A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

what’s in a name: adventures in mis-hearing

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 16, 2007

Last Saturday night I spent a very enjoyable evening dining out with a group of six, a mixture of friends and acquaintances.

Somehow the talk turned to Palestine – more specifically, crossing the Allenby Bridge from Jordan. Since most of our table was Lebanese, the conversation was largely theoretical, with each one imagining the problems they would have in passing.

I would love to go, said the woman at the other end of the table, but there is no way. The Israelis would never let me in, because of who my father is.

Naturally, someone followed up on this cliffhanger by asking: and who is your father?

Emile Lahoud, she answered.

Or, at least, this is what I heard from my perch at the opposite end of the table in this very crowded, very loud restaurant.

I was very impressed with the sangfroid of our table. No one batted an eye at this revelation.

On the contrary – H, who was seated next to me, leaned over and began discussing family connections with her. H’s second cousin was friends with her aunt, or something like that.

Meanwhile, I began looking more carefully at her face. To me, President Lahoud looks much like the Jo ker from Batman.

464px-joker-ritz.jpg

Mmm, I thought. Lucky her – she must take after her mother.

The conversation continued, drifting off into other subjects. I began to wonder whether perhaps my tablemates weren’t a bit too sanguine about the pedigree of the woman seated with us.

Is Lebanon such a small country that even celebrities are linked by the chain of personal connections – family, friends, and ancestral villages? Was I the only one surprised that the daughter of such a controversial figure should be out roaming the city streets with no security or physical protection? And why would Israel care so much about Lahoud?

Seeking clarification, I leaned over to H and asked, So how are you too connected? And what family is she from?

Oh, H answered, her father is Mr Xxxxxxxxxxxx. He was very active in the Palestinian movement.

Ohhhhhhhhhh, I thought. Her father’s name meant nothing to me – I can’t even remember it now – which itself meant two things.

One: our tablemate wasn’t the daughter of Emile Lahoud.

Two: I am going deaf.

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