View their journey at www.facebook.com

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 20, 2011, on page 3.

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