St. Charbel’s Monastery & Shrine
Ajata and Virginia visited St. Charbel’s shrine on Palm Sunday, then climbed the hill to see the cave
where St. Charbel had also prayed regularly.
This cave has been incorporated into a small hermitage which for Palm Sunday overflowed so that
the congregation spread onto the outside courtyard overlooking snow covered peaks. The mass
was conducted by both a priest and a women reading passages of scripture. (This style of mass we
also found at the Church in Byblos mentioned below.)
Later on Palm Sunday the Embrace Founders went to “Old” Byblos and happened upon two
beautiful churches with a grass lawn and gardens between. Congregants were having refreshments
and talking while music came alternately from one church and then the other, sometimes a solo
singer, sometimes a guitar and sometimes a chorus. When all mass and music were finished a
parade with flags proceeded through the cobbled streets.
Byblos also has ruins which have attracted tourists for decades.
Tyre has extensive ancient ruins and ocean views. Most importantly everyone in the city is trying to
rebuild together and design a downtown that will be quite captivating once totally completed. Even
now it has quite a charm.
Beirut is a walking city. It has an extensive and fast bus system, and good natured bus drivers, but
with all there is to see in Beirut - visitors will be compelled to investigate a lot from street level. You
can walk for hours on the Corniche (a widely paved sidewalk) along the ocean through different
neighborhoods for miles. The reconstruction of the downtown district is exceptional. It is elegant and
built on a human scale with architecture that is classical, comfortable and beautiful. Mosques and
Churches sit side by side and are woven between flowered landscaping. There are many, many
more intriguing neighborhoods. There is no where you can not walk safely (at least in the day time.)
We have been greatly heartened to see that Lebanese of all backgrounds are taking their
grievances to the common ground, for discussion and debate, whether by demonstrating, writing or
discussing. There is real dialogue going on and we feel that it is only getting better.
Currently there is a small scale disturbance between Syrians of opposing sides of the Syrian conflict
living north in Tripoli, Lebanon. The Embrace Founders met Syrians of opposing views on the
conflict, however the question remains - who perpetrated the first shots that instigated the violence?
Was it the Syrian army, Libyan mercenaries or intelligence operatives seeking to ignite a situation
for the benefit of Western interests? Who gains the most by initiating the violence?
Looking towards the future of Beirut and Lebanon, we hope that city planners will be able to stem
the growth of high rises in Beirut’s small downtown area, utilizing some of Lebanon’s vast creative
talent, idealists, artists and conservationists to incorporate greenbelts, city parks within “greater”
Beirut - and city parks and national parks between Beirut and Byblos.
Within Lebanon there seem to be regular buses and mini vans everywhere. Ajata and Virginia make
it a point, while traveling to avail themselves as often as possible with public transportation. There
are also taxis. To get to St. Charbel requires a bus trip to Byblos and a mini van from Byblos (they
are frequent & easy to catch) up the mountains.
Embrace Foundation is a non-profit,
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