All Posts by bojanb

Coming back to the carob trees-story

In Crete, a true magic happened. By meeting Korina Miliaraki, we got the chance to learn about the great value of carob trees, which they are willing to share with us.

Thanks to Korina and a network of farmers and experts who are actively promoting, growing, breeding and cultivating them, carob trees are “coming back“ and bringing good to our common future. We visited Korinna’s friends, “carob activists“, old carob trees, and a carob forest in southern Crete. It became obvious there that carob trees don't need much water to grow and bear fruit, which can be eaten right off the tree. Carob trees can live for over 1000 years old and regenerate in a similar way to the olive tree.



You can take a 7-minute inside look at the importance of carob trees for our future.

 OR read/view it here 

I had a very special relationship with trees, especially one that we grew up with. I had my branch, like my home. The tree was my home, my second home, and one of the branches was my room and my place. I used to dream about being there, most of the time I wanted to be there. I felt that all the information that was around me came to me in a magical way when I was on that branch. I learned the world there. The tree was very alive, I had a dialogue with it because it was something more than a home. We created a very beautiful relationship. And another thing is that because I was always doing 'acrobatics', I felt that there was no way I could fall, because I had a relationship with a tree, the tree also helped me not to fall. And sometimes the people from outside would ring the bell because they were afraid to look at me when I was doing very difficult acrobatics when I was very little, and my mother would come out and people would say, "Please, your child is going to fall", but she would always tell them, "She is not going to fall, there is no way". She always trusted me too much, and my mother and my father too, both of them. I never fell.

I remember sometimes my grandfather was... I liked to see the shadow, I was there, and I was looking at the shadow when the sun was moving, and every moment was different than the other, because I was looking down and the shadows were changing all the time. And I had this feeling that I also have here, that I was moving with the earth all the time, but on the tree. We were travelling and the shadow was giving me this feeling of travelling. But I wasn't travelling alone. And I feel it very strongly here, in this house, too. But I'm here and all, we're moving with the house and with the tree in the universe. And if you have a very good relationship with the surroundings, with the environment, it is really very important. It makes you feel stronger, because you don't feel alone, you're part of the environment. And the environment, it has to do with... You are a part of it, and you all go together. I have this feeling of unity. It was very strong that feeling, very strong.

About the teacher - father

He was first of all an ecologist, before ecology existed. Because he was a chemist and he loved nature. He admired nature, the trees, the flowers, the rivers, the sea... He made me have these strong feelings about it and to feel part of it and respect it. He was against all the chemicals in the house, for cleaning the dishes, the shampoos and everything. He made everything for us to avoid all the chemicals. He was the first one to put up the solar panel and everyone was visiting us to see it. We had a garden and I loved the flowers. I had a very good relationship with the flowers and all the plants and the animals too. I loved them. He was the first one in Crete to make bottled wine and export it. At that time he had taken the prices from the French. (The factory is still run by his cousins).

I hated school. I didn't feel good. I always felt that I was outside the system, the education system. First I wanted to be an acrobat, then I decided to be a minister of education. When our teacher asked us what we wanted to be when I was six or seven, I said Minister of Education. And she asked me, "Why, my child, do you want to be..." and I said, "Because I want to close all the schools and make the next generation not suffer from this system, the school, than we have now."

So I decided to come and work with him and to decide what to do, to see. It's like giving yourself an exam, because you always have to come back to your place to see exactly who you are, after a period of travelling, learning, doubting. And then you have to come to a new battle with yourself.To decide who you are after all these experiences. And I came here and I worked with him. And then through that I decided exactly what I wanted. So that's why I came there. I found my centre.

What connected me to the carob was the carob mill, it was Panormos and the carob mill. I loved trees, I loved carob, but then what made me focus on it was Panormos, and then the next step was the carob mill and the carob mill told me, it was like telling me, this building, its history showed me the way to focus on the carob. It is full of memories, this building, I started from my needs. My need was for this building, it's very nice, to be restored and to be a cultural centre, because we didn't have any cultural centres on the north coast of Crete. Why not create a cultural centre here in a very beautiful village by the sea. It was my need and the need of others, and it worked very well, because people came from all over Crete for the many unique performances that took place here, or for seminars, and also from all over the world. Apart from cultural events, there were also conferences about the future of Europe, the environment... Many seminars, many lectures, congresses. People come from all over, different kinds of people, that's another thing I like. Connecting different kinds of social interaction. People from the cities, people from the countryside, shepherds, farmers and children from schools.

Why carob trees? Because the carob tree is a very important tree, historically, because it saved the population during the Second World War. It is important in very extreme conditions, historical conditions. When nothing else can help you, then, the carob tree appears and says, ”I will save you”. Do you understand? It is too important for me. And I felt as if I had a carob tree in front of me and I was talking to it, and I'm telling him – ”I feel that you have saved us and we have to do everything we can to give you back your lost value, to give you back your lost value, because it's too valuable. It has capabilities that no other tree has. And even in the extreme conditions of climate change, it can save us. If no other tree survives, the carob tree will. And there is something else. This is the only one, the only tree that also gives us flour. Not just sugar, but flour.

Part of the vision is to create the carob mill and, through the carobs and our efforts for the return of the carob, to become the reference point of Mediterranean Europe for the carob. To bring together all the countries of Mediterranean Europe for the return of the carob, to give it more value. I would love to create here a carob foundation for culture, gastronomy and research. And to have a festival here every year.

Manolis Loukakis, breeding expert

                     Kostas Karatzis planting new trees                                                                                                                                    

Manolas Iliakis is devoted to the cultivation of the land, he loves trees and although he is an architect/engineer and has worked in the public sector, he is first and foremost a farmer.

To develop a cultivation on the island, and not only on the island, but on the island because we're here, by giving the farmers the motivation and also helping them in their search, giving them the right information on how to cultivate, the right way to cultivate, what kind of carob tree would be right, and also giving them the motivation to create new products of food and whatever.

About "equality"

In order to survive, we human beings have to be serious and understand that we don't have differences, we're all human beings and we have to live equally on this planet, and we have respect the environment.

We have the same rights everywhere. And to stop all this moving of the population because of wars. So maybe you'll say that I'm a romantic but I'm very practical, very realistic.

 And in this effort the carob tree is going to help us, and I know it.

It is estimated that there are 33 million olive trees in Crete! And the number is still growing... A monoculture! Carob and chestnut trees, which saved them from hunger during the Second World War, are now the exception.

And one of the exceptions is Kostas' farm, where he has planted many young carob trees that are alredy giving fruit.

I'm trying to do my best and I don't have, as you put it, any expectations - "So I'm trying to do this so that tomorrow I'll have this result, otherwise I'm not doing anything..." I've been doing this all my life: trying, trying, trying, trying, because there's no other way. And if something good happens, I'll be happy. If not, I'll still try my best.

Kostas Karatzis is the great success story of Korina's dream to bring back the carobs tree. Kostas lives alone, but his enthusiasm, positive attitude and exceptional results are a great role model for others to learn and plant carob trees in Crete. He works for 10 and also makes products from carob - carob syrup (the best in Crete) and carob brandy. 

Corina on carob syrup: "My mother takes one spoon every day, every morning. This is medicine. And for me it's very important, because this carob syrup is not just made from carob pods, it's made from the whole carob and the seeds. The seeds have proteins.

Kostas produces all the food himself - from olive oil, vegetables, fruit, cheese, dried fruit to wine... And when he has the chance to host someone as he hosted us... A magical experience!

Something about the carob. AsI was trying to find out more and more (I'm always searching), I found a rabbi from 300 AD. He was living in Palestine. He lived in Palestine. So he was walking down the street and he saw somebody planting a new carob tree, a very small one, and he asked him, "Why are you trying to do this, do you think you're going to live so many years to eat from this carob tree?" and the man replied, "No, because I'm taking the carobs from another tree that my ancestors planted for me," and he said, "OK," and he walked away. And after a while the light was very strong, he didn't go into a cave, he sat on a rock, he slept, and then he returned. And on his way back he saw in the same place a huge carob tree full of carobs and somebody who was picking the carobs. And he said, ”Hey you, are you the one who planted this tree,” and the man said, ”No, no, no, my ancestors did it for me,” and he realised that 54 years had passed while he was sleeping. So I went crazy when I found it,  and then this rabbi, Honi HaMe'agel is his name, in another place, in Palestine, it has to do with carobs this time. I don't know, there's a connection.

The Portuguese have a saying: ”Plant an olive tree for your children and a carob tree for your grandchildren."

more > CAROB TREE PHYSIOLOGY: GROWTH AND REPRODUCTION BIOLOGY


Manolis Loukakis, a professor of agronomy, an expert in breeding, teaching, a great connoisseur of carobs, species suitable for planting and grafting trees, and of Crete.

Nobody knows, I could say, because sometimes, even if something looks very dark or very pessimistic, there are moments, but everything can be changed, so we have to try. And if we're lucky in our lifetime to see a difference, to see this revolution that I believe in, there are moments, but even the environment and human beings together, we can change everything. I don't know if I'll be so lucky to see it, but I can tell you that I've seen it, in moments on a small scale. So if I have this experience of seeing it in moments, that means it can be done, so in that way I am an optimist, but I don't know if I will see it in my lifetime. Everything is possible. Even what we think is impossible now can be possible. But it can only be possible if some people are in the same line, find a way to connect with each other and have the same purpose, the same goal. And even unconsciously, to have the same way, without knowing it, but knowing it, if you understand. Even unconsciously, because there is a social unconsciousness that moves things.

Manos Babionitakis, an inventor of the carob milling machine. Before him there was no one in Crete to process carobs into 100% carob flower, which was vital for all the carob crops. 

We are all the same, made of the same material. It's all clear to me. There are no differences. From north to south, west to east, we're all human beings. White, yellow, I don't know what...

>> next steps – carob trees

 I have a feeling it's going to save us again. This time in a different way. When I have a dialogue with a carob tree, it has too many secrets and I ask it. "What are your secrets?" I'm going to find out what they are.

The virgin carob forest in Southeren Crete grows where no other plants can grow. The trees are old, but still small, and they regenerate naturally.


 

When I finished the proposal to the Ministry of Culture to include the carob tree in the list of intangible cultural heritage, I saw in my dream that I was on the carob tree and we were flying all over Europe, all over Mediterranean Europe, together, with the tree. I saw this dream and after that it was great because I did my best to write the proposal and then I felt like "now I've done it, I've done something" and I saw this dream. And I was looking at all the countries of Mediterranean Europe from above, and I felt like I was in that tree when I was very little, but I was flying with it!


In the end, I found out that we can't do anything without democracy. It's not ideal, but it's the minimum we could have, and we don't have it. Only wars. We use it in a way we don't mean. This will destroy the globe, the capital.


Revolution is our attempt to exist. For me it's our attempt to... It's very difficult to explain. Because we do what the others, society, tells us to do. The thing is to decide what we do ourselves, to find ourselves and to create the future that everyone wants. We have to find ourselves.


Art and culture are the most serious weapon to fight aagainst all this lack of thinking. It is our weapon; we have no other. What else can we do, force somebody? No, we must convince them, touch them, so art is a very nice way to do that. Because it gets directly to the heart, not to the mind, the mind follows.



My father was the first ecologist I ever met, before the ecology movement, he was an ecologist, a chemist, and he loved nature. He was the one who introduced me to the carob tree when I was little. He loved nature and trees. He was a chemist, but he was very well educated in everything - philosophy, archaeology, history and everything. He gave me the first carob and said, "Try it, it's better than any chocolate." So I ate it and I loved it, I loved it so much, you can't imagine. From that moment on I always looked at carob trees with great admiration because he taught me "This tree saved the population of Crete from starvation during the Second World War", so I felt an admiration..


But this food, this is a superfood, it is better than many others and for me the carob is the future. As a crop, as a food, and it is also very important for its pharmaceutical uses, it's fantastic. It has many things. And now we've started to concentrate in the carob tree, in order to help it, support it and make it known in the consciousness of the people. It's the coming back of the carob. It is so important to understand that. So, I've done a lot of things - congresses, meetings... I asked the cultivators to come here, to the carob mill. We set up a new institution, a society, an association called The Carob of Crete, made up of researchers, academics, cultivators and people from the culture. We started with the university, because I'm pushing things too much, and now we've started research, very serious research, on different types of carob trees in Crete with the universities, because I've found the best researchers. Not only from the University of Crete, but also from Athens, from the University of Athens, from the Demokritos Research Institute and also from other different institutions and universities in Greece. In April 2019 we had the first congress, a Mediterranean congress at the carob mill, and people from Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Egypt and Italy came here. We started a network for the return of the carob tree in Mediterranean Europe, because it's a Mediterranean tree. And now we are preparing the new one, the new congress.


 

Sometimes I feel like I'm having a dialogue with the carob, but I feel that it has so many secrets that I have to discover. That is the most important thing forme. But I think it hides some secrets that I have to find , so we have a very erotic relationship. I feel that.

Yes, I feel that. But not now, for many year. I'm afraid that if I talk more, I'm going to…

Carob cultivation is ecological by nature, because it doesn't need what the olive tree needs. It's everywhere, they can grow by themselves, without anything. Of course, if you help them, they would be... You can help them by cutting the branches to see if they have any diseases and sometimes by watering them, because they don't need too much. It's an alternative cultivation during the climate change. This is the most important thing, because they are self-sufficient, everywhere, even in very high temperatures. They can grow up to 800 metres at the highest.

The planting of olivetres is still for many the solution for agriculture, even price for oil /L is low as ca 3 EUR for L and everybody complains since the threat of deseses growth and sprajing with cwemicals is a "must" . Ther is also a latent fear that some deses can be a catastropy for monoculture of 33 mio trees on the island  

Olive trees, carob trees... I love them both, but carob is the symbol of survival, against everything, all the extreme conditions. And that is more important to me. And you can't survive on olives, but you can survive on carobs. To survive with olives, we have to make olive oil, we have to have a process, but carob gives you directly what you need, that's why it saved a population. But yes, this is fire again, preventing fire. A lot of places would burn... It helps the soil to be stronger. I don't know, it's magic. It's something that nature created, it gives us this and I'm so excited about it. I feel it's my duty to do everything I can for it. I feel that way because it's a tree that nobody looks at, nobody focuses on, and I have to show everybody that it's so important. The most important tree.

It is a symbol of survival.

Kostas Karatzis farm is just over the heal of young olive growth. Carob trees don't need any spraying... Drought is not a problem as they can root very deep, even 15 metres... And the fruit is rich in protein, minerals and vitamins. It's a superfood and its use for health benefits goes back 4,000 years to ancient Greece..


As a culture, the Greeks, we have two different aspects, wings. One is Apollo and the other is Dionysus. So these two have educated us, we have been trained to be both of them.

PS: If I had money, I would have done a lot more. I'm thinking of making the first pilot film and then going to Arte (TV channel) or Greek TV, for example, and telling them this is the first one and if you like it, finance the others. Let's do it together. I have the whole scenario, everything.

The team of this story : Korina Miliaraki, Ida Glušič, Ivana Petan, BB 

Support the publishing of the next story!

Produced by MEDLand project/BB : photo, reserch, intervievs by BB, conections organized by Korina Miliaraki, WGO filming photos by Aida Glušič, production assistant Ivana Petan


Posted by bojanb
a couple of months ago

Coming back to the carob trees-story

In Crete, a true magic happened. By meeting Korina Miliaraki, we got a chance to learn about the great value of carob trees, which they are willing to share with us.

Thanks to Korina and a network of farmers and experts who actively promote, grow, breed and farm it, the carob tree is “coming back“ and bringing good to our common future. We visited Korinna’s friends, “carob activists“, old carob trees, and a carob forest in southern Crete. It became obvious there, that carob tree doesn't need much water to grow and bear fruits which can be eaten directly from the tree. Carob trees can be over 1000 years old and regenerate similar to the olive tree.



you can lo-ok 7 min short inside view on carob inportance for our future

 OR read/view it here 

I had a very special relation with trees, especially with one  that we grew up together. I had my branch, like home. The tree was my home, my second home, and one of the branches was my room and my place. I was always dreaming how to be there, most of the time I wanted to be there. I had a feeling that all the information that was around was coming to me in a magic way when I was on the branch. I was learning the world there. The tree was very alive, I had a dialog with the tree, because it was something more than a home We created a very nice relationship. And another thing is, because I was making ”acrobats” always, I had a feeling there was no way to fall, because I had relation with a tree, the tree was also helping me not to fall down. And sometimes the people from outside were ringing the bell, because they were afraid looking at me when I was making very difficult ”acrobats” when I was very little.My mother was coming out and people said ”Please, your child is going to fall down”, but she was always telling them, ”She's not going to fall down, there is no way”. She trusted me, always, too much, and my mother and my father also, both of them. I never fell.

I remember, sometimes my grandfather was,....I liked to see the shadow, I was there, and I was looking at the shadow when the sun was moving and every moment was different than the other, because I was looking down and the shadows were changing all the time. And I had this feeling, that I also have here, that I was moving with the earth all the time, but on the tree. We were traveling and the shadow was giving me this feeling of traveling. But I wasn't traveling alone. And I feel it also here also, in this house, very strongly. But I'm here and all,  we're moving with the house and with the tree in the universe. And if you have a very good relationship with surrounding, with the environment, it is really very important. It makes you feel stronger, because you don't feel alone, you're part of the environment. And the environment, it has to do... you are a part of it, and you go all together. I have this feeling of unification. It was very strong that feeling, very strong.

about the ”teacher”-fother

He was first of all an ecologist, before ecology existed. Because he was a chemist and he loved nature. He was admiring nature, the trees, the flowers, the rivers, the see... He made me have these strong feelings about this and to feel part of it and to respect it. He was against all the chemists in the house, for cleaning the dishes, the shampoos and everything. He was making everything for us, to avoid all the chemicals. He was the first one who put up the solar panel and everyone was coming to the house to see it. We had a garden, and I loved the flowers. I had a very good relationship with flowers and all the plants, and animals also. I loved them.

He was the first one in Crete to make bottled wine and export it. He had taken prices from the French at that time. (The factory is still being run by the cousins.)

I hated school. I didn't feel good. I was always feeling like I was outside the system, the education system. At first, I wanted to be an acrobat, then I decided to be the minister of education. When our teacher when I was six or seven asked us what we wanted to be I said minister of education. And she asked me ”Why, my child, do you want to be...” and I said – ”Because I want to close all the schools and make the next generation not suffer from this system, the school than we now have”.

So, I decided to come and work with him and to decide what to do, to see. It is like giving exams to yourself, because you always must return to your place to see exactly who you are, after a period when you're traveling, you're learning, you're doubting. And then you must come to have a new battle with yourself. To decide who you are after all these experiences. And I came here, and I worked with him. And then I decided through this what exactly I wanted. So that's why I came to (). I found my center.

What connected me to the carob was the carob mill, it was Panormos and the carob mill. I loved trees, I loved carobs, but then what made me focus on that was Panormos and then the next step was carob mill and the carob mill told me, it was like telling me, this building, its' history showed me to way to focus on the carob. It is full of memories, this building.I started from my needs. My need was that this building, it is very nice to be restored, and to be a culture centre, because we didn't have any culture centers on the north coast of Crete. Why not create a cultural center here in a very nice village next to the sea. It was mine and others' needs, and it worked like that very nice, because people from all Crete came to many performances that were unique and took place here, or seminars, and from all over the world also. Beside culture events also conferences about the future of Europe, environment ..many seminars, many lectures, congresses. People come from all over, different kinds of people, that's exactly another thing that I like. To connect different kinds of social interactions. People from the cities, people from the countryside, shepherds, farmers, and children from the schools.

Why carob trees. Because the carob tree is a very important tree, historically, because it saved the population through the second world war. It is important in very extreme conditions, historical conditions. When nothing else can help you, then, the carob appears and says ”I will save you”. Do you understand? It is too important for me. And I felt like if I have a carob tree in front of me and talk to it, and I'm telling him – ”I have a feeling that you saved us and we have to do whatever we can to give you your lost value, to give you back your lost value, because it is too valuable”. It has possibilities that no other trees have. And even in the extreme climate change conditions, it can save us. When no other tree will survive, the carob tree will. And also, there is something else. This is the only one, the only tree, which gives us flour also. Not only sugar, but also flour.

Part of the vision is to create the carob mill and create through the carobs and our efforts for the coming back of the carob to be a reference point of Mediterranean Europe for the carob. Connecting all the countries of the Mediterranean Europe for the coming back of the carob, giving it more value. I would love to create here a carob foundation for culture, gastronomy and research. And every year to have a festival with festival here.

Manolis Loukakis expert for breeding 

                                                            Kostas Karatzis  is planting new trees                                                                                                                                    

Manolas Iliakis - is devoted to land cultivation, he loves trees, and although he is an architect-engineer and worked in the public sector, but most of all he is a farmer

To develop a cultivation on the island and not only on the island, but on the island because we're here, by giving the motives to the farmers and also help them through their searches, giving them the right information how to cultivate, the right way to cultivate and which type of carob tree would be right and give them also the motives to create new products of food and whatever.

(about ”equally”)

         In order to survive, the human beings, we have to be serious and to understand that we don't have differences, we're all human beings and we must live equally on this planet, and we must respect the environment.

       We have the same rights everywhere. And to stop all this moving of the population because of the wars. So maybe you're going to tell me that I'm a romantic but I'm very practical, very realist.

        And in this effort the carob tree is going to help us, and I know it.

The estimate is that 33 Mio olive trees live on Crete ! and number is still growing..Monoculture! Carob and Chestnut trees that save them of hunger in II WW are now an exception

AND one of exeptions is Kostas farm, where he planted many jung carob trees and are alredy giving froots 

 I'm trying to do my best and I don't have, in a way that you put it, expectations – ”So I'm trying to do this so tomorrow I'm going to have this result, otherwise I don't do anything...” – no. My whole life I'm doing this: I'm trying, trying, trying, trying, because there is no other way. And if something good is going to happen, I'll be happy. If not, I'll still try to do my best.

Kostas Karatzis is big sucess story of Korinas dreams to bring carobs back. Kostas lives alone but his inthusiasem, positive atitude and ekscetional results are a great rool model for others to learn and plant carob trees on Kreta. Alone he does work for 10, also doing products from carob- carob syrup (best in Kreata) and carob brandy 

Corina, about carob syrup. My mother takes one spoon every day, every morning. This is medicine. 

And for me it's very important, because this carob syrup is made not only with the carob (fruit?), it's made by all the carob and the seeds. The seeds have proteins.

All food from olive oil, vegetables, fruits chees, dry fruts, vine.. he produce himself- and if Kostas has a chance to host somebody as he hosted us ..a magic experiance !

Something about the carob. While I was trying to find out more and more things, I'm always searching, I found a rabbi of the 300 years after Christ. He was living in Palestine. So, he was walking in the street and he saw somebody planting a new Carob tree, a very small one, and he asked him ”Why are you trying to do this, you think you're going to live so many years to be feeding from this carob tree”, and the man answered ”No, because I'm taking the carobs of another tree that my ancestors have planted for me” and he said ”Ok” and he left. And after a while the light was very strong, he didn't go to a cave, but he sat on a rock, he slept, and then he returned. And on the way back he saw in the same place a huge carob tree full of carobs and somebody who was picking the carobs. And he said, ”Hey you, are you the same who planted this tree” and the man said ”No, no, no, my ancestors did it for me” and he realized that 54 years passed during his sleep. So, I got crazy when I found it, because, first () for another reason and then this rabbi, Honi HaMe'agel is his name, in a different place, in Palestine, it has to do with carobs this time. I don't know, there is a connection.

7 years. For the first, double of the olive tree. Olive tree- less years. That's why the Portuguese have a saying, ”Plant an olive tree for your children and a carob tree for your grandchildren”.

more>CAROB TREE PHYSIOLOGY: GROWTH AND REPRODUCTION BIOLOGY


Manolis Loukakis  a profesor of agronomy, an expert for breeding , teaching a great connoisseur of carobs, species suitable for planting and grafting trees and Crete

...nobody knows, I could say, because sometimes, even if something looks very dark or very pessimistic, there are moments, but everything can be changed, so we have to try. And if we're lucky in our lifetime to see a difference, to see this revolution that I believe in, there are moments, but even the environment and human beings together, we can change everything. I don't know if I'll be so lucky to see it, but I can tell you that I've seen it, in moments in a small scale. So, if I have this experience to see it in moments, that means that it can be done, so in this way I'm an optimist, but I don't know if in my lifetime I will see it. Everything can be done. Even the what now we think that is impossible, it can be possible. But it can be possible only if some people will be in the same line, will find a way to connect with each other and to have the same purpose, the same goal. And even unconsciously, to have the same way, without knowing it, but knowing it, if you understand. Even unconsciously, because there is a social unconsciousness that moves the thing.

Manos Babionitakis: an inventor of carob mill machine , before him there was nobady to proces carobs into 100% carob flower in Creta, wital for all that crop carob 

 We are all the same, from the same material. It's all clear to me. There are no differences. From the north to the south, to the west, to the east, we're all human beings. Whites, yellows, I don't know what...

>> next steps – carob trees

 I have a feeling that it's going to save us again. In a different way this time. If I have a dialog with a carob tree, it has too many secrets, and I'm asking it. ”What are your secrets?” I'll find out what they are.

virgine carob forest in Southeren Crete grows where no other plants can exist They are old trees, never the less small and regenarate here by nature. 


 

When I finished the proposal to the ministry of culture to be included in the list of intangible cultural heritage, I saw in my dream that I was on the carob tree and we were flying all over Europe, all over the Mediterranean Europe, together, with the tree. I saw that dream and it was great after because I did my best writing the proposal and then I felt so... ”Now I've done it, I've done something”, and I saw that dream. And I was looking from above all the countries of the Mediterranean Europe and I had a feeling like in that tree when I was very small, but I was flying with it!


Finally, I found out that without democracy we can't do anything. It is not the ideal, but it's a minimum that we could have, and we don't have. Only wars. We use it in a way that we don't mean it. This is going to destroy the globe, the capital.

 Revolution is our effort to exist. For me it's our effort to... it's very difficult to explain. Because we are doing what the others, the society is telling us. The thing is to decide what we do by ourselves, to find ourselves, and to create the future everyone wants to have. We have to find ourselves.

Art and culture are the most serious weapon to fight all these absences of thought. This is our weapon; we have no other. What else to do, to force somebody? No, to convince him, to touch him, so art is a very nice way. Because it gets directly to the heart, not the mind, the mind is following




My father was the first ecologist I ever met, before the ecology movement, he was an ecologist, chemist and he loved nature. He first introduced the carob tree to me. He was the one who introduced me to carob tree when I was the little. He was fond of nature and trees. He was a chemist, but he was very well educated in all the... philosophy, archaeology, history, and everything. He gave me the first carob and he said ”Try it, it's better than any chocolate”. So, I ate it and I loved it, I liked it so much, you can't imagine. From that moment I always look at the carob trees with great admiration because he taught me ”This tree saved the population of Crete during the second world war from the hunger” so I felt an admiration.




But this food, this is superfood, it is better than many others and for me the carob is the future. As a cultivation as a food and also it is very important as it has pharmaceutical uses, it's fantastic. It has many things. And now we started concentrating in the carob tree in order to help it, support it and make it known in the consciousness of the people, back, it's the coming back of the carob. To understand that this is so important. So, I've done many things. Congresses, meetings... I asked the cultivators to come here, to carob's mill. We made a new institution, society, association that is called The carob of Crete and consists of researchers, academics, cultivators and people from the culture. We have started with the university because I'm pushing the things too much and now, we've started to research, a very serious research, on different types of carob trees in Crete with the universities, because I have found the best researchers. Not only from the university of Crete, but also from Athens, university of Athens, Demokritos research institution and also other different institutions and universities in Greece. During the April of 2019 we had the first congress, Mediterranean congress in the carob mill and it was people from Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, Egypt came here, and Italy. We started a network for the coming back in the carob tree in Mediterranean Europe, because it's a Mediterranean tree. And now we are preparing the new one, the new congress...


 



Sometimes I feel like I have a dialog with the carob, but I feel that it has so many secrets, that I have to discover. This is the most important thing to me. But I think it hides some secrets that I have to find what they are, so we have a very erotic relationship. I feel that.

Yes, I feel that. But not now, since many years ago. I'm afraid that if I talk more, I'm going to…



The carob cultivation is by nature ecological, because it doesn't need what the olive tree needs. It's everywhere, they can grow by themselves, without anything. Of course, if you help them, they would be... You can help them by cutting the branches, to see if they have any disease and sometimes watering them, because they don't need too much. It's an alternative cultivation during the climate change. This is the most important thing, because they are self-sufficient, everywhere, even in the very high temperature. They can grow on 800 meters on the highest.

The planting of olivetres is still for many the solution for agriculture, even price for oil /L is low as ca 3 EUR for L and everybody complains since the threat of deseses growth and sprajing with cwemicals is a "must" . Ther is also a latent fear that some deses can be a catastropy for monoculture of 33 mio trees on the island  

Olive trees, Carob trees..I love both of them, but carob is the symbol of survival, against everything, all the extreme conditions. And this is for me more important. And you can't survive eating olives, you can survive eating carobs. In order to survive with olives,  we have to make olive oil, we have to have a process, but the other one gives you directly what you need, that's why it saved a population. But yeah, this is again fire, preventing the fire. Many places would get burned..., it helps the soil to be stronger. I don't know it's magic. It's something the nature created, it gives us that way and I'm so enthusiastic about it. I'm feeling that I have a duty to do whatever I can for this. I feel like that, because it's a tree that nobody looks at it, focuses on and I have to show everybody that it's so important. The most important tree.

It is a symbol of survival.

Kostas Karatzis farm is just over the heal of jung olive growth -/img above/ Carob does not need any sprajing...drowt is not a problem since thay can root very deep even 15 meters.. and the fruet is hi protein , mineral and vitamin.. food -superfood and using it for health benefits goes back 4,000 years to ancient Greece.



As a culture, the Greeks, we have two different aspects, wings. One is Apollo and the other is Dionysus. So, this two have educated us, we have been trained to be both of them.

ps : If I had money, I would have done much more.  I'm thinking to make the first pilot film and then to go to Arte for example (TV channel) or Greek television to tell them this is the first and if you like it finance the others. Let's do it together. I have all the scenario, everything.

The Team of this story  : Korina Miliaraki, Ida Glušič, Ivana Petan, BB 

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Producedin by MEDLand project/BB : photo, reserch, intervievs by BB, conections organized by Korina Miliaraki, WGO filming photos by Aida Glušič, production assistant Ivana Petan

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Posted by bojanb
a few months ago

Seeds of Palestine Dreams:

SEEDS OF PALESTINE dreans, is the title of 2nd edition of a book, where 99 Palestinians expres in selfportrait and words, there  relation with ladn of Palestine and people living there (previev 1st edition) Book -2nd, edition is on the short list, to be published by publisher Sanje

Eyad Tamallah, 20 ....I have many dreams. The big dream is for the world to be in peace. I believe that peace will start from the people themselves and not from the government...

I was born in Quira but I live in Ramallah. I study engineering at Birzeit University. I love to do things where you can see changes. The purpose of engineering is to make life easier for people. I think this is a big purpose. I also love philosophy. To learn about society. For a young person, to build your future, it is good to go to the city. It has more opportunities and you can meet people from different places. You can get a wider perspective so I think this is important. But I also really like coming back to the village during the weekends, holidays. I like the way people here are together, the family evenings, how they love each other. When I am here I do agricultural work and I feel I am part of the village. I do a lot of traditional farming. Here I get a lot of knowledge. I think it is important to work with the land. When you are in contact with nature, you get a very deep connection with yourself. I think this will make you stronger, wiser.

I have many dreams. The big dream is for the world to be in peace. I believe that peace will start from the people themselves and not from the government. This is my big dream, that people find peace in their hearts. I see my future here in Palestine. I think you should help your society, your country, the place where you live and where you share your memories. But I would love to go for a trip somewhere. I wish to go to the sea. To see the other side of our land. As a young man I can’t go to Jerusalem, to the sea, Haifa, Jaffa. So I wish to go there.

BOOK-preview

During 10 days in July 2018, anthropologist Barbara Vodopivec and me did 100+ interviews with selfportraits in the country of Palestine – cities and villages in the West Bank. The result is unique, nothing I could have imagined beforehand. It presents a parallel life, deeply rooted in heartfelt  relationships between people, as well as to the land. Land as a space that provides everything necessary for life, as well as culture and history. The wisdom based on the intelligence of heart, which goes beyond unconscious survival patterns of human nature, is very valuable for everyone of us, because we are all to some extent exposed to the pressures of domination, exploitation, control, violence. It is the way  to find a peaceful transition to the next step of our evolution in harmony with all beings.
At least half of the Palestinians are scattered around the world, but remain connected with the land and the people in Palestine. In this way, the wisdom they developed is also spreading around the world. The situation is similar to the side effect of the occupation of Tibet since 1950. More than half of the Tibetans live outside of Tibet, spreading Buddhist wisdom all over the world as an important mankind’s endeavor to understand life and develop peaceful ways of coexistence. It is based on compassion, which is also a common point with Palestinian wisdom. It lies in their hearts.
What also became clear to me during our time in Palestine is that Jewish people, through their centurieslong struggle for survival, developed extreme intellectual consciousness. The latter drives and motivates us “from the opposite side” to the intelligence of heart. To this day, these two fundamentally different worlds have not found a peaceful dialogue. When talking about the future, many of our Palestinian interlocutors stressed that the most important goal should be peaceful coexistence for ALL in Palestine, which also includes the settlers who took over the Palestinian land.

PALESTINIAN YOUTH AND SEEDS OF THE FUTURE

introduction from the book  by Barbara Vodopivec, anthropologist, Society for Human Rights Humanitas, Slovenia

How do young people in Palestine see themselves? How do they live their lives, what do they dream about and what are their hopes for the future? With this book we try to give a glimpse into the way youngpeople in Palestine think about these questions. Thisis not a research about Palestinian youth or a holisticrepresentation of their lives. Rather, it is an artproject, a mosaic of images and a story about the way they understand themselves and the place andtime in which they live.

Through the use of self-portrait photography and short interviews we hope to capture young people’s voices, particularly their experience and expressionof a personal and collective identity. The portraits,which always place an individual against his or her background, explore identity from a very intimate, individual perspective but always in relation to thebroader environment. Personal and collectiveidentities are closely interconnected and in the narrative of the young people, the harsh politicaland economic situation further intertwines the two.When young people talk about their own lives theyalso talk about Palestine. When they describe their home they also describe their country. In theirnarrative Palestine is not something abstract but what they experience and express through their daily life – through work, dance, sport, studies, art,architecture, friendship, family. As many emphasize,due to the struggle for freedom and justice,Palestine is in everything they do. This means thatpersonal dreams are impossible to separate fromthe hopes and aspiration for a Palestinian future.

The portraits and interviews thus aim to tell a story of how young people feel their identity, how they experience it through their personal self as well as through the place in which they live, and in relationto people they live with, or are separated from. Forthe context of Palestine, the latter is particularly important, with Palestinians living divided betweenthe West Bank, Gaza, and the rest of the world. Thisseparation, together with the system of oppression, discrimination and colonization which makes it almost impossible for people to travel, creates a distance that many young people try to overcome in their imagination by pointing to their emotional attachment to places and people they have only heard about, either through friends, parents orgrandparents.

The people we met were outspoken about the way the political and social context they live in limits theirdreams and possibilities for the future. And the sadness and anger this causes. Yet they alsoexpressed an incredible perseverance, resilience andhopefulness. Despite insecurities that perpetuatetheir lives young people stress the importance oflooking forward and struggle for change. Their dreams and imagination of a different future are not to be excluded from this change.

All the photos are self-portraits. While thephotographer set up the photo studio it was thepeople themselves who took the portraits. This so called Selffish Studio developed by the Slovenianphotographer Bojan Brecelj enables people to express themselves in a creative way, making themnot only participants but co-authors of the project.

Every portrait was followed by a short interviewwhich is partially published together with the photo. The photo studio was set up on different locations – streets, universities, youth centres, parks, cafes.Aside from few exceptions most of the people wereselected randomly. Conversations took place in English or in Arabic with the help of a translator.

During our ten day stay in Palestine we visited East Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nablus, Jenin, Ramallah andHebron, always with the surrounding areas. People wemet live in these cities for various reasons: some were born there while others moved to the area to work,study, or are only passing through. These mix of people with different personal backgrounds shows the flow of the cities and its interconnectedness, the mobility, which although limited, it is still taking place.

During our stay in Palestine we also planned to visit Gaza yet we were not able to obtain permission toenter. Unfortunately, we were also not able to meetPalestinians living inside the 1948 territory, the importance of which was stressed by several peoplewe met. Hopefully, this is something we will be able to do another time in the future.

Lastly, we would also like to mention that both authors of the publication are form Slovenia and donot live in Palestine. This of course had an impact onthe way we approached the project, on the set up ofthe studio, on the questions we asked and the final selection for the publication. Our voices are thus impossible to exclude from the publication. This istherefore not just a book about the way young people see themselves, but to a certain extent, it is also connected to the way we see lives of youngpeople in Palestine. 

Intruduction to the 2'nd edition : (google translate from slo )

Hopefully this is something we will be able to do at some other time in the future, stated in the foreword to the first edition, because we were not able to get permission to enter Gaza to interview the young people as we were able to do in the West Bank ( the Jordan River) and in Jerusalem.

If I had not visited Palestine and Israel, it would have been an impossible mission for me to connect and understand this part of the world. Meetings and conversations with many people throughout the West Bank of occupied Palestine, who welcomed me with open arms, opened my eyes. So many years of constant oppression and aggression should make them miserable. But I experienced the opposite. The Palestinians showed us another side of (human) nature - I met proud and down-to-earth people whose self-confidence is based on trust in life itself. They managed to establish a parallel life, which they live together to the fullest. Order there is not based on obedience or survival, but on self-awareness, self-awareness that is not formally expressed. I could identify with this because, even though I was only a passing stranger, they welcomed me so warmly. A simple definition of coexistence among Palestinians in this part of the world has three pillars: a loving relationship with the land where they live; strong mutual relations or strong community; a deeply internalized consciousness of unity with a unique, invincible life. Many have expressed their dreams in interviews that one day there will be peace and harmony among the people currently living on this earth. Palestinians in Palestine - now in Gaza - know that many more can be killed, but that their spirit and the true nature they embody will eventually be part of a shared peaceful future. In a world where the consciousness of interconnectedness (unity) is a threat to many, the "parallel life model" mastered by the Palestinians, especially in Gaza for 75 years, the Lebanese with the experience of the thirteen-year war in Beirut, the Syrians and other Arabs in this part of the world , a common human experience that is spreading, as a large part of these families are displaced around the world - they live among us. at the same time, they remain connected to their original place and people. The awareness that it is possible to live fully, even as a parallel life, should not be just a dream for many around the world who do not agree to violence. In a world with such awareness, there will be no division between Palestinians and Israelis.

Project was exibited first time in Ljubljana /SLO/-Galerija Bolka  - please connect us to the next place to exibit and netwoork on, bojan 

Posted by bojanb
a few months ago

Lui Petrič

Just before Lui Petrič left, he gave his final quote..

Lui Petrič final Q

whatever in the human being is, everybody works and wants to know whether it is his or not his if you do not have that policy, stability what you are working for and money,,, aye it is aye than it is terrible.. for instance Israel was saved because of kibbutzim.. there is no money, once there is no money you have to listen..then other people think for you ..pollution is the greatest enemy, we destroy nature...

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Posted by bojanb
a few months ago

Be Enlightened -visit Lebanon

Our visit to "Lebanon – Be Enlightened" took place in June 2022, when Ivana Petan and BB were invited by fans of Ivana’s ceramics to celebrate life with them. I was able to take time to follow the light in the name of the MEDLand project, and Ivana and I both fell in love with the heartful spirit that goes far beyond and over the limitations of continuous pressure to …for best view use (laptop) computer !

Vladimir & Rafi * Rafi & Vladimir, two friends, two colleagues, two blessed people by their own definition, determined to continue to live in Lebanon and co-create with 30 other people – one of the most advanced landscape architecture Bureaus based on experience and knowledge of integrating and amplifying the energies of place in harmony with being(nes)s that coexist there. 

VLADIMIR DJUROVIĆ / LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT

... differences make us a special team, and this is our strength in a way. We are so different, and when you combine us in a different way, the results can be incredible… I cannot articulate that, but it’s the beauty of this diversity and of the difference…of accepting and celebrating the difference. And really knowing that it enriches everything. It adds a lot. Nobody is perfect, everyone has their flaws. You know, I also I do a lot of unexpected projects – like this one tomorrow: taking coworkers to their parents' house to design and plant a garden there. It just came up. So I take them from work, "leave all your work, come", and then we go have lunch after. And then, as I told you, the beautiful parts are when we get a big important project and we travel in a group of 6-7 people, smaller team from our office, we go experience new place, new culture. We’ve been around the world, from China to Mexico, to Canada, everywhere, we grew up together, we shared life together.

Just to tell you. We are working with some of the most important clients, like Aga Khan Foundation, and we’re working with top architects in the world, top ten architects in the world. So these guys have lots of expectations and very very serious deadlines. Quality of the work has to be… Because you have to exceed their expectations. We don’t only want to meet them, we want to exceed them. And with all this looseness that you feel, we still deliver the best work. I mean, when it’s time to work, we do amazing work, but without forcing anything. I just tell you what is due, when it’s due (date), you agree. I also ask you, you tell me, yes, I can do it in this amount of time. And then, do it. For us, the secret is also you have to motivate them… Not manage them with fear, with force or with a schedule… Every Monday morning, we spend an hour and a half together, the entire team. We talk about every project, every deadline, anyone with any problem will voice it, we’ll see who needs help, we’ll help him, and then we attack.

you can’t live and not feel joy

... when everybody is laughing and happy, when they go back to work now, after lunch, they eat the work. Because it’s not slavery. You gotta live. When you live and you’re happy, you give the best you can, your best. Without anybody telling you to do anything. And life: you can’t live and not feel joy. For me. I keep talking about it in the office. We have to find joy in everything we do. Otherwise, we shouldn’t be doing it. You know, you have one life, and the time that passes doesn’t come back. You can’t go back and bring it back... It’s done! So let’s be happy…

VLADIMIR

 About the flow of life & work ... 

It comes by itself, the goals or aspirations that I have for myself on a personal level… I just look and then they fit perfectly for the company as well… One way of looking at things, the same interest, the same passion that revolves around nature, and always almost sailing, but not on the sea. Just open up and see where things are going , and it’s very interesting how many different winds you catch, and it takes you somewhere very interesting… So I’m very open... Audio transcript >>>

VLADIMIR

A "personal project" in Montenegro "started with the idea that I am the client, so I can do it 100% as I see fit...

...to bring together these special energies . That’s number one. And what is also definite for me is that I want people to come all year round to be there. With me, without me, I want it to be a lived experience. And what people...

Audio transcript >>>

RAFI karekachian

 

About Lebanon ...

Lebanon is the warmth of the people … a life where people don’t fear each other … I’m attracted to smile … We are free people, it’s in our nature … I want to unlearn everything and relearn it my own way … “Lebanon is a message” … a coexistence in a universal sense, not just between humans … our minds must change … Zionist ideology … the system has to change … new laws … go back to human scale … future architecture and its redefinition … bring need and necessity in the equation … vernacular architecture … by talking to each other, a new formula must emerge … It’s tricky, but we shouldn't be afraid of it … I want to challenge …  Audio transcript >>>

I have never found this kind of warmth anywhere else I traveled. so that’s what's most special about Lebanon for me.

R A F I

... and more about architecture 

… In the past, people didn’t sit in the shade of what they planted. We’re about to lose this concept, altogether.

All these buildings that are owned but nobody is there ...

... The issue of continuity ...

... Life… It’s not history, it’s evolution, and it’s change ...

... Architecture and architects …

... Survival 🙂

... Vernacular architecture ...

More >>>

R A F I

The role of Hezbollah

Civil War in Lebanon … Hezbollah … Hassan Nasrallah … you and I have the same right … Western media … people living together with equal rights … one-state country … with will and determination, any unfair situation will have to end.

The initial plan of the Americans was to give Lebanon to the Palestinians and solve the Palestinian issue: take Lebanon and forget about Israel and Palestine. So at some point, they came all the way to this village here (above Beirut), which is a Christian neighbourhood, with a Christian headquarters in another village half an hour from here. So it became very scary, they were basically able to invade the most critical areas of Lebanon in terms of Palestinians. At this point, the Christian leadership asked Syria to intervene. To stop the plan. So the Syrians came in and they stopped the plan, basically. So that was the first blow to the Israeli-American plan. And the Syrians began to push the Palestinians back to where they were, to their camps, and they recaptured all the territory that the Palestinians had taken under their control.

More >>>

Ivana and I (BB) first met Rafi in person in the middle of the night, when he picked us up at the airport and took us to his nice big family fleet in Beirut. He said we could stay for a week, but we stayed until the last day! He had taken a week of just to show us around Lebanon. His favorite place is the Jabal Moussa forest reserve with very old cedar growth and canyons in the Mount Lebanon area.

Here in the mountains, I could finally admit that the light is special, intensive in a very specific way. By here, I mean in Lebanon, wherever we went ... I have a theory why, and it is also for this reason that I want to come back, trace more and explain that bit of the story as well.

ERICA ACCARI –

FARMS NOT ARMS HAS LAUNCHED THEIR FIRST FARM, TURBA

Turba, a women-led regenerative farm in Zahle, Beqaa in line with the Farms Not Arms design model.

Turba, the Arabic word for soil, encompasses our values and our focus of placing soil health front and center to heal our land, our communities, and our planet. We are employing regenerative principles 

to grow and cultivate healthy and nourishing food much more efficiently while creating a scalable farm model for food security.


BUZURUNA JUZURUNA:

Our Seeds are our Roots

Story of a Land, Protection of a Heritage – Buzuruna Juzuruna: قصة أرض وحماية التراث

Walid is a Syrian farmer, a refugee in Lebanon since 2011. In 2014, he met Zoé and Ferdinand, two Frenchmen, on a trip to the land of the cedars. This encounter gave birth to Buzuruna Juzuruna ("Our seeds are our roots"), a farm-school located in Saadnayel, Beqaa, supported by CCFD-Terre Solidaire.

INSTAGRAM

CATALOGUE 2022

 R A F T

What is difficult for me is that sometimes I feel alone. It’s hard, you know, because I don’t see a lot of people around me – I'm not saying there aren’t people – around me, among friends, colleagues. I’m somehow, maybe, marginal. But that's OK… There are a lot of people like that, but I’m not surrounded by them. But especially the young generation, when we talk about these things in general, not specifically in our work, in general about architecture, they are very open to this and very receptive. Much more than the older generation. Because they live the problem that the previous generation created. So even the religious differences, the new generation is fed up with these divisions. They don’t want to hear about it anymore, Christians, Muslims, Jews. But the previous generation fought for it, one fought as a Christian, the other one as a Muslim… But the new generation is more open. The minds of the others are blocked. The same goes for these issues. They very easily accept it and then work around it. Yeah, but you have to do it in a… I don’t like to nag, that is dangerous, if I keep nagging “this is bad, this is bad…” No, this is what we have, and we have to change it. You change by being self-critical, seeing what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and trying to change that. It’s as simple as that. And believe that you can change. Which I do, definitely. So that’s the key, I guess. Not to nag, not to be destructive. Not to just complain without being constructive. Try to give solutions. And one of my solutions was to take a new look at the architectures of today in terms of legislation. Which means a new way of thinking, a new way of approaching.

My wish is to “not leave a trace”… There is an Armenian poet who has a phrase I like a lot: “Like a flower I take out of the earth, I smiled at life, I walked away and left”. This is what I mean by “not leaving a trace”. Now, smiling at life is the trace, the kind of trace I want to be, yes, only that kind. Just smiling at life and then walking away and leaving. And I read that on one of my birthdays, quite by coincidence 🙂 There is a joke about coincidence: two philosophers are discussing (this is also in Armenia) whether there is chance in life or there isn’t. So the guy that believes there is chance is says to the other, “Let’s say you’re walking on the street and the flower pot falls on you from the balcony. What do you call that?” The other one says, “This is an accident." He’s avoiding the word "chance". The first on says, “OK, the next day you’re walking down that same street and then from that same balcony another flower pot falls on you. What would this be?” The other one says, "This is coincidence...” 🙂 The first one says: “Ok, suppose the third day you’re walking again and then the flower…” And the second one says, “This has become a habit." 🙂 They (the Armenians) have very funny jokes, especially in the Soviet times when you couldn’t say much and everything was hidden.

The bigger the problems, the closer the solutions. Everything we are doing beyond our needs is a poison. - R A F I

and PIerre

"Young people should stay in Lebanon, but..." Besides offering his chocolates, Pierre – LE NOIR Atelier Du Chocolat – also

shared his opinion about young people in Lebanon.

We ordered coffee and got chocolate with it :-))

AND editor's note: 

The title of this exclusive Mediterranean story, "Be Enlighted – Visit Lebanon", can be explained in three ways:

– Lebanon (similar to Palestine) is the best place to see how life can be simultaneously experienced and lived as parallel realities. One is based on connections and sympathies, being connected to the land and cultivating heartful relationships with each other. Such wisdom gives us the strength to live... a life. The other reality is the fact of living in a country and area (Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Jordan) that has been the target of strong manipulative egoistic interests since WWII, which makes life very hard even today! 32 years have now passed since the civil war (which lasted nearly 15 years). The majority of the population no longer knows how it was "before", and 60% of the population live abroad as messengers of the wisdom of coexistence, as they remain well connected to Lebanon. Today, we are in a critical situation globally that forces us to be aware of our own parallel realities that give us opportunity to connect and coexist where peace and freedom are present.

Be enlightened... Here the light is literally different, very bright. This could be related to the specific conditions in this part of the Mediterranean. 

– Be enlightened... is something almost normal here. The people are very friendly, attentive, self-aware and well connected with the land, which is still very strong and primal, despite being overpopulated. Here meet the sea and minerals of the land, mountains. 

Rafi's statement – The bigger the problems, the closer the solutions – works here, where conditions are good and people are connected to them. I know that living in parallel worlds also exists in other parts, gaps and pockets of the world, and practicing our own parallel worlds as individuals and communities should also contribute to the "pot of wisdom". In this sense, Lebanon is a great place to stay and get inspired.

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Released by MEDLand project / film, photography, editing: BB   TRANSCRIPTIONS : Ivana Petan  proofreading: Tadej Turnšek,       godfather of the story: Ivana Petan

Rafi Karakachian- the role of Hezbollah

Civil war in Lebanon … Hezbollah … Hassan Nasrallah … You and I have the same right … Western media … People living together with equal rights … One-state country … With will and determination, any unfair situation will have to end.

Rafi and his family resisted the war by staying in Beirut! They were able to go anywhere since they have 3 passports/nationalities and lived abroad before the war which lasted for 13 years!

The initial plan of the Americans was to give Lebanon to the Palestinians and solve the Palestinian issue: to take Lebanon and forget about Israel and Palestine. So at one point, they came all the way to these towns here (above Beirut), which is Christian neighbourhood, with Christian headquarters in another village half an hour from here. So it became very scary, They were basically being able to invade the most critical areas of Lebanon in terms of Palestinians. At that point the Christian leadership asked Syria to intervene. To stop the plan. So the Syrians came in and they stopped the plan basically. So that was the first blow to Israeli-American plan. And The Syrians started pushing them back to where they were, to their camps and they invaded back all the area that Palestinians were taking control of.

And then, when that failed, the next step was for the Israelis to invade. So in 1982 they started. I remember that very very well, like today: 6th of June 1982. We were at the friend’s house in the mountains, having fun, barbecue, a big group of friends. On the way back on the radio we hear that Israeli invasion of Lebanon started. And we went home, you know it was like a shock and then few days later they were at the border of Beirut. And then we had a new elected president Bachir Gemayel, Christian militia leader, according to the Syrians, he was collaborating with the Israelis. So somebody assassinated him, they saying it’s the Syrians, but we don’t know for a fact. So when that happened, the Israelis came and invaded west Beirut, which is the Muslim area and then they went to east Beirut, which is the Christian part. But in the Christian part they were not invaders, they were guests. And there they were going to restaurants… So on the one side of Beirut they were invading it, on the other side they were having fun.

Then in 1982, when Israeli invaded and settled, there was no Hezbollah. It was resistance of all… all kinds of Lebanese wanted to resist. So they started organising themselves, and Hezbollah was one of these parties. And they started resisting. How? Like: they see military car, Israeli car going on the street, they throw a grenade. Soldiers die, one, two tree, four, five, every day, several times a day. It’s starting becoming a problem, the Israeli started pulling out. They pulled out of Beirut and they settled in the south. The Lebanese army was divided, so Lebanese army in the south became their collaborator. The Hezbollah – mostly the Shia – were also mostly in the south, and throughout Lebanese history they were neglected. Basically, Israeli used to come, and do things…I mean, nobody cared about them. Really. The political institution, the army, nobody cared about them. So they had to take care about their own safety… So they organised. And of course, they had the support of other countries – that time Syria, because Syria was also in Lebanon – so we had Israeli army, Syrian army and the Resistance, and the fighting militias. And they (Hezbollah) became very organised. Secrecy – until today they don’t understand how they operate and with the Israelis spying and all their capacities, they can’t locate where they are. Even Nasrallah who is their leader, they don’t know where he is. He’s underground, maybe it’s been for 10 years now.

So the Resistance kept going and then at one point it was becoming unbearable for the Israelis. Year 2000, sometime in the summer, overnight, without telling even their collaborators (the Lebanese), they (Israeli) pulled out. They left in one day. And that was the day of celebrations. And then we had several times many foreign armies coming as if stopping the war.

We (Rafi and wife Arda) lived the first 11 years and then we left to the States. The war between the Lebanese fighting fractions stopped in 1990. But Israel was still here, in the south. In 2000, after the Resistance succeed to push the Israelis out, and they started becoming very strong, in 2006 Israelis decided to invade Lebanon again, to get rid of Hezbollah. There still is a small portion, until today, which is not Israel, it’s Lebanese, but they (Israeli) are still there, and also the official borders are not very clear, whether it belongs to Lebanon or Syria.

And there were always clashes on the border between Israel and Hezbollah: they tried to go in, they do things, the Israeli fly almost every day, as tourists with their air force. So the problem was still there, because the Hezbollah proved to be effective and they started to be a model for Palestinians in Palestine. Reporting of that invasion, the western media – all of them, CNN, BBC, you name it, the western mass media – did a huge campaign to heavily demoralise the Lebanese.

The Israelis started heavily bombarding the south, like crazy, everywhere, villages… So Nasrallah had a speech, he said: all the civilians just leave, go out, wherever you are, let only the Resistance stay. The refugees were here, everywhere, in the mountains, in Beirut, they settled in schools which were opened for them. So the media bombarded us with fake news, bad news to demoralise us, and the point was that Israel is bombarding, destroying Lebanon because of Hezbollah: like we don’t want Hezbollah anymore, just give away your arms and let’s have peace. But fortunately that didn’t happen. And in fact, all the news was fake!

And Nasrallah at the time – they have a TV channel and the Israelis couldn’t find where this TV channel was spreading the news from, where the antennas were – went underground and every day he comes on TV at night and says don’t believe these news, we are advancing, they are retreating, and don’t believe anything they are saying. One day he came on the news and said:  OK, to prove myself, whoever is in Tyre, there is an Israeli boat in the sea,10 min from now go on the balconies, we will hit the boat, just to prove myself. People went out the their balconies and saw how they hit the boat.

I can tell you another story of western news mechanism: in 2006, one day the Israeli threatened to hit Beirut so Nasrallah came on TV and said: if you hit Beirut, we will hit Tel Aviv. Five minutes later I turned on CNN. Headline news, breaking news: Nasrallah in threatening to hit Tel Aviv. But the guy didn’t say that, he said if you hit Beirut, we will hit Tel Aviv. So of course, American public opinion: Nasrallah is going to hit Tel Aviv, he’s a terrorist, he will hit the civilians. This type of things we were witnessing every day, every minute, every moment. Anything what western media says, I believe the opposite, because that’s what we saw. The lying mechanism, it’s their expertise.

Finally, with the intervention of Americans and then some other countries, they came and they claim a ceasefire. The war stopped…at the end they made this resolution, which was not to Israeli advantage. It was just something on the paper to stop the war. And to save faces. And Israelis pulled out, the second invasion didn’t succeed either. And from that point on Hezbollah started getting help from Iran, starting getting stronger and stronger. Their policy was  OK: we will start manufacturing our own weapons, our own missiles and everything that we need. And they’re doing that. In 2005 the Syrians pulled out, then Israelis went out, and Lebanon now is now Lebanon, with only Lebanon army.

And, to tell you about Hezbollah discipline: in 2000 when all people fled south Lebanon and came into Beirut, settled in schools, we were helping them, volunteering to help them, give them food and whatever. So when the ceasefire happened, Nasrallah came again on TV and he said: tomorrow, everybody goes back to their villages, we will take care of you. Even if you don’t have a place to stay, if your house is underground, don’t worry, we will take care of you.” And they did. The refugees were also in our school, the Armenian school (across the street of our home) and they left the next day. The next day they sent people from their party to clean up the school and give it back to us the way they took it. And they did this in every school…can you imagine? And they are called terrorists…?

Yes, this is the reality. And until today some parties in Lebanon they say  OK you did your job, bravo, Israelis are not here anymore, just give away your weapon…the only thing that is stopping the Israeli to do the same thing, is that. Because we (Lebanon) still don’t have an army. We have an army, very good army, but it’s like internal police. They cannot stop any invasion.

And they (Hezbollah) are gaining ground in the whole region. Because what happened in Lebanon, this Resistance, is now happening within Israel, not the West Bank. They decided, I’m saying that unfortunately, but they came to the conclusion that the only way these people will understand and come to the table and negotiate a long term peace, is arm struggle.

And now, there is this Mayadeen channel, which is very pro-Palestinian highly professional TV channel, with amazing journalists and amazing talk shows, with very global view on things and highly connected to centres of power resisting the Americans. If you watch that TV, they are so hopeful that even our generation will see the end of Israel. They are saying it’s coming. We hear things from TV like that in Israel, where Arab-Palestinians and a lot of Jews talk about one state solution: we have one state and we live together like we used to live. DđAnd do you know, there is an amazing Israeli journalist that writes in the Haaretz, he’s called Gideon Levi, he’s a very pro-Palestinian guy and he keeps writing in Haaretz, I don’t know how they allow him, well Haaretz is the leftist newspaper, but still, having the guts to say all these things… So there is an intellectual class in Israel that is with the one state solution, and they see it as the only solution, only logical and long-term solution. Real peace, you know…not with one dominating the other or having doubts on each other.

And also the Hezbollah channel, they have a program where they show the Lebanese people everything that Israelis – the politicians, the military – talk between themselves on their TVs about the situation…and it’s panic mode, they’re saying basically: we have no solution, what can we do? The same thing that happened in Lebanon is happening there now: the guys have decided we have nothing to lose, they’re strangling us. The only way the Israelis understand is “if you kill me I kill you, If you kill my child, I will kill your child, Eye for eye”. So: don’t kill me, I will not kill you. Let’s talk. But if you kill me, I will kill you, this is the only way we can deal with this situation. We have reached the point where we cannot throw stones and then you shoot us. This is over. Unfortunately, but this is it. Because they’re not stopping. You act peacefully, the Israeli act violently, and now they are in a panic mode nobody has seen it like this until now. Because it’s happening with Palestinians within Israel: the Intifada is everywhere and it’s armed.

Hezbollah is not the army, that’s their strength. They do trainings in all kinds of condition. And with “mental training” somehow religion helps: in their thinking you have the same right. You cannot take away my right. It’s religious, it is the message of Allah: you and I have the same right. You cannot step on my foot. I will not step on yours but if you step on my foot I will take care of you. That’s why they call them Islamic resistance – their ideology comes from the religion. They are defending themselves and they have a right to do it, internationally. So I cannot be against them, even if I’m not happy. If you’re defending yourself, and that is causing some problem to me, I cannot tell you not to defend yourself.

The regime in Lebanon is, as I said, the majority is still with the Resistance. So in the parliament they have a majority, And they will continue having; it’s not getting weaker, it’s getting stronger.

So the official government believe that with the Resistance, the end of Israel is close. And this is not analyses, because if you watch their TVs, what they’re talking – the Israeli, the politicians and the Mossad and the military, what they’re talking among themselves, you really feel that. I mean, in the panic mode, they’re saying: we don’t have a solution. The people in Israel are criticising their regime, the military being not able to do anything…it’s over, there’s no way to stop this. It’s what they are saying, so that’s why it’s very interesting and very convincing.

And the next step?…I think, it’s been a while they’ve been talking about two states solution. I think they will go for one state solution. And there will be one country, people living together with equal rights. Not a jewish state, islamic state, not a christian state, a state, let them call it the Holly land, Palestine, whatever they call it :), but they all have the same rights and they will live together, and the refugees, Palestinians, they have to return to their homes. This is an UN resolution, it’s not anything that’s not accepted by the world: UN resolution 425 from 1978 talks about that, about the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, not West Bank. This is an UN resolution, so why every UN resolution should apply to Syria and Jemen and Iraq and all that, and not to Israel? Why? Because the Americans veto it, that’s the only reason.

I believe there is a chance that things will change, maybe in my life, but it doesn’t matter. But eventually, whether now or in hundred years, this will happen…I’m starting to believe that I will see it. Definitely, I don’t mind not seeing 🙂 but if I see it, it’s a bonus 🙂

And the Palestinians they are determined and that’s the way things are evolving. We’re seeing it here very clearly, were seeing how the Israeli-American policy is not moving on, they’re failing everywhere. Because it’s not fair, as simple as that. And when it’s not fair and you have a will to resist, and you have a power to resist. The case is that resistance have the will and the power and capacity to do that. And it’s happening, we’re seeing the result.

Also, for Palestinians, one state solution is the only one. Like, what would you do with those refugees on Israeli land? And UN resolution says that have the right to return. The zionists are scared that if they go back to Israel, they will multiply much faster and demographically things will change over time…  OK, which is right, so what do you do? And these people have the right, acknowledge by the international community to return home, there is a resolution. Until when can the US do this, when there is a resolution?

During all the years between 1982 and 2000, when the Israelis were here and the Resistance was resisting, the ones who were not with the Resistance, they always kept saying: what are you guys doing, are you stupid, can you fight the Israeli army? Well, they could, this is a fact. At the end, if you have the will and the determination, any unfair situation will have to end. It cannot go on forever. It’s not sustainable. I mean, who can name one empire that has survived forever, starting with the Romans, ending with the British and the French and the colonialists and everything, and Hitler and Germany and Russia, Soviet Union.

Nasrallah, in many speeches he asks: “guys, do you believe that we’re happy with these situations that our kids are going and being killed, and resisting and being killed? Can a logical mind accept that we’re happy with this situation? Of course we’re not. Once this is over all this will go to Lebanese army. But until that happens and as long the Lebanese army is not allowed to be armed, what can we do? This is the only solution.” This is what says the guy, can you believe it? But the people who criticise them and their supporters, they don’t even listen to what he says, Nasrallah is evil for them, he’s a terrorist.

And why would I support him? I’m neither a Shia nor this nor that, I’m like watching from outside, then why would I support it? If I don’t find it logical? And why would more than half of the Christians support him? If he’s a Shia? That’s not a case, it’s a political issue.

Now there are some information, it’s rumours but most probably very true that the Pope is planning to come to Lebanon, soon. And there are rumours when he comes will meet the Hezbollah leadership. Which is a big big blow to the Christians who are payed by the Saudis and the Americans to discredit Hezbollah.

And the money that these countries threw in this Lebanese elections, which happened in the beginning of July 2022, to gain the elections against Hezbollah, it was unimaginable. And they failed. They were campaigning, like the Saudi ambassador, he was campaigning, openly. The American ambassador was going and meeting all these leaderships of the parties who are against Hezbollah, openly. I mean, diplomatically it’s not acceptable. And we are watching all this and they want us to say bravo, we are with you. And, they lost, they didn’t get the majority over Hezbollah! So I’m very optimistic.

And somehow, staying in Lebanon is my way of participating in this resistance. Because I can very easily leave, I have the passport, I have the citizenship, I can go.

Rafi Karakachian, more abour arhitecture

… in the past, people didn’t sit under the shade of what they planted. We’re losing this concept altogether.

All these buildings which are owned, but nobody is there…

 The issue of continuity

… Life … It’s not history, it’s evolution, and it’s change

… Architecture and architects… … Survival 

… vernacular architecture…

Nowadays, if I’m the client, I want my tree to look as an 80 year old tree, under which I will sit when the project is completed. And this becomes a way of life, which means that all the time that is required to grow a tree you detach from the process. That’s why you start wanting things that have nothing to do with the process that’s natural. This is a shame.

For me, nature is a process.

I would love to renovate what is there, to tear down what’s not good and then put trees there. All these buildings which are owned but nobody is there, they have no use, except money laundry. Would take them out. Of course, if there is a need for it, not. I also think that population growth is going crazy in the world, it should go back.

This issue of continuity…are you familiar with Krishnamurti? All these time related issues, continuity and all that which come with memory, is also very problematic. So in nature, the tree grows, but it’s not attached to the memory and it’s open to change… They live the moment. So if you live the moment, it means there is no time. And if you’re doing anything… OK, you only need memory for practical things, but we have overestimated it, in my opinion, and it has gained so much value that we are in the trap of memory and time and all that. So even archaeology and all that, OK, I know the value, history, tradition… There is nice funny definition of tradition. It says tradition is “peer pressure from the people who are dead”. History as an institution or as an education is new. Like primitive people, they have history, but they don’t think of history, they are history… The term “history” has certain connotations which is a problem. So all these worlds that we have created, I am starting to have issues with it, unless we just give them the right value, OK: history is good for this only. It’s good to be destroyed somehow, without attachment.

Also sometimes, if you go to primitive tribes which still exist today, the evolution there is extremely slow, if there is any. But they’re very natural people. Let me put it very simply: if I can live like an animal consciously, that’s what I’m aiming for. Like when I watch my cat, I’m learning much more from a cat than I have learned all my life through all experiences. Not getting bored.

Life… It’s not history, it’s evolution, and it’s change. It’s adapting to the present all the time, eternally. And present is never the same. Animals have a synchronicity which we have lost. So change and evolution in that sense make sense because it’s the nature’s way of being.

Architecture and architects… In what we do, the need and necessity are not in equation. Everything we’re doing is not needed, even the client doesn’t need it. They already have 10,000 houses. This is the 11,000th.

Survival. Unfortunately… Yes, I could cook. But even cooking, restaurants and all that, the logic is the same, it’s entertainment. And 99% of what we do is entertainment. Why don’t I go home and eat when I’m hungry? And when I’m hungry, I will eat with art, because that’s also part of me. That’s why I was saying: food for me is the highest form of art. Because it’s needed. It’s not that I’m against art. If you approach art with that kind of perspective, then even art would be a lot different. Even art is becoming an institution and it’s extending what we’re doing. Things would evolve and grow differently. But now it comes down to consumption. We’re consuming without thinking.

I’m educated in this system. But when I started looking at things differently, even these needs that I had had changed. I don’t have the same needs anymore. For me now, sitting on my balcony and watching the sea, just watching the sea, has become as satisfying as an experience of doing something. It’s doing something else. It’s being. And then, I might do something. The process, the rhythm, the drive, they’re all different, they’re not the same. Before I needed to do something ten times, now once I year is enough maybe. That’s what I’m saying, and if we keep telling to ourselves that this is a need… Maybe it’s a desire. For me, a need is something that’s external, it’s within interconnectivity, it doesn’t depend on me. I have to eat, I need the light. That is need. Another thing is what I decide to do, it has nothing to do with you, the other. The need is about the interconnectedness. So if you live with that perspective, the desires, they are still there but they don’t impose themselves, they go with the flow, you know when to stop and when to leave them happen. Which are the spontaneity, the accidents in the nature. Unexpected things happen, maybe in the bigger picture there’s nothing unexpected. But something you were not expecting, happens.

So that rhythm, it’s there. If we live the way I was describing, if you look at things that way, you’ll still be creative, but in a different way, in a different rhythm. Now, everything has become an institution, as if they are sustaining themselves, it becomes raison d’être for every institution. They want to keep themselves before anything else, they forgot why they are there for. Unfortunately.

That’s why I like vernacular architecture; an architecture where there were no architects. Where things were done out of a need. You need a shelter. And no other parasites, egos… nothing. And you look at the result, it’s perfect. It blends with everything. You bring the architect and the signature and everything gets spoiled. This is what I’m observing. Of course, there are exceptions, I’m generalizing a little. But in general, that’s how I’m seeing it. Unfortunately. I know this is an extreme position, but…

I ask if building lives or doesn’t live for itself… When you see a building – is that the building or the architect behind the building? Or is that the teacher who taught the architect behind the building? So again, you go back to interconnectedness and everything. The building is the outcome of a process. It has a purpose, it serves a purpose, and its cause. It’s life, and you have to let it be that.

Without people? Well, it has its life because it’s there, but when you look at it, it has its life through you. They don’t contradict each other. It’s there, I did this and then I died. But it is still there and I’m under the ground. Building is still there and it has its own life until it disappears one day. But then, if another person comes and sits on this, it will have a life in relation to that person, and the person will have a life in relation with the building… So it’s all being, in different forms, an observer is there, another observer comes…

I have a problem of categorization. I know the logic behind it and I know the function of categorizing, but I should be aware of what categorization is for us. If it becomes the aim, then I have a problem. It has a function and I don’t want it to go beyond that function. And Krishnamurti says it very well: words, any word you say, it’s an abstraction. It’s not the reality. It’s an approximation and abstraction. So in any word… The word can be very tricky if you take a word as a thing. But if you’re aware that it’s just an abstraction to say something, then OK. But I guess, today’s society, we’ve forgotten all this, probably.

and MORE HIGHLIGHTS :

Vernacular architecture, OK, you go to these Greek islands, you go to the medieval cities where there was no architect. They just built because they needed to build. And for me, that type of architecture – forget the churches and all that, even if it’s the most beautiful, I don’t care, I would rather not have it, to tell you the truth – that type of architecture, which comes from the people and their needs, for me it’s so beautiful, so simple, with so little consumption. And there’s no name of any architect. Once you put the name, which is the ego and everything else, then it falls apart. Then you can produce an amazing gothic cathedral or renaissance whatever, Michelangelo… OK?

In my opinion, all this fall started in the Renaissance. Of course, in school we learn that the Renaissance was whatever of civilisation. Then, art was institutionalised. The tribes, they did art, but it was just direct expression of nature… Nature was creating through you. Now, with the ego, you are above it, you control nature. And science…

For me, if art is what the universe is doing through me, the creation through me or through anyone, that’s art. And that reads very well, very strongly. But when it’s the expression of your ego, then you might create beautiful marvels, which I don’t care about at all.

In the Neolithic, an object that today is called art was functional and was not called art. Now, you call it art and it gains authority… He’s an artist, he knows, he sees things that we don’t… The connotation that we have given to art and institutionalisation of art… You know, I go and study architecture, plus architecture I have no problem with it because it’s functional. But today’s architecture and architects – I have a big problem with it, including myself. So anything we’re doing today, architects and engineers, sucks, it is terrible. It’s destroying everything, because it’s done with this very low energy, it’s the expression of that. And all architecture that was done a long time ago, vernacular architecture – vernacular means coming from the people, the people’s architecture – which was built because of need, by the crafts, masons. If you study this architecture and you study our architecture, you cannot compare. That was extremely efficient, simple, beautiful, respectful, the guy didn’t even think he was respectful. Because he lived with what he had; with life, with environment, with nature, with the stars, with the sky, with the universe, because he was connected, he couldn’t do otherwise, he couldn’t not be respectful. Now, because of our egos, we are programmed to be disrespectful and they teach us to be respectful. And in our work – today’s architecture work – that’s so badly reflected. When I see an architect, I ask: if I take out the name from your building, would you do the same thing? Definitely not… All these star architects, the very famous ones today, all their buildings seek attention, wow, this is new… But if I take their name out and you don’t say “This is Bojan,” than Bojan wouldn’t do that because it’s not attracting any attention. Now I understand you have to put your name so people know. We do the same, I do the same, but I’m not proud of it, that’s the difference, I’m ashamed of it. And I tell everyone, not the client, I cannot, one day I will tell them all.

Rafi Karakachian, about Lebanon 

Lebanon is the warmth of the people … A life where people don’t fear each other … I’m attracted to smiles … We are free people, it’s in our nature … I want to unlearn everything and relearn it my own way … “Lebanon is a message” … A coexistence in the universal sense, not just between humans … Our minds have to change … Zionist ideology … The system has to change … New laws … Go back to human scale … Future architecture and its redefinition … Bring need and necessity in the equation … Vernacular architecture … By talking together, a new formula will have to come out … It’s tricky, but we shouldn’t be afraid of it … I want to challenge …

For me, Lebanon is mostly the people and the warmth of the people, which is very specific for me in general. in the sense that I have never found that kind of warmth elsewhere, anywhere else I travelled. So when I say Lebanon, it’s different from other places by this factor: the warmth of the people… Besides other things, of course. But this is what strikes me.

In school, they teach us history and geography, and for some reason, I… OK, it’s interesting, but for some reason that never meant that much to me, because personally, for me what matters the most is the relationships between human beings. The rest, I forget to tell you the truth. […] In fact, looking back, anything I learned has become problematic. So I want to unlearn everything and relearn it my own way. After all these years.

Why Lebanon? Why did you choose Lebanon to live in?

I have chosen Lebanon to live in because first, I was born here, so I’m part of it. Before the war, we had a beautiful life, wonderful life. I never wanted to leave the country, but then the situation got quite bad and I was somehow forced to leave Lebanon. And then, when I went out, the qualities of Lebanon came out much stronger. I realized what I was missing when I was living abroad. That quality was so important to me that it pulled me back and I decided to come back. And although there are many problems, political, economic – you name it – but somehow, as I said, there is something I couldn’t find elsewhere: this human warmth, relationship between people and their resilience and their love for life and that energy. And that is what matters to me, this is what I’m looking for in life… To have that is a priority, besides everything else. And as long as I can make a living here, I will not go anywhere else.

I could choose not to come back. Being in the States… I’ve told you the story of what triggered my return: Varak (one of my two sons) was in third grade, seven years old, and one day he came home from school and he said that they taught them if someone gives them something in the street to reject it, not to take it. So at that point, I understood that I’m living in a culture where they’re teaching fear at school, institutionalized fear. And at that point, I realized that in Lebanon, even during the war, people didn’t fear each other. Ok, it was dangerous, there was danger but, no fear of each other. The danger was physical – bombs, shells, whatever, it was a war situation, but people didn’t fear each other. And living in the States, I realized at one point that fear is part of education. They teach us to fear the other. And I have never seen that, it was very foreign to me, so I decided to come back for my children to see that other side of life. That there is a life where people don’t fear each other, they don’t see each other as a challenge, a competition. 

The Armenian passport came latter. At the time, I had Lebanese and US passports. But even Armenia… OK, I like it, historically I’m connected, I’m Armenian by origin, but I still feel that this (Lebanon) is where I would choose to stay. I have no problem, I can live anywhere if you want. But if I have to choose, I still choose Lebanon. And as I always say, if I can make a living here, that’s the determining factor. Even in this chaotic situation, I still prefer to stay here than to go anywhere else. And it’s not just a matter of being attached to the land and this and that… It’s not just physical. It’s more than that. It’s human relationships. And the smile on the people’s faces… Smile is very important to me, I’m attracted to smiles. And I can find a smile here on everybody’s face, no matter what the situation is.

In my opinion, Lebanon is so much in the focus of the world because people in this region – Syria, Palestine, Lebanon – with a mix of religions like Jews, Christians, and Muslims, this makes it such a special place, where all cultures, all different cultures come together and they coexist in a very beautiful way. And if they leave us alone, this place can become a message. And that is felt somehow in life. We have all kinds of differences, but they coexist very nicely. And yes, It’s not just Lebanon, it’s all the region, basically, where all Western religions were born and they coexisted. And I think that is also the future if we get there. If we don’t destroy ourselves, one day, that fact of coexistence will I guess come back: coexisting with others peacefully.

I think the turning point in this coexistence being present was the creation of the Israeli state. Before that were the Worlds Wars, of course, there was turmoil in the world in general, but I guess in terms of people living in the area, big problems started after the creation of Israel, with Zionist ideology. And I believe that all religions, Jews, Christians, Muslims, if we take out that element, that ideology, we can coexist together again very nicely, very peacefully. And it can really become a model.

We have gone through this crisis. So if this crisis gets resolved, of course, it’s a jump forward. We will have what we had before plus the fact that we learned something from this crises. And hopefully not repeat it. So that probably we will coexist also consciously now.

I’ve learned from this crisis that no one can impose himself on the other. We are free people, it’s in our nature. So we cannot somehow accept someone coming and imposing himself on others. You should respect the differences and then coexist. So that imposition in this case – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – or of the existence of Jewish state imposing itself on the people of other religions in the area, has proved that it’s not a sustainable and viable formula. So once people realise that and they get over it, I guess things will prosper, things will become extremely radiant. 

It could be a message. When Pope Jean Paul II, I don’t remember which year, was in Lebanon, that’s what he said about Lebanon: “Lebanon is a message.” Well, Lebanon and the region in general (Syria, Palestine, Israel).

The important steps in this crisis… OK, we’re getting into politics… That’s good, that’s fine. The fact is that the state of Israel, with the Zionist ideology, is an expansionist state. And they like to dominate. And they have United States supporting all this, for several reasons: Israeli lobby… Whatever… But this is a fact. Since 1948, when the Israeli state was created, from that point on, they started to expand… West Bank… They occupied Lebanon, they went to Egypt, Sinai… You name it, they did it. And this expansionist mode of doing things was not accepted at one point. Some people decided they cannot go on like this and they have to resist this expansion. And unfortunately, the only way to resist was not the negotiations or peaceful way of doing this – talking to each other. It had to be done by force. And that started and then at one point it succeeded, and again, it became a model of how you can resist this situation. And it proved itself, it proved successful. And it’s giving its fruits now. I’m not really happy with it, I would rather see it resolved peacefully. But it seems that the Zionists are not very sensible to doing things peacefully, and people were forced to go to arms struggle. And that’s what’s happening now. It will at least stop the Israelis; to think again and probably be forced to negotiate the settlement. And from what I know, I think there is a good number of Israelis, Jews, who are for a one state solution. And in Israel, there are these “pockets”, these groups that want that. They also say that’s the only sustainable, viable solution. I mean living together through division is basically temporary, you can’t go on like that. And it’s forced, it’s fake. Because the Palestinians are everywhere. Like the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, they’re Palestinians from Israel, not West Bank, a lot of them. And they want to go back to their homes, so they will eventually live with the Jews in the same place. So you cannot impose Jewish state upon them, that cannot sustain. And the Palestinians don’t want that. They reject that. That’s known. So the only solution would be to accept to live together under one umbrella. Now what you call it, what the state is called, that’s a detail.

So I guess it’s the decision to resist this occupation, all this ideology, and to resist military, that is going to make a difference.

I see it visible in the future, yes :)! I now have a feeling that the resistance is determined to continue, and I also see the signs that Israel as a state cannot stop it and they are really now in panic. Because that’s how they left Lebanon. They couldn’t stay here anymore. And that’s now happening in Israel. I mean what happened in Lebanon is happening in Israel, with the Palestinians, from within, not from the outside. The Palestinians who are living there, not only in the West Bank but also in Israel, it seems they have made their decision that this cannot go on like this anymore. Which I think is a good thing. It will go through violent period, most probably; that unfortunately seems to be the only way as the Israelis have chosen to go that way. Whenever you try to solve something peacefully, they’re just not interested. I mean they abuse your good intentions. You want to do it, they say, “OK, they’re doing it peacefully, so we can prolong it and in the meantime, we build the colonies and all that and we try to strangle them so they leave the country.” So they’re abusing your good intentions, unfortunately. I wish that it didn’t happen; even if you listen to those who are resisting, military, they too are not doing this with love, they don’t like it, all of them would prefer to negotiate, to come to a peaceful solution. But the other side is not responding.

For Lebanon in the future, I think if things get resolved, if this political situation changes, which I believe it will, then this coexistence of differences will again come to the surface. And then, with more awareness. Plus because of global changes, environmental changes, all this survival issues globally… With all that in mind, I think this area of the world can also be a model in that sense. So, coexistence between religions, between different ethnicities, and that being a message which means it’s a universal. The other global and universal issue, which today is environmental issue, even in that sense, the region can provide a model. Because the nature of the land is such that you can have a model of proper agriculture, of forestry, we have a lot of water. It has the potential of becoming a message in that sense as well… All of this, if that awareness bears its fruit, and if we don’t fall in another trap or some powers don’t abuse our diversity again, in some other way, which is happening all the time in this region as well. There are powers interested in this region, they have ambitions that they call interests. So if they leave us alone and if things get resolved, I guess it has a lot of potential in many ways. Besides cultural and religious coexistence even in a way of life that can radiate and then become a model in that sense: a coexistence in the universal sense, not just between humans. And as you’ve noticed, it has started, even in this mess, you have people who are doing certain kind of agriculture, even restoring historical dwellings, places… Also because during the war, I was telling you this, in my opinion, the ugliest destruction, physically, was by building, by constructing buildings. So they destroyed the city and the country by building. And now we have to somehow take that away again, physically. What was built without respect for the physical and the cultural environment. It was built out of self-interest without respect for anything, just pure interest, during the chaos period because of the war. Some people abused that, benefited from that, and that destroyed the physical environment. A lot of people are aware of that, so there is a strong reaction to it, they want to change that. So probably, like in other parts of the world, after the war there is a period of reflection, looking inward, trying to see how to change that and what is the proper way of doing that. So I hope – this are all wishes – or I see there is potential in that, and I hope that we see that happen.

Let me explain a building issue in Beirut. During the war, Beirut was dangerous. People moved out, and that’s how these suburbs around Beirut grew. Before, this was all forest, green, nature. So people went out of Beirut and in that period, whoever had money built buildings the way they wanted, where they wanted. They were sold to this people who were leaving Beirut and moving outside. And a lot of people migrated. But then, there were others factors: when there came peaceful time, after 1990 when the war ended, people invested in building, and the Lebanese from abroad bought apartments, many wealthy people built for investment or for hiding their money, whatever… They kept building. So you have towers, all sold out, without any inhabitants. You see like 30 stories and only 2–3 floors inhabited. So that was investment, not a need.

I go to downtown Beirut and I see all these buildings. I see seven, eight towers next to each other, each one 30 stories high, and then I see couple of floors inhabited, that gives me a sense of how much of it was needed. Those buildings are not needed. And what’s also unfortunate, they’re destroying nature, they’re taking up space, which is needed as space for the people who are living there. So I can imagine, if those buildings were not build, and we had green spaces in their place, it would have been the most beautiful city in the region.

In general, I have a personal look on future architecture: in my opinion, the need and necessity are out of architectural formula these days, everywhere in the world, not only here. Today’s environmental situation tells us, in my opinion, that we shouldn’t build anymore, it is not needed. So we should bring the need and necessity into the profession of architecture and not put two stones on top of each other if it is not needed. And if it’s needed to take stones, to bring these buildings down, which I think it is, we have to go that way. There shouldn’t be any space in the building that is not inhabited. Ideally we should go into renovation and rebuilding what’s there, rehabilitating what’s there instead of building new stuff. But that’s much of a bigger issue because it’s related to how the economy works, etc. It’s not an easy thing to do. But if we go on doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep destroying. 

To really help ourselves, we have to bring these two factors in the equation – need and necessity. And be guided by that. Which means a whole different way of teaching architecture; it’s a big thing that should happen. And there is also awareness when it comes to redefining architecture: it has become an aesthetic thing, it has become an ego driven thing, like in most professions. So we should take away that ego and really do what’s needed. And tear out what’s not needed.

I want to be hopeful that this transition happens, but before anything else, it’s transition in the mind, it will not happen if we continue with the same mindset. The transition has to happen in the mind, the rest will be just a natural outcome of that. Revolution has to happen in the mind. That’s how I see it.

It is already happening in the pockets, in populations, but if we don’t do it (also professionally), nature will take care of it: if we don’t do it, we’ll be self-destructive, and then, when life comes again, it will happen. So we have the choice, either we do it or we destroy ourselves and then we start from zero again… Not zero, we’ll start with a new situation where things are destroyed and new rebirth happens. I wish we don’t get to that point and we realise our minds have to change.

My role in this sense :))… By doing the opposite of what everyone is doing, because, yeah, I can’t go on with this mindset. I have made my – it’s not even a decision – I feel I cannot go on like this and my mind is starting to change, I’m seeing things differently. I’m not interested in what I’m doing, because as I said, in general, when it comes to profession (architecture), is mostly doing something that’s not needed.

The only thing I can do, I can talk about these issues. And not be proud of what I’m doing. Because we’re proud of what we’re doing aesthetically, if we get good article in a magazine we feel happy, we feel proud… In fact, to tell you the truth, I’m ashamed of what I’m doing.

In the projects we’re doing at the office, I cannot directly implement these thoughts. It has to be a totally different project. I mean, I cannot keep on building for people who have already a dozen of houses or apartments, and do additional one. I can try to pass legalisation that no apartment should be left empty. Because there are many people who need places and don’t have it. So that’s one way of doing architecture for me. Ok? Passing new laws. Ok, let’s say passing a law that doesn’t allow a person or a family to have more than a certain number of square meters in the world, not only in Lebanon. So one family cannot own more than X square meters. Do whatever you want with it, but this is your limit. OK? And every family has the right to have a minimum of square meters. This is legalisation. So for me now and changing the mind, we’re start there, not by building but by seeing how to develop from this point on. And if we do that, everybody will have a shelter and then probably it will even be more than needed so then we can start taking away things. Plus the scale of things, energy consumption, right? If you have a 30 storey building, you need elevators. But if you have a 3 storey building, you can walk. So you don’t need electricity, you’ll use your own energy. So we should go back to human scale… But again, this is big big change. 

And architecture is just one part of it. But we can have an input in that sense. This course has to start at the university level, at the education level, which is very rare today ,that type of discourse. Still, if you go to the Architecture Biennale in Venice, for me it’s a disaster what I see there. What I see there depresses me. And then you see all this star architects going in and coming out… They’re blown up, with their egos, they’re going to explode. And they write articles, they brag about biennale, it’s the biggest architectural event in the world. For me, this is a shame. And with all this nice clichés… And that’s why I keep giving the model of vernacular architecture which was the architecture that came out of need and not power, not ego. You didn’t have the name of the architects, their egos were not carved on the stone or their names written in the magazines. If we can go back to that, then we’ll be on the right track.

By talking together about it, a new formula will have to come out. In general, like the professionals, they’re very proud to be architects today. And it’s aesthetic driven, ego driven, and I’m really ashamed of the profession. I’m just doing it because I’m in it, that’s what I’ve studied, and I have to make a living, and at this age for me to start from zero… I’m just waiting for my retirement. Whenever I can, I will do that, but also keep on talking about it. It’s not that I’m going to stay passive. I’m going to confront people, to face them, and give my opinion… I’m not saying what I’m saying is right, but I want to challenge…

In my office, they know my opinion, of course. And Vladimir, I don’t know how he tolerates me :), he knows my opinion very well, for sure. But with newcomers, I’m careful. We do it through our projects. Like when we do a project, we say that “it’s better to do it this way”. Definitely, if I talk to my colleagues the way I talk now, at one point they might lose interest in what they’re doing. But… It’s a tricky thing… If we get a project, let’s say, which I’m not proud of, definitely :), even the Philharmonic project in Belgrade – because there is something more important than to build a museum which is an empty space – OK, it has a history, but there is something more than history: you go out of the museum and there is a beggar at the door. Which one is more important? To have that museum or to feed that guy? So that museum becomes irrelevant to me, I’d rather take that beggars and put them into the museum, to have a roof under their heads. We have reached that point. So when we get a project, it’s going to be done anyway, so I rather do it in a slightly better way which is less damaging, and in parallel, show people how I feel about it. Not address the issue directly, through the project, but generally, in terms of how we should approach things, how legislation should be, talking about “the museum and the beggar,” OK, not specifically, because Vladimir is also afraid of that. He’s afraid that if I keep talking about this openly, people might lose their interest. OK. But I’m also telling him I’ve lost interest but I’m still giving you my best. That’s also possible: I have to do this so I’ll do my best, I’ll give you my best, although I’m not proud of it. Because I have to make a living. The change will take time. And it will be a product of this not being happy, but not also having the illusion that you can live out of the system. I mean, you’re in the system, the system has to change. I’m living in this world, not somewhere else. So I mean it, I’m part of it, but I want to change. So I have to keep talking about change in a way that’s productive, not destructive. So even if I’m not interested, I’m still giving him my best. And Vladimir is happy with what I’m giving. It’s tricky, but we shouldn’t be afraid of it. Otherwise change will not happen.

Vladimir Djurović : Montenegro project

Montenegro project … like being at home … bringing together people that touch and inspire … a foundation … wild pomegranate … following the goats … the right place to build a house

To bring those special energies together, that’s number one in the Montenegro project. And what is set also for sure for me, is I want people to come all year around to be there. With me, without me, I want it to be lived experience. And what people: people that touch me, I mean, that do special things in this re-awakening, in this new place we have to build, environmentally, nature wise… Anything that inspires you that they’re good people… And I have a lot of people that I love and they don’t even know it… So the first part is for those people to come together.

And then, of course, we will have the food, the farm and the sea, all this stuff should happen there, and because there is nobody eating organic food in Montenegro, food alone is one chapter. Those people coming should be eating from the land – 90% of their diet has to come from our land there. And then, in the future, after a few years, I have these other structures at the bottom, that’s where we will do this Plan B Foundation.

So, let’s say you invite David Attenborough and… Someone very special, totally different, from a different background. Nobody will pay a penny, you’re invited, it’s like you’re at home and then you leave. If you’re interested when you’re coming down – because this foundation is at the bottom of the land, at the public side; it will be us and the community – I’m gonna do one of the houses just as an open house and you can sit and give a lecture or talk, etc. And then, I have friends here in Lebanon, they do the most amazing videos you’ve ever seen; also winning awards all around the world. They go to people that had a very very difficult life and they do a 3-minute video about them and how they found joy of life again and what’s their mission now, after they went through this hardship. Very powerful videos, very short. So imagine when these people come, and capturing the essence of this very informal, not planned, not structured happening. And then you have a website or whatever so people can come and see those people at that moment at that place. And they contribute this way.

And the foundation will have many more things, there’s a big program for it. For that to happen, I brought Salim and I told him when I’m 60, the company has to run without me a little bit, because I need to spend a lot of time and be in Montenegro, feel it and see it.

And we’re working, I’ve told you, all these years with Aga Khan Foundation and Gulbenkian Foundation now – very special relation with all of them, the president, all the board members, 50 year old building project; timeless, incredible project. And the foundation nurtures it in a way that’s spectacular. So imagine inviting them, the board members, they do this quarterly meetings: come one time and be alone in Montenegro and do it. And one day I will ask one of them, show me, help me make a foundation, because I have no idea how should we set up a foundation, what do we need… But then, you have somebody driving it.

The symbol of the project now is the wild pomegranate. I want to rewire the whole area and plant thousands of these trees and what grows around with them.

All the people in Montenegro will tell you “sok od nara” (wild pomegranate juice) is the most powerful drink you’ve ever seen: you squeeze the wild pomegranate and if you drink this much in the morning (half to 1 dcl) every day, no cancer. In Montenegro, I’m going to make this drink, everyone that comes will take a bottle with him, “sok od nara”.

So this wilderness is everything to me now. Why now? If I connect the story to Wadi Rum, it’s because it’s untouched by men. And Wadi Rum got me. I realised the damage we are doing everywhere and the power of something that is virgin somehow. Pomegranate for me now became a symbol of the project. And now I keep discovering more and more that this is linked to what I’m doing at work: it feeds the work. Because there, now I’m proposing these things in a way. So it’s all like somehow it’s all coming together. Look, what really disappoints us with clients, it’s you always have to compromise somewhere. So you prevent the big vision. They do 60–70%, they never go all the way like you want. Because they have other interests. Like, no, Vladimir, this is a university, we need to do this, we need to do this, we have women coming with heels, we cannot have natural grounds, who’s gonna clean it if it rains? They don’t see the benefits, for example, of the rain soaking… Without buildings, you just let the ground soak, yes, a bit of maintenance, but zero costs, zero whatever. But at the end, you always end up compromising. I realised that in the end, if I want zero compromises, and I want to do what I feel should be done, it has to be our project, not the client’s, I’m the client.

The goats are designing the Montenegro project. I walk all of the walkways, and to discover the place, I follow the goats. And they show you the way to go everywhere.

We have a contractor who’s very very conservative and old-fashioned, and very beyond basic… And Rafi would marry him… He’s so… He built the whole project. I came and I saw the wood ceiling he made, I said I wanted to meet the carpenter, where’s the carpenter? He looked at me and said what, what do you mean carpenter? I said the man who makes the wood. He said, “I made it”. I said who built the floor, the stone floor? “I did the floor”, he said. Who did… I did it. Who’s doing…? I’m doing it. Everything him! He’s amazing. But old old old-fashioned, and you know, everything by hand, everything is simple, basic, nothing can go wrong, and if it goes wrong, it is very easy to fix, there’s nothing sophisticated.

And do you know how the Montenegrins decide where to build a house? When they find the land they want to build their house on and live on, they walk around it for a long time, with the sheep, with the animals, whatever, and then they do two things. They discover where the animals like to be, and then of course, the orientation, wind, sun, etc., plus what they feel. So it’s a possibility here, or here, or here, maybe: three places where we can build our house and live our life. So OK, what do they do, where do they build the house? They bring three pieces of stone, they put one big piece of stone in every place and they leave it for a year. They come back one year later, they flip the stone, the one that has a lot of life under it, this is the one. They build the house there. The one where there is no insects, the energy is not good. And they don’t build here or here. And no machines, no nothing, look how beautiful, though. Because I remember from your childhood, sometime you move the stone… Where it’s not appropriate, you find nothing. The Montenegrins are never in a hurry, you know, we want everything tomorrow, now now now now now now now… But they take their time, without any machines, without anything. For me, it was like… The contractor keeps impressing me, this guy. First, we had his father, until 1995, and he was working with his father until 1995, when unfortunately his father passed away. And now he continues, he’s like 55, but took everything from his father and learned a lot. And that’s all he does.

Vladimir Djurović – about the flow of life & work

It comes by itself, goals or aspirations that I have for myself on a personal level. And I just look, and then they fit perfectly for the company as well: one way of looking at things, the same interest, the same passion, revolving around nature, and always almost sailing, but not on the sea. Just open and see where things are going, and it’s very interesting how many different winds you catch and it takes you somewhere very interesting… So I’m very open, I’ve become very open. And liberated, I’m not stopped by anything, I don’t know, I can’t explain it. There’s a very very close merge. Like Montenegro started as something for me, and now I see it could be a perfect place to take our clients and help them see the difference, help them to raise their awareness and help them do the right things through seeing an example where we really didn’t do much in a way. What you do a lot is not, is not to do – you know what I mean: It’s what you don’t do, that’s what we’re doing. Because I have a client coming: Hey, we hired you, we paid you, you’re telling us not to do anything, what is this? 

So anyway, it’s merging very closely. I’m almost losing the boundaries between things. And I’m loving it because it’s holistic. There’s no word and it’s not that, on the other hand, I have no life and I’m all work… On the contrary. I mean, I don’t work, I don’t feel I’m working. And when I feel I’m working, it means I’m working on the wrong project or there’s something wrong. So yes, it’s interesting. And I love doing environments that allow for these things to happen. And somehow also, over the 25 years, if you want, at work, this position now, you realise more and more that you can apply it and you can use it to make more of these connections, to push things more in the right way, to raise awareness as well, and to fully utilise what we have built until now for that purpose as well. You know, to put it to the best use possible and not to look at it as business… I’m always open and I’m always learning; the more connections, the more people you meet, when you’re open and absorbing and connecting, and seeing the connectedness of everything and everyone. And especially, when the right energy is aligned and how it feels when it’s right.

I mean yes, when I started, it was… OK, I grew up in nature, I grew up in forests. Our old house, we were in a pine forest. I used to leave the house in the morning and come back at night with my friends. In the forest all day long. But then, I went to the US and England and studied landscape architecture for 16 years, but at the beginning I was obsessed with doing beautiful gardens, design, design of beautiful gardens. And our school – it’s very funny how things happen… Because I went to a school called University of Georgia, Athens, School of Environmental Design. And all they taught us was about protecting and bringing back the environment and working with nature. However, we hated it. We were fighting it: “What is this university?” Because at Harvard, they were only teaching design. And we felt we were not given the tools to be good designers. Because we want to be great designers, we want to design, design, design. And I thought: They are really strange, what are they talking about, native ecosystem and restoring ecosystems and… Because we had no clue. We were so unaware in a way, so naive to not see what was happening. The environmental movement, of course, was happening even before, but we wanted everything new, we wanted to design special things. So I was going to be trained to be a designer. Like I said, obsessed with that aesthetic layer, with that layer that everybody sees: “O wow, great designer, look at this beautiful garden…” Yes, it changes with the season, it has natural aspects, but what you see on the surface was extremely important…How we build the reflection, the perspective from each corner, the materiality… I was obsessed with it because somehow it was what everybody wanted and… I don’t know… Even my family – I come from a family of interior designers. So everybody: design, design, design… 

And it took a long time, over two decades, for me to start first seeing, when I started traveling all around the world and realised that everywhere I went in the most pristine remote areas, clients would buy spectacular pieces of land and ask us to destroy them; us and the architects. And make this amazing land, I could feel the spirit of that place without knowing, back then in the beginning I was also discovering that I could. But then I know when we finished the project, it became about the architect, architecture, the landscape and blablabla, and the place is no longer there. It’s there, but not really… 

And now it’s all about how do we amplify the sense of a place, how you bring it to life, we need to disappear, we need to do nothing, you know. Or whatever we do, number one is to amplify that sense of a place, the place should speak. So it took me two decades, 20 years of projects and traveling, for that thing to happen, probably in Wadi Rum was the first realisation that everything we’re doing is wrong and the power when you don’t touch it, what you feel: the real truth, you know? And that teaches you the need that you have to be completely… You can’t be separated with nature. You are nature, you are part of it. And we were always out of it, wanted to dominate, wanted to put our mark, wanted… And now, we have to unlearn absolutely everything, stay back and start from scratch, listening, learning, observing, trying and really giving back all these natural systems that we destroyed all around the world. Trying in every project to bring them back, to the right place, to give back a sense of place and let it start happening again if we can.

And now we’re starting to learn about how you would do that and how you would become and how our projects used to finish. You design it, you finish it, I give it to you: here it is. Ok, I used to follow up after, but my job was done. So with this new approach now, it’s just the beginning, because we’re just setting these seeds, and with it, replicating that natural system for nature to take over then. And you, you have to just guide it, somehow, a little bit, and protect it, shepherd it along the way. And then, the job is never finished.

To develop and reach that point where it doesn’t need anybody and it becomes a natural system that can take care of itself, without us coming back in and messing around with it, and the clients deciding, OK, there are some unwanted species coming from birds, let’s spray the crap out of it, you know, let’s kill… To keep an eye, to make sure that we don’t go back to what we’re used to doing. Not just us, everybody, the clients and all. So you have to stay to keep guiding it. And to keep guarding it. 

So it all started from the love for nature, and then the love for design, using nature a little bit, imposing on it, to now going back and learning. I wanna learn so much more about natural systems, about all of that, the ecological aspects. Funny enough about that, my university was all about that. More than 35 years ago they were so advanced in it and we wanted it different, we didn’t want that.

And with our projects, it’s not only us in a way. We bring on board new connections, always, in every mission, that’s the aspiration, we get so many people with us, specialists in different fields, because you know there’s so much to tackle in this new direction. We bring them, but then we have to somehow orchestrate it, to let the results stay on course and arrive to the desired direction, otherwise one of these guys can take it completely in one direction, but you cannot lose what the clients want and what the mission is. So you become a conductor. We’re feeling now we are more becoming like you have to bring all these people, and get it to harmonise and achieve results together. And it’s a learning for everybody.

You cannot design a beautiful park, and people come and sit, and pretend there is nothing wrong now. I mean, the damage we’ve caused for us now is so grave and dramatic that we have to address it while creating this special places, but not only for people. For all living species. Now equal. So it’s no more a park for people, and benches for the people and trees for shade and walkways… This is finished now. It has to be an environment that sustains biological diversity and all sorts of life. Otherwise, it has no meaning for me now. I want to be a bit … A bit categorical. With lines that work architecturally: there are buildings… You do all that, but in the end, the natural environment has to shine as the main important player. Instead of the design and the aesthetics. 

I look forward, like I said, to the last part: to push much harder in this direction and then to rise to the point where the clients arrive with us to this point that they want us to go there and we go much further, and not just us pushing them there. Which will happen. And even to sometimes get clients who already want that, and you come and you take them there, and further. Because we’re stretching them now. When they come to us, they don’t want any of that. But how much and how far can you stretch them? You know. But if they come and they are already more evolved or awakened somehow, or conscious, then I can go further. Because we always want to go much further. Further at every level. Out of the program, out of the sight, out of everything.

To go much further is to have a client that has a lot of land and is not so sure what to do with it. And maybe his goal is not to make a fortune. To develop something that can sustain, definitely, even economically and all of that: how can we do it so that everybody benefits? When nature benefits, when the community benefits, when everybody can benefit, locally and globally, somehow. Because every project has a lot of potentials. To be a seed that can be an example for the place, for other places, etc., etc. So if we can do more of these examples and sow these seeds everywhere…

… I can’t articulate all these things. I operate by feelings in a way, and it’s very clear to me that we’re at that point.

There are many other and easier places to run a business… Regarding all the difficulties in Lebanon… I mean, I have four types, and now we might enter the fifth type to sustain our electricity. Because we work on computers, we don’t have electricity all the time, the people we pay the money to generate electricity – the service where you pay and they give you electricity when government electricity cuts off – are not reliable either. And then we have our generator, so we have to turn it on when those two sources go bad. The generator fuel prices went crazy, the pollution it makes, the sound it gives… Poison, all of it. Now we’re looking for solar inverter. So it’s not easy to operate here, plus lots of international clients get scared… One of them from China told me that all his friends, on his level, are asking him are you crazy, in the whole country there’s less people than in the smallest village in China, on the end of the world, why do you go there and hire them, and the risk factor and blablabla…? So, of course, we can be anywhere, our work is international, we don’t have a lot of work in Lebanon … So we’re not here because of work.

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