On August 1, 2018, the International School Network visited the Embassy of Lebanon to interview the Ambassador, His Excellency Mr. Nidal Yehya.
According to H.E. Mr. Yehya, Lebanon is “the most ancient country in the world”. With its prominence from six to seven thousand years ago, Byblos was home to the origin of the alphabet, known as the Phoenician alphabet. H.E. Mr. Yehya explained that the alphabet had been revolutionary for the development of the society as its creation made it possible for commoners to read and write. As an example of the importance of the ancient language, H.E. Mr. Yehya noted that the word “Europe” came from Lebanon; as the myth goes, Europe was the daughter of the King of Tyre (ancient Phoenician city) who escaped to Greece.
H.E. Mr. Yehya recommended Byblos as a tourist destination. Home to archeological sites, many remains of ancient civilizations can be seen. For instance, H.E. Mr. Yehya explained that the first inscription of the linear alphabet was written on the sarcophagus of kings in Byblos.
Cedar Tree - Nanami
Lebanon shares a large portion of its border with the Mediterranean Sea, and is also blessed with its beautiful natural resources, especially the Cedar Tree. The importance of the Cedar Tree originates back to its first civilizations, where they used to make vessels out of its bark. The tree is said to last about 1,000 years, and only those that are native to Lebanon grows horizontally, up to 50 meters wide. This characteristic of Lebanese cedar trees make them special because cedar trees found in other parts of the world such as the Himalayas grow vertically. The tree is mentioned in the Christian Bible as well as Muslim scripts, which highlights its cultural importance in Lebanon. The tree is depicted on its national flag, and it is one of the few countries that uses its natural symbol to represent its country. In 1906, the Meiji Emperor planted 3 Cedar Trees in Shinjuku, and it can still be enjoyed by the general public today.
Lebanese Diaspora - Madoka
H.E. Mr. Yehya introduced to us the “Lebanese diaspora”. Despite Lebanon being a small country geographically, with the area of 1452 square kilometers, Lebanese people have been immigrating outside of the country across the continent since 145 years before the country’s independence in 1943. H.E. Mr. Yehya explained that there are various large Lebanese communities in different areas of the world, including Africa, where Lebanese people across generations have contributed especially in fields such as business and politics. H.E. Mr. Yehya gave us the examples of the President of Brazil and Paraguay being of Lebanese origin. Additionally, he introduced to us that Carlos Ghosn, the president and savior of the company Renault-Nissan, is also of Lebanese origin.
Lebanon is well known for its diversity in nationality, religion, culture, and history. Half of its population of 5 million people are Muslim and the other half is Christian, and although there are several factions and groups of people from both neighboring countries and countries from afar, they have lived harmoniously by accepting their differences. They have even implemented a system of government in which they appoint representatives from each major political religious groups so that every citizen has an equal voice in society. They have a very delicate network to uphold this constitution, and H. E. Mr. Yehya explained that this quality of fairness was one of the key components that lead to the success of maintaining a peaceful society composed of so many nations. The people’s love for the country itself and everything that the land of Lebanon has offered its residents are what unites the country. The Lebanese are also known worldwide for their hospitality. H. E. Mr. Yehya claimed that the generous nature of the people are seen in various aspects in society, where guests are welcomed and treated with great respect. This can be seen in the fact that the country offers specific infrastructures for every religious factions and churches without discrimination, which allows the nation to function peacefully and cooperatively.
H. E. Mr. Yehya also emphasized the quality of Lebanese cuisine, especially the wine. Lebanon is one of the oldest production sites of wine in the world, and it dates back to over 6,000 years ago. About 5,000 years ago, it is said that the Phoenicians produced their wine and used the vessels that they made out of Cedar Trees to export them to other civilizations along the Mediterranean Sea. They initiated global trade with their wine and it can still be enjoyed in many parts of the world today. In Japan, H. E. Yehya has mentioned that there are restaurants in Tokyo and Yokohama where Lebanese cuisine can be enjoyed.
Japan and Lebanon - Rino
H.E. Mr. Yehya believes that the relationship between Japan and Lebanon is largely a strategic tie, that is mostly active in the form of trade. However, he explained about the issues inside Lebanon and how he hopes that the Japanese government gives more assistance. Lebanon has been suffering from the situation in the Middle East and is seeking assistance from the Japanese government. With the civil wars in the surrounding countries, Lebanon embraces 1.7 million refugees even though the entire population of Lebanon is just 5 million people. The government is facing adversities in providing resources, jobs, education, and many others to support the large refugee population. Although H.E. Mr. Yehya expressed that there is more that the Japanese government could do, he showed contentment in the relationship between the people of Japan and the people of Lebanon. He stated that the Lebanese people, with their high intelligence, are one of the best engineers in the world and there is a Lebanese software company in Japan that has been in business for more than 35 years. The company sells softwares, that have been created by Lebanese engineers, to top Japanese companies. He concluded that he wishes to see more active relationship between the governments and the people of the two countries.
World Peace - Rino
H.E. Mr. Yehya was deeply impressed by the efforts made by the Japanese society to achieve world peace. He was also impressed that the motto of the current emperor of Japan is Heisei, which means “peace everywhere”. He commented that the first step towards world peace is to start making peace with the people around ourselves, which will eventually spread all over the world. He also said that it is a waste of time to wait for other people to do it and that all individuals can start trying now. Japan, the only country in the world that has experienced tragedies with nuclear weapons, is leading the world to end the use of nuclear power. H.E. Mr. Yehya will be attending the Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima and Nagasaki this month. This year’s Niwano Peace Prize, organized by Niwano Peace Foundation, was awarded to Adyan Foundation of Lebanon. He stated that he hopes to see cooperation between Japan and Lebanon to achieve world peace.
Refugees in Lebanon -Madoka
H.E. Mr. Yehya explained to us the situation of Lebanon of accepting a very large portion of refugees from neighboring countries. He noted that since the country’s independence in 1943, there have been multiple waves of refugees entering the country, as he expressed to be the “concern of Lebanon”. Firstly, the occupation of Palestine had led to 400 thousand refugees being accepted into the country since 1948, and then the Syrian crisis leading to 1.7 million refugees being accepted in Lebanon in the past 7 years. He explained that there are various hardships associating to afford to provide for the refugees, which he mentioned as “our brothers and sisters”, and hopes that Lebanon can gain more assistance from other nations of the world.
H.E. Mr. Yehya expressed his respect for the urbanism, security, and discipline of the Japanese people, as well as the mix in tradition and modern innovation that can be seen in various sectors of the Japanese economy and culture. As a message towards Japanese people, H.E. Mr. Yehya expressed his hopes that public schooling can emphasize the study of foreign languages and beyond just English. For instance, he noted that it is rare to find taxi drivers in Japan who can speak English and henceforth converse with foreigners. Especially because of the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, as the government of Japan is initiating in sectors such as public transportation, he believes that the use of English and other foreign languages should be spread more.
Another message H.E. Mr. Yehya aspires to convey is the importance of a social life beyond work. He notices that many Japanese tend to be devoted to their work life that they do not have much time for their families and for recreational activities. Despite having one of the largest economies in the world, Japan faces problems with suicides due to overworking. H.E. Mr. Yehya hopes that all people should have time for other challenges and forms of communication that does not involve their careers.
When H.E. Mr. Yehya was young, he had the dream to become an architect, because he was strong in mathematics, and also to become a judge, because he values fairness and wanted to help his society to be secure and peaceful. He later noted that his path to becoming a diplomat had been “destiny”. With strong passion as the Ambassador of Lebanon to Japan, H.E. Mr. Yehya hopes to maximize cooperation between Lebanon and Japan in all fields, especially aiming to increase cooperation with Japanese authorities.
(Reported by Madoka Nishina)