And then there is the patriarch of the Srour family, who died at the same time as his two children during the great famine of 1916. All three were buried in the same place. On some stelae, we find sad poems engraved on marble, calligraphed in Arabic, sometimes with a few simple words, such as “pray for them,” in Arabic and French.
I understood a thousand things about the Jews, the complete opposite of what I was taught as a child. I felt compassion for these people while reading their epitaphs, and told myself that it was possible to live fraternally with them, to negotiate together.
During the renovation and cleaning of the Jewish cemetery in Sidon between 2015 and 2018, I discovered several graves buried in the sand. I was able to read the names of some deceased written in Hebrew, thanks to friends who translated them to me.
This cemetery had been vandalized several times, especially after the Israeli army evacuated the city in February 1985. The majority of the stelae had been ransacked and graves had collapsed when sand was moved from the cemetery. I was in tears.
My team and I had to re-bury the deceased with great respect and dignity. I took pictures and filmed everything to record all that I saw and did. I know this cemetery by heart, I know the smallest details. I have started to archive and save each of the graves that were unearthed.
This cemetery holds a special place in my heart, it is a part of me and the deceased have become like members of my own family."
My responsibility was to make things right and to identify some of the deceased who have been buried for many years. I posted articles on my Facebook page regarding my work at the cemetery and as a result, several Lebanese Jews in the diaspora contacted me to ask if I had found their parents’ graves. Sometimes I was even asked to film and take pictures of the graves of their deceased.
I have become a different man. All my Jewish friends respect me, and I have gained self-respect, too. In a few weeks my book on the history of the Jews of Lebanon will be published in France. It will be the culmination of 25 years of research."