My Lebanese Heritage: Cultural Gold

Excerpt  from ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?; A Passionate Quest To Find Answers For Generations Of Defeated Mothers’ 

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***This page is copyright to author Anne Frandi-Coory. No text or photograph can be copied or downloaded from this page without the written permission of Anne Frandi-Coory.***

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[My paternal grandfather] Jacob Habib Eleishah El Khouri Fahkrey tells us in his diary that he was unhappy about going to live in his grandfather’s house when he was seven years old. His grandfather, Eleishah,  had great expectations of him for the future. Eleishah was a very holy and hard-working man who was attached to the [Roman Catholic] Saint Simon Monastery. Even within the peasant classes, selected men could become priests and marry as well. Eleishah’s status afforded Jacob the heredity right to anglicise Fahkrey to Coory (guttural Khouri meaning ‘priest’)

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jacob&eva

Anne Frandi-Coory’s paternal Lebanese grandparents, Jacob and Eva Coory (Fahkrey)

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Eleishah’s education of Jacob included teaching him to read and write in four languages and he planned to later school him in the art of translating Assyrian into Arabic. In his first years, Jacob bent to his grandfather’s wishes, working hard at his studies and fully expected to become a priest. The languages he studied were French (his second language) Latin and Greek, and under his grandfather’s dedicated tutelage, Jacob wrote and spoke fluently and eloquently in the ancient Syriac language, Aramaic, Bcharre’s native tongue. This language was, at that time, spoken mostly by Syrian peasants. The religious ideas of the Syrian and Italian peasantry were similar, confirmation of the integration of ideas and beliefs along the charted trade routes between Italy and the Fertile Crescent. Later, once Jacob had emigrated, he made the effort to learn English. The Arab world was a multicultural mix of language and peoples; Jacob’s heritage and talents reflected this. In retrospect, it’s sad to think that Jacob could have achieved so much more for his family and descendents if he had moved out of his cultural and priestly comfort zone.

In any event, Jacob changed his mind about following in The Family tradition of priestly services, but, cautiously at first, made the announcement that he would like to marry. It was not until his marriage to Eva (Khowha) Arida that he told his grandfather he did not wish to follow him into the priesthood, which made his grandfather very angry. Eleishah did not speak to him for sometime afterwards. Jacob’s rebellious change of heart may have had something to do with his frequent sojourns into Beirut with friends, in which he experienced the forbidden fruit of city life away from his grandfather’s strict philosophical and priestly instruction.

Other events transpired to influence Jacob’s fateful decision. When Jacob was twelve years old, his father, Habib, and uncle Tunnous El Khouri, visited Australia and New Zealand. His uncle eventually returned to New Zealand and bought a vineyard there. The family talked often about the exploits of this adventurous uncle and the young fertile country he had travelled to.

…The Fahkrey family in Bcharre must have been heartened then, following their earlier disappointment, by Jacob’s acceptance of their choice of a bride and the wedding was arranged to take place on a Sunday. Within a few months of their betrothal, the young couple had secretly planned to set sail for New Zealand after their wedding. This plan was obviously instigated by Jacob. I don’t believe that Eva fully understood what she was getting herself into, because her early life had been very different to Jacob’s. Eva had spent her early life cooking, cleaning, and praying, and was only 15 years old on her wedding day.

Jacob and Eva’s wedding ceremony was performed by Eleishah Fahkrey, who was still unaware of his grandson’s intentions to abandon his religious training and emigrate. Eleishah spoke after the ceremony, saying how proud he was that he would soon have a priestly grandson. The wedding ceremony lasted fifteen days, truly reminiscent of the pagan love feasts which so scandalised the early Christian Church. There was much celebrating and drinking, and many guests spent the nights sleeping under trees. Soon after the wedding celebrations had ended, Jacob and Eva continued with their plans to migrate to New Zealand to make their fortune, hoping to then return to Lebanon.

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More….Walking Around Lebanon With 2famous

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