17 August 2006
The Vleeptron Geographic Society's Lebanon map
Lebanese national army troops have been sent south to the Latani River as the first phase of securing the south of Lebanon from Hezbollah military activity directed against the northern areas of Israel. Israeli troops are returning to Israel. Eventually if the cease-fire plan holds, Lebanese national troops will be joined by United Nations "buffer" troops, most likely from (Muslim, but not Arab) Turkey.
Israeli troops continue to occupy the Golan Heights in Syria, from which Syria had previously fired artillery attacks on northern Israeli towns. Since Israelis seized Golan, the Golan Heights have become the only ski area for Israelis.
The ancient cedar forests of Lebanon provide a wood highly desireable to ancients and moderns, and is mentioned frequently in the Bible, particularly as adornment for King Solomon's / Shlomo's Temple in Jerusalem. The cedar forests on Mount Lebanon are currently undergoing a reforestation with international support.
Gilgamesh and Enkidu hunted and played in the Cedar Forest. The tree symbol is the central device of the flag of Lebanon.
The Beqaa / Bekaa Valley is renowned for extensive cannabis cultivation from which a particularly popular variety of hashish (pressed cannabis) is produced. Urged to do so by diplomatic pressure from the United States and the United Nations anti-drug agency, the government of Lebanon regularly threatens to end cannabis production in Bekaa, and sends troops to uproot the plants, but commercial production and export continue. You can sample Bekaa Valley hashish in Netherlands coffeeshops.
In peacetime and even during war and civil war, Beirut is renowned throughout the Mediterranean for its vibrant and sophisticated Paris-flavored nightclubs and nightlife. (Lebanon was a French colony/possession.) The Mediterannean beaches around Beirut are also world-class tourist destinations.
Tyre and Sidon were prominent cities of the Phoenicians, the premier sailor-merchants of the ancient Mediterranean, and inventors of the phonetic alphabet which eventually evolved into our modern European alphabets.
Phoenicians sailed beyond the Straits of Gibralter into the Atlantic and worked the tin mines of England, and a Phoenician fleet under Nekko circumnavigated the continent of Africa on a commission from the Egyptian pharoah around 2000 BC.
Phoenicians founded the city-state of Carthage, in present-day Tunis on the north African coast, and Carthage became the chief rival for control of the Mediterranean during the rise of the Roman Republic. The two Punic Wars against Carthage were named for the Phoenicians. The Roman senator Cato ended every speech, regardless of topic, with "Cartago delenda est" -- "Carthage must be destroyed." Carthage came close to defeating Rome under its general Hannibal, and for centuries Roman parents frightened their children by telling them "Hannibal's at the gates!"
After the Roman victory in the second war, the Romans sowed the agricultural fields of Carthage with sea salt, so nothing would ever grow there again. The Phoenicians and Carthaginians worshipped the god Moloch, whom ancient writers claimed demanded child sacrifices.
Under pressure from the United States, Syrian troops, whose presence had dominated the politics of Lebanon for years, withdrew from Lebanon in 2005. The Syrian government -- a one party state -- is still suspected of the car-bomb assassination of a highly popular former president of Lebanon.