Heroism, knighthood, pride, glory, generosity, splendour, faith and hospitality, these captivating metaphors often spring to mind whenever Ehden is mentioned. Those who identify with Ehden often react by looking skyward when its name is mentioned. It is on the peak of that majestic mountain where Ehden rises crowned by the Our Lady of El-Hosn's summit.
Zgharta, on the other hand, leaves a slightly more politically motivated impression. Its inhabitants are the Ehdenians themselves, yet its name generates certain forms of awe, respect and formidability.
Ehden and Zgharta, in North Lebanon, are geographically two separate towns, where one is a mountainous town while the latter is of close vicinity to the coast. Uniquely, they are both regarded as one town, for they are owned and inhabited by the same people known as Ehdenian for centuries, more so prior to the turn of the 20th century.
Zgharta hosts its people during autumns winters and springs, while Ehden had been converted into a principle summer residence since the establishment of Zgharta in 1519. Zgharta is 90 kilometres from Beirut; 7 kilometres from Tripoli and 22 kilometres from Ehden. Its elevation above sea level is 110 metres. In comparison, Ehden's elevation above sea level is 1450 metres.
Ehden is enriched with streams of natural fresh water, healthy dry climate, and breathtaking views, which overlook incredible valleys and stretches as far as the coast. Churches are a main feature of Ehden, with Mar Gerges (St. George) Cathedral located at the heart of the scenic town. Churches such as Mar Mama, Mar Boutros, Mar Youhana, Mar Estefan and Mar Ghaleb date back to the sixth century when Ehdenians converted to Christianity. "Saydet El-Hosn" church, which is a testimony to Ehdenians tolerance and toughness, stands tall on the highest peak of the mountain.
There is no doubt that the enduring character of Ehdenians has been influenced immensely by Ehden's towering invincible mountains, harsh cold climate, rocky routes and hills, cool summary breath, heavenly fog, pure water streams and heavy snow falls.
Ehdenians did not merely survive for centuries in rocky terrains; they had perfected the art of survival. In addition to coping with nature's atrocities, they had to repel various invaders. This rigorous mountainous life which they have endured for centuries enhanced their determination and tenacity.
Ever since they converted to Christianity, Ehdenians have enriched the Maronite church with outstanding men, whether in clergy or secular affairs. The list of distinguished Ehdenians who served the church includes: The Beatitudes Patriarchs Gregarious, Armia El-Amshity (1199-1230), Youhana Makhlouf (1609-1633), Gerges Omaira (1634-1644) and Estefan Douaihy (1670-1704) the renowned grand historian, scholar and saintly healer. Savant Gabriel Es-Sahyouni (1577-1648), tens of Bishops, hundreds of priests, amongst them many graduates of the Maronite College of Rome and many monks and nuns.
Ehden and Zgharta are two prominent Lebanese cities located in North Lebanon. The same people who own houses and properties in both cities inhabit them both. Ehden is populated mainly during summer, while Zgharta is the residence during winter. Ehden is an older mountainous town with 1450-metre elevation from sea level. It is the original town of Ehdenians. Zgharta is a relatively newer city, which was inhabited by Ehdenians in 1519 for the purpose of spending winter periods, with 150-meters elevation from sea level.Zgharta is the constituency for al-Zawiya, which includes coastal and mountainous areas, but do not stretch to the sea. As a result of that fact, a close relation was developed by both coastal and mountainous residence due to constant seasonal travelling by residence of the mountain toward the coast in order to escape the harsh icy winter. That trend became a way of life where most Ehdenians are spending winter periods on the coast. A small minority of Ehdenians who were 60 years and over preferred to spend all seasons in their mountain homes. Some tourists, shop owners and restaurateurs also spent their weekends in the mountains. The area is enriched with water resources in the shape of streams running from the top of the mountains. This supply of water is used for drinking and farming. Some of the main streams are: Mar Sarkis, Joueat, al-Kaddi, and Rashaean. Zgharta is the centre for its constituency featuring a number of public and private schools, colleges, pre-schools, hospitals, surgeries, water and electricity supplies and telecommunications. Most of these facilities are located in Zgharta and Ehden, particularly, health and official administration quarters. The Zgharta- al- Zawiya constituency includes 52 villages with a 100,000 population consisting mostly of Maronite- Christians with the exemption of Karabash whose inhabitants are a rare Roman-Orthodox. Miryatah and Ial whose people are Muslims and Hillan and Harat al-Fawar, which are of mixed Christians and Muslims religions. Zgharta- al- Zawiya is an area of 185 sq km and is located among four other constituencies: al-Koura, Becharri, al-Danieh- al-Miniah and Tripoli. Zgharta- al- Zawiya have experienced a vast migration toward South and Central America, and recently toward Australia. That migration had included up to 40% of residents according to reliable surveys. Some residents had also moved to other locations within Lebanon like Beirut, its suburbs and other coastal towns.
Patriarch Estefan Douaihy El-Ehdeni
Arguably, the most influential Maronite Patriarch in the history of the Maronite Church. He effectively led the way in the organization of the Maronite church. Not since St. Maroun, had the Maronite church experienced a greater liturgist, historian and spiritual leader. Patriarch Estefan Douaihy was referred to during his days as the "Pillar of Faith" and "Lord of the East". As a result of his holy deeds, sufferings and miracles he performed, Church clergy and the public have been calling for his Canonization.
He was born in Ehden on 2nd of August 1630. After showing incredible learning skills and amazing talent, particularly by mastering the Arabic and the Syriac languages at a very tender age, he was sent to the Maronite College in Rome in June 1641 when he was only eleven to complete his studies. By the time he turned twenty, he graduated in Philosophy. Two years later, he attained a degree in Liturgy.
His commitment to learning almost caused his permanent loss of sight. As a consequence, he suffered partial blindness in both eyes that could not be healed through conventional medical treatment. He resorted to prayers as his only hope of recovery. His prayers were answered and his sight was restored whilst praying at Our Lady church in the Vatican, Rome.
On his return to Lebanon in 1655, he brought with him vital documents relating to the history of the Maronite Church which he used later on as references for some of his enormous historical work. In 1656, he was ordained as a Priest setting his first aims on the establishment of schools and churches. 1n 1668, he was appointed as the Bishop of Cyprus.
On 20 May 1670, he was elected as the head of the Maronite Church. Patriarch Douaihy spent 34 years, not only serving his church in most difficult of times, but also contributing immensely to the augmentation of its foundation. He researched and recorded its history, wrote its ceremonial liturgy and translated liturgy that significantly enhanced the Arabic Christian library.
On 3 May 1704, Patriarch Douaihy passed away leaving behind some of the greatest work of Maronite history and literature. Patriarch Douaihy's tremendous work has given church historians the most valuable resources and is a treasured reference to scholars, academics and intellectuals.
On 25 January 2006, "The Congregation for the Saints" in the Vatican, has proclaimed the beginning of the process for canonization of His Beatitude Patriarch Estefan Douaihy. The proclamation had the bells of Ehdenian and Lebanese churches tolling joyously and prayers rose asking the Lord to elevate this grand Ehdenian Patriarch as a Saint.
Savant Gabriel Es-Sahyouni
The Es-Sahyouni family, according to numerous sources, became a discontinued branch of the current Karam family. Gabriel was born in Ehden in 1577. He studied at the Maronite College of Rome, Italy, where he graduated with distinction in Liturgy and language studies of French, Arabic, Latin and Syriac. By 1614, he was appointed by Louis the 13th, king of France, a leading tutor at the Royal Academy of Paris.
Shortly after, he was granted the then prestigious title of ‘Royal Translator'. He embarked on a mission to complete important translations from Arabic or Syriac into Latin and vice versa. These translations which included the daunting task of translating the Holy Bible from Latin into Arabic, earned him wide recognition.
In appreciation for his academic contributions, his name was added onto the list of honour of the French Royal Academy. He passed away in 1648 following an eventful academic life of which he dedicated himself to research, translations and writing priceless books and studies.
Youssef Boutros Karam, the Hero of Lebanon
Youssef Bey Karam was born in Ehden, in Mount Lebanon on the 15th May 1823. His father was Sheikh Boutros Karam, then Lord of Ehden and surrounding district, and his mother was Mariam, daughter of Sheikh Antonios Abi Khattar Al Ayntourini. French-schooled Youssef began his education at an early age, and he was a keen student. At the age of 7 years, he was well versed in Aramaic, Arabic, French and Italian. Later on, he was tutored in the arts of unarmed combat, horsemanship, shooting and fencing. He was a devout Maronite.
In 1840, Karam aged 17, fought beside his father and elder brother against Egyptian armies then occupying Lebanon in the battles of Hayrouna and Bazoun. Youssef showed remarkable skills as a fighter and leader, and his reputation and influence in the area steadily grew. So much so that in 1846, when his father died, Youssef succeeded him as ruler. Karam ruled with fairness, and his reputation and influence as a soldier and politician continued to grow and spread.
To win Lebanese support the governor, Dawood Pasha, offered Karam a senior Government post but Karam refused and insisted on nothing less than self rule for Lebanon and so Dawood issued an order exiling Karam to Turkey in 1861. In 1864 however, Karam returned to Lebanon where he was greeted as a national hero. War was inevitable.
The first confrontation took place near Jounieh on the 6th January 1866. Karam was attending Mass at St. Doumit Church when regular Turkish troops attacked his men stationed outside. A fierce fight followed, and Karam, aided by neighbouring villagers, defeated the Turkish troops. Karam immediately wrote to Istanbul and European Governments detailing the causes of conflict, and championed his people's right to defend themselves.
Dawood Pasha however, determined to rid himself of Karam and deal a fatal blow to the Lebanese nationalist movement tried to set a trap. Dawood instructed his military Commander, Amin Pasha, to arrange a meeting with Karam in the presence of the Maronite Archbishop at Karem Saddah. The meeting was arranged for Sunday the 28th January 1866. Whilst the meeting was in progress, Turkish troops were sighted advancing at nearby Bnasha toward Karem Saddah. The meeting was abandoned, and one of the fiercest battles was fought at Bnasha involving some 800 of Karam's men opposing a far greater number of Turkish troops. Here, Karam won a decisive victory which led to a string other victories: the battle of Sebhell 1st March 1866, Ehmej 14th March 1866, Wadi El Salib 22nd March 1866, Aytou 5th May 1866, Ey El Yawz 7th June 1866, Wadi Miziari 20th August 1866, Ehden 15th December 1866, Ejbeh 10th January 1867 and Wadi El Sabeeb 17th January 1867.
So successful was Karam, that he finally decided to march on 'Beit El Din', the Governor's residence, over-throw Turkish rule and install a Lebanese national government. Thousands of people joined Karam in his march to 'Beit El Din', and Dawood Pasha was forced to flee to Beirut. Victory must have seemed imminent to Karam and his men. In Beirut however, Dawood Pasha rallied support from the European Ambassadors. These emissaries warned Karam that as their government were parties to the Lebanese constitution which allowed Turkish rule over Lebanon, they were bound to support Turkey and would actively oppose Karam and refuse to recognise any government he may form. At a meeting at Bkerke, the French Ambassador ordered Karam in the name of Napoleon III, to leave Lebanon in return for French guarantees of safety for his men and people and the implementation of all of Karam's national demands. Karam was warned that to refuse would mean to place his men and the welfare of his people in jeopardy. On Thursday the 31st January 1867, Karam left Lebanon on board a French ship bound for Algeria. Karam's demands were not met and so he traveled from Algeria to European capitals describing, for the rest of his life, the plight of the Lebanese people and their desire for a sovereign and independent state.
On the 7th April, 1889, Karam died of natural causes in Razinia, near Napoli, Italy. His last words were "God ... Lebanon". He had a simple burial and his grave stone read "This is the resting place of Youssef Boutros Karam, Prince of Lebanon". In September 1889, his body was taken to Ehden, Lebanon, to St. George Church. In September 1932, a statue of Karam on his horse was erected outside of the church, as a monument to the man who devoted his life to the liberty. His actions and philosophy, "I shall sacrifice myself, that Lebanon may live", became an inspiration to future generations in the pursuit of a free and independent Lebanon.
Minister Hamid Frangieh: (1907-1981)
Hamid Frangieh was born on the 6th of August 1907 in Ehden. His parents were Kabalan Sleiman Frangieh and his mother Lamia Mikhaiil Raffoul. He went to "Frères des Ecoles Chrétiennes" school in Tripoli where he got his elementary education then to Aintoura for his secondary education. In 1930, he graduated in law from university St. Joseph in Beirut.
Besides his career as a lawyer, he became in 1933 one of the cofounders and one of the columnists of the "Le Jour" newspaper. In 1941 he married his cousin Berte Shaarawi and they had six children: Kabalan, Samir, Nabil, Marie-Claude, Zeina and Liliane.
Hamid Frangieh was elected a parliament member in 1932, he was less than 27 years old. In 1937 he became the sole member of the opposition in North Lebanon to be elected. He then succeeded to be reelected 5 more times: 1943,1947,1951,1953 and 1957 before he withdrew from political life due to illness.
President Sleiman Frangieh:(1910-1992)
Sleiman Frangieh, the second son of Kabalan Frangieh and the brother of Hamid Frangieh, was born in Zgharta on June 15, 1910. 1930's: Receives his education in Tripoli and in Aintoura.
Upon the illness of his brother Hamid in 1957, he becomes leader of the Franjieh clan, and starts on his political career. 1958 May- June: Frangieh supports the forces that oppose president Camille Chamoun in the civil war of this year.
He was elected member of Parliament in 1960, reelected in 1964 and in 1968.
He was nominated Minister of PTT in 1960 and minister of Interior in 1968. In august 1970, as he campaigns for the presidency, Frangieh gets the support of Chamoun and Pierre Gemayel. He defeated Elias Sarkis.
After his election at the head of the Republic, his son Tony was elected deputy of Zgharta El-Zawieh and reelected in 1972.
Frangieh ended his term in 1976. He founded then the Lebanese Front with Camille Chamoun, Pierre Gemayel and many others, but he left Beirut and the L. Front after the assassination of his son Tony in 1978 to retire in his palace in Zgharta. He succeeded then in sparing the North the bitterness of the civil war. He died on July 23, 1992.
President Rene Mouawad: (1929-1989)
Born in Zghorta on 17th of April 1925.
Graduated from St Joseph University (USJ) Law School in 1947.
Married Nayla Négib Issa El Khoury in 1965.
Children: Rima born in 1966, and Michel born in 1972.
Entered the political arena in 1951.
Elected Member of the Lebanese Parliament for the first time in 1957.
Relected in all the following Parliamentary Assemblies in 1960, 1964, 1968 and 1972. (With no legislative elections held from 1972 till 1990, René Moawad served continuously in the Parliament for 42 years!)
Minister of Post and Télécommunication in President Rachid Karamé's cabinet from October 1961 till February 1964, during President Fouad Chéhab's mandate.
Minister of Public Work and Transportation in President Rachid Karamé's cabinet from January till November 1969, during President Charles Hélou's mandate.
Minister of Education in President Chafic Wazzan's cabinet from October 1980 till September 1982, during President Elias Sarkis's mandate.
Elected President of the Lebanese Republic on the 5th of November 1989, following the Taef agreement signed by all the Lebanese factions aiming to end the war and rebuild the country.
Assassinated 17 days later on the 22nd of November 1989, the Lebanese Independance Day.
Historian Jawad Boulos: (1899-1982)
Jawad Boulos was born in Zgharta in the year 1899. His parents were Semaan Boulos and his mother Kattour El-Bacha. He went first to "Mar Youssef" school in Zgharta then to the "Lazarists" school in Aintoura for his secondary education, he stayed there 3 years and three months till December 1914 when teaching was suspended because of World War I. During the war he continued his education with the help of Antonnine monks in Mar Sarkis Zgharta In 1922, he graduated from the university St. Joseph in Beirut as Bachelor in Law. He married Angele Antoun Sawaya in 1927. He had his own Law office in Tripoli in 1923, and in 1932 he was elected Leader of the Barristers in North Lebanon and reelected in 1938.
He was appointed member of the Lebanese Parliament from 1937 to 1939. And on march 1943 he was nominated minister of foreign affairs, minister of public health and minister of public works.
He retired from political life in 1951 and began his career in historical research. In the years 1961 to 1968 the publishers Moutton published his "encyclopedia" Les Peuples et les Civilisations du Proche-Orient in French and a volume each year. In 1973 Dar Badran published "Lebanon and the Surrounding Countries in Arabic.
In 1971, he founded the "Lebanese Academy" along with Omar Abou Richeh, Fouad Fram Al-Boustany, Said Aakl, Abdallah Al-Aalayili, Charles Malek and Mikhaiil Naimeh and was elected chairman of that Academy. He was member of the "Lebanese Front" (Al Jubha Al-Lubnaniah) during the civil war in 1975 and withdrew in 1978.
A delegation representing the Association of Zgharta (YBKBL) Australia headed by President Joseph Mekary visited His Lordship Bishop Antoine Charbel Tarabay to wish him a very Happy Easter. His Grace voiced his appreciation of the Zghartawiyi visit and expressed in turn his best wishes and prayers for Zgharta, Lebanon and Australia.
Sydney 14/4/14: A delegation from the Independence Movement Australia visited the Zgharta House to congratulate the newly elected president of the Association of Zgharta (YBKBL) Australia and the new committee.
The new executive committee of the Association of Zgharta (YBKBL) Australia for 2014-2015:
Joseph Mekary, President
Peter Naoum, Vice President
Eva Mouawad, Secretary
Anthony Barakat, Assistant Secretary
Tony Gittany, Treasurer
John Takla, Assistant Treasurer
Chris Raheb, Legal Adviser
Committee Members: Evelyn Mawad, Anthony Makary, George Zalloua , Anthony Geaitani, Rimon Mokdassi and Tannous Finianos
A delegation from the Association of Zgharta (YBKBL) Australia visited the Marada Australia centre in Sydney to congratulate the new committee headed by General Coordinator Elie Bouharoun.