My mother’s recollection of the house she grew up in Baskinta, Lebanon She was 9 years old when dad, Najib, Died. Upon his death and much grieving she had a dream of the beauty of heaven where her father now was for all eternity! She often tells me of how her father would read the bible to her at dinner time.
Yes, what a beautiful place! The little tiny whitewashed house consisted only of one long restangular bedroom, with 3 single beds, one for mom, dad and me, a medium size kitchen and tiny front room, no electricity or plumbing, a latrine outside, all at the base of snow capped Mt Sunnine. Actually the little house, close to the larger Khalaf family home on the same property, belonged to Uncle Panaute. So many fond memories, especially the most beautiful scent, or aroma, that none can match! When the taxi taking us there for the summer, since so hot and humid in the city, turned a sharp bend where there was a bridge which the gushing waters melting snow waters pelted down under to the valleys below, was when that delicious smell would hit me! Terraced fruit trees and vineyards filled the hills! In the Song it speaks about the sweet fragrance of Lebanon, filled with Life!
Note from my mom Mary Lee Leslie on her memory of Najib Khalaf.
131002 Memories of my father
My father, Najib Khalaf, prided himself in being a self-made man, coming out of the remote small village of Baskinta of simple poor ancestry, his inquisitive mind searched for answers, yea for truth, as he saw the evils around him especially among the people of the more sophisticated city of Beirut, and capital of Lebanon! He spoke 8 languages fluently and could understand many others. He was born in a peaceful lan before the threat of facism and Hitler’s rise. He deeply loved his country, and the humble and poor people of his country and felt strong urgency to defend their rights against the strong and powerful. He decided to study law, and earned for himself the title of Avocate, or legal lawyer, so he could come fight for the rights of the under dog, and that justice and truth would might prevail! His ability with the Arabic language and the persuasive poetry and power of his knowledge of the language melted the heart of many hardened judge to justly, and quickly won the respect and affection of all those who heard him. My mother knew well that he was not a wealthy man, and often I would heard her begging Avocate’ Khalaf for money to buy some bread for the household. He was not by any means a stingy man, he simply did not have the money, though sought by many for her services. My father hated the greed he saw that ate up many a man, and often received very little or no pay at all for his legal services. Many times he would simply receive in return for his services titles to land, which at that time seemed all but worthless. My father stood out throughout the land as one man that could trusted and was not afraid to stand up against the corruption in the land. Without any former education, he stood out taller and wiser than many of his colleagues, and with his gift for words and powerful persuasive arguments in court are recognized in the land to this day, some 70 years later. He left behind him a huge encyclopedia now in the archives of the University of Cairo, and many other hand written papers are valued still to this day!
He loved the beauty of the Arabic language, and effortless would compose poetry on he spot when asked to speak at celebrated events. Many notables from Lebanon, and also some foreign countries, came to visit in our home on Rue Jan Darc, near the Amercian University. Kaleel Jubran and he were fast friends. On one of these occasions when our home with filled with judges and lawyers, my father insisted that my mother read in front of all of them from the Arabic version of “The Little Red Hen!” to the great amusement of these versed men, and to my mother’s great embarrassment! But how could she refuse, knowing how this man tenderly cared for her and also how pleased he was, and even, as a child, tickled by this American girl’s efforts to speak Arabic!
My father’s mind seemed never to tire, continuously writing trying to catch up with the many wonderful thoughts that came to him. I know my mothers sweet sense of humor and cheerful encouraging ways must have much refreshed him when he came home very weary from his office! Every evening after super was served on a beautiful white linen tablecloth, my father would bow his head and pray, also asking me to pray. He would then reverently open to some passage in the Holy Bible and read to my mother and I. It was from my father that I learned to love God’s word, and hide it in my heart. My father had become a strong Christian, and later was ordained in the Baptist Church. Before that time my father was a committed unbeliever having turned against all religion in his quest for truth! One day he was approached by Pastor Shradina, of the First Baptist Church in Beirut, who argued with him concerning the things of God. My father very confident in himself, strongly rebuffed him; but on that very same night my father could not sleep for God deeply convicted him of the truth of the scriptures read to him by this godly man. By early morning my father could not longer hold out, but he fully surrendered his life to Jesus Christ to become both Savior and Lord of his life. From then on, he never went to court without first bowing his head in prayer to seek God for wisdom, and at the end bowing his head in prayer to thank God. Just before he died, after his he won his court case, my mother was told he had first bowed his head in prayer as was his custom, and then the Lord took him home!
When Najib Khalaf first met my mother he was already a committed Christian. He was well known and much sought among the churches as a speaker. He was asked to become the “Arabic teacher” of this young woman who just arrived from the United States who did not know one word of Arabic, which he later fell in love with and married. This young blue eyed blond woman who had left everything to come to a land and people she knew little of, and was now stationed at the mission school in Shwifat. Surely it was more than mere outward beauty and sweetness that won my father’s heart, but it was the beauty of her heart, for she also loved God and was committed to Him. Some years later, a baby girl was born, which was the pride and joy of his heart! Yes, how he doted on her – They called her name, MaryLee.
Some of my fondest memories of my father were from our summers in Baskinta, where there my mother and I would go to get away from the summer heat of the city. How many things my father taught me! One night there was an eclipse of the moon, and the superstitious village people were loudly beating their drums so the evil spirits would go away. I was afraid. My father explained to me what caused an eclipse, using his own body’s shadow to cover me so I might more easily understand since I was yet very young. How very much he loved the Lebanon mountains and the people! He spent much time also browsing among the old monasteries, some of them dating back possibly to the time of Paul, searching out their hidden libraries for treasured ancient writings that he could refer to and glean from! Sometimes he found even bits and pieces of New testament writings dating to the distant past.
During the second world war, when bombs were being dropped on Beirut and sirens screamed their warning to for everyone to hide, one home near us had a direct hit and just a crater now left. The neighborhood kids would be screaming for terror, but there was beautiful peace in our home! My father and mother taught me not to fear, for we trusted in our Lord! The things I learned in those days strengthened me yet to this day for many things I have faced since.
My father took time to explained many passages from the Bible to my mother and I, since he knew well the customs and manners of the people. In fact, he translated many parts of the New Testament into the common language of the people, adding many valuable notations, and which are still available today.
My father who is still remembered among many to this day, taught me not only by word, but also by example. There was no hurt in this man, for he cared first for the people, and he himself least of all.
Many good men have loved truth and fought even relentlessly for the rights of others, but few have had the integrity, power of command of language, beauty of poetic expression, and clarity of thought and intellect with which to so powerfully express it, as this man.