Be Careful

The title of this post is a warning to myself. I'll try to keep it in mind.

There are at least two things that make the Lebanese nervous; Israel and Photography. Combine the two, and you get this post.

The Israel thing I understand, though not perfectly. It isn't my history, after all, and I occasionally say exactly the wrong thing as if to prove it.

The photography thing baffles me. Why it's forbidden, not by law but by the demands of completely normal people on the street, to photograph this mosque or that public building, I'll never understand. Don't they know about Google Earth, wikimapia? While I'm sure the prohibition is in the interest of security, it's entirely futile since all of Beirut is online already for everyone to see. Still, though it's NOT making their mosques or buildings safer, people have strong feelings about it and I hate making people angry or even uncomfortable, so I comply, usually.

A while back, when I embarked on all those cemetery visits, a friend told me about the Jewish Cemetery. It's just south of Sodeco, and it's plainly marked--not in the least hard to find, sort of hidden in plain sight. If I were braver, I'd march right up to the gate, photograph the Hebrew script, and post the picture right here.

But I'm not brave enough for that, because photography makes people nervous, and so does Israel.

For a few years now I've heard little bits here and there about the renovation of a Synagogue in Beirut. It is the Maghan Avraham Synagogue downtown. While walking in the area a few weeks ago, I found it by accident and was delighted by my luck. I immediately pulled out my camera, which immediately got the attention of every security officer and soldier on the street. Downtown is crawling with security officers, so there you have it. I put my camera away and went to talk to one of them.

He said the Synagogue will be finished at the beginning of June. Pictures aren't allowed until then. He said I could look through the gate, and he walked over with me. I looked in the gate, and then I asked if I could take just one photo.

He said yes. More information and lots more photos of the site can be found at the project's official website.

Maybe, someday, I'll be brave enough to take that photo at the gate of the Jewish Cemetery. Maybe one day I'll be allowed to enter and take pictures of the graves within. Until then, here's one of the few Jewish graves at the British Cemetery, one of their soldiers who died during the second world war.

I hope you all have a lovely week.


  1. Fantastic story, Mary Ann! It was truly brave of you, considering the restrictions on photography and the current status between nations in the Middle East. Be careful!

  2. I really don't understand why it's so hard to just ask--but it is, it really is.

    Good luck on those future shots.

  3. The two things in Helsinki that I wouldn't feel comfortable pointing my camera at are the synagogue and the American embassy. Both seem to be pretty paranoid compared to the local standards.

  4. That is an interesting insight into your chosen city.

  5. Ha, you did a great job of getting around the restrictions!
    Nice that it is being redone. June is soon.