No matter what happens,
No matter the forsaken grief that envelopes your heart and your being as you endeavor to live
Always remember to walk in the valley of life and to acknowledge all who have walked here and all who are yet to tread upon this sacred ground
We all must make this trek
But to all who have tread before us and to all who are yet to promenade through in the wake of what trailblazing we leave behind
We must always remember to walk in the valley of life, to keep it alive, for it holds a collective memory of a nation.
There are places in our lifetime that nature by its pure resilience has fought with man to conceal its past. In the South of Lebanon many places now that have soaked innocent blood, nature has healed with its green hand.
Wadi al-Hujeir lies from the Litani river in the village of Qaakayiat El Jizr at the lower part of Nabatiyeh city, to the town of Aytaroun in Bint Jbeil district. The reserve is covered with oak and valonia forests. The memories of the resistance martyrs who died in the valley from the seventies and up until the July 2006 war still lingers between its woods and springs.
This militarization began initially as the valley came under occupation and later becoming a front line between the liberated regions and the occupied border strip. There were no paved roads suitable for vehicle traffic. The valley brought back bad memories for those who used to cross it at night, escaping compulsory military services with Israel’s proxy militia.
It is now listed as a natural reserve. Opening the road though to civilian traffic was not possible until some parts of the valley were cleared from mines and cluster bombs, a task undertaken by the organization Generations for Peace.
In addition to the natural heritage, monuments are included in the scope of the reserve, such as the Dubie Crusader castle in the town of Shaqra, which lies on the ruins of a Roman building.
(The information below is taken from a study done by Dr. Hoteit, referenced at the end of the post).
The Hojeir Valley exhibits a beautiful landscape that is rich in thick forestry and possesses a rare variation of biological treasures. It also has a number of streams that run to meet with the Litani River, which begins at the Hojeir fountainhead or the old Sodun Fountainhead.
At one time, there were ten old mills, the ruins of some of which can still be seen (Kamel, 2007). The valley is renowned for its ancient olive trees, some of which are more than 300 years old. Because the land surrounding the valley is still virgin due to its rugged nature and the large number of clustered bombs dumped on it, not all parts of the valley are reachable. As a result, much of the area has maintained its rare and varied botanical and biological life and continues to be inhabited by wild animals such as the fox, the porcupine and the wild pig.
It was under the shadowy branches of these old trees that the famous The Hojeir Valley Conference was held on the 24th day of April 1920. This event gave the valley great symbolic value and high moral significance. On that day a general meeting was called by a religious dignitary, Al’allamah Abd El-Hossein Sharaf- Elddine,” a religious and national leader who was highly regarded by the Shiite people in the region of Jabal ‘Amel, at the Hojeir fountainhead. The purpose of the meeting was to motivate the inhabitants of the region to fight against the French occupation. Many dignitaries from the mountain of Jabal ‘Amel were present as well as many renowned revolutionary leaders; among them were Khanjar Alssa’be and Sadeq Hamza Fa’our. In his speech, Al’allamah Sharaf- Elddine announced a plan for regulated armed resistance and insisted on national unity and mutual respect between different religious groups.
In July 2006, the Hojeir Valley witnessed heavy combat that resulted in the destruction of a number of heavy Israeli tanks, especially the Mirkava tanks. Since that time, the Hojeir Valley has been referred to by some Lebanese and Arab people as the Mirkava Cemetery.
Martyrs Valley, Leaders Valley, Death Valley, Resistance Valley, Mirkava Cemetery, these are all names given to the Hojeir Valley since the beginning of the resistance movements. These names definitely speak to the importance of the symbolic reserve and the high spiritual dimension that the valley represents to a vast number of people. Not withstanding the emotional value that this place embodies, especially for the southern Lebanese because of the number of events and glories that it holds for them both consciously and unconsciously, the valley has become the cradle of images and stories that make up a part of their collective memory.
Consequently, the valley, and especially its ancient olive trees, gained moral, symbolic and spiritual value, which it did not have before. The result was that the Hojeir Valley became a moral patrimony that belonged to the entire population of Jabal ‘Amel. Stories about the importance of the valley and about the heroic acts that were planned and accomplished within it multiplied over the years and were passed down from generation to generation. The stories related the struggles of courageous fighters who fought against the French forces in the valley between 1918 and 1942. National resistance continued during the Israeli occupation of 1978 to 2000, and every time a new incidence occurred, the people would recall more stories from their large collective memory of the valley. (From Dr. Hoteit, reference below)
Home to the past, echoes persist to stay. Time, decay, nature, and elements have chiseled away at what was once a Paradise. A past covered by time and nature’s unaltered expanding hands, partly showing brittle fragments. The elements eating at the scars that fell upon the land, this was meant to be paradise. And it is a Paradise now. It is now a haven for those who seek to get lost in beautiful greenery among old olive and oak trees. This place is here to stay, just like this whole Land is here to stay.