Japan and Lebanon, a story of pain, love, nature, and hope

How does Pain turn into Hope? How do two nations separated by distance and culture come together?

From Spring flowers to Autumn colors, from Migratory birds to resident Mammals, there is always something interesting to look for in Japan. 

Japan’s reputation that combines hope and pain overwhelmed the whole world, especially after the Aeon Environmental Foundation declared the 21st century to be the century for water and greenery or the century of environment, and one of its major goals is increasing greenery in and outside Japan.

Hiroshima left a huge death toll behind, killing the innocent and leaving behind a lot of stress and pain that killed both people and plants, and even birds were terrified and flew away. Many of these birds reached Lebanon carrying with them a message of hope tinged with pain linking together the fates of 2 countries separated by distance and brought together by disasters.

August 4th 2020, at exactly 6:07 pm the Beirut Port explosion occurred – the world’s 3rd biggest blast after Hiroshima. This explosion that killed humans, uprooted trees, terrifying birds that scream with pain for a people dying for its country to remain green.

They can ignite fires, we will keep planting… they can destroy, we will rebuild again, they can shoot at the birds, but they will continue to fly over Lebanon. There will always be people, who are “homat al Hima,” that know the value of their land, the value of their heritage, and the value of human life through nature. Don’t forget that SPNL and Bird Life is about connecting nature with people. What we are trying to do is to connect people to nature for them to get back to their roots”

In Hamana which lies in the middle of Lebanon, Andre, a member of SPNL for over 20 years, came back to realize his dream of planting hope in his fellow townsmen and that is thanks to the 2 projects “Hima” and “Homat al Hima” that SPNL works on their implementation with the aim of promoting sustainable development and protecting biodiversity. It does so through cooperation with municipalities and residents, as well as with the sectors of production, ensuring the rational investment of natural resources in addition to enabling the environment to renew its resources.

Hima” is a protected area by Municipal decision, introduced by SPNL around 15 years ago. It is one of the rare things that we have recently exported to the world. For example in Western countries we have “Reserves Naturelles,” “Park Naturel” “Park Regional” but the word “Hima” does not have a synonym.

Hima” and Satoyama were born of a very practical needs failure to sustainably and equitably manage the environment, which could mean the difference between thriving communities versus starvation and suffering. It turns out however that in these traditional systems what’s good for the people is also good for nature and the environment and in the process deep bonds and meaningful relationships are build between people and the life sustaining environment that surrounds them.”

Long-term environmental goals have emerged from the two concepts of “Satoyama” from Japan, and “Hima” from the Arab region, and this was pointed out by Sean, an environmental activist who closely monitors the development and spread of these two concepts in Lebanon and Japan.

Hima” and “Satoyama” are so much more than natural ways of managing natural resources, they also represent a philosophy, a concept… whether you live in the middle east, rural Japan or a metropolis such as Tokyo or Singapore, the long term sustainable management of the environment is just not possible unless people begin to see themselves as part of nature and to establish deep connections with it. Without this I see very little way forward for the future sustainable development of our planet. “

Since its inception in 1990, the Aeon Environmental Foundation has classified the 21st century as the century of Environment and it has since then worked on implementing tree planting activities in Japan and other countries, and has aided organizations that conduct similar environmental activities holding it as an effective method to solve environmental issues. And thanks to everyone’s support, in 25 years it has succeeded in planting 12 million trees with the aim of preventing global warming and preserving biodiversity.

The Aeon Environmental Foundation searches for environmental solutions like improving global environment and sustainable social development, and it also awards The MIDORI Prize for Biodiversity to activists in the environmental field, including SPNL Director Asaad Serhal in 2018, for re-enhancing the “Hima” concept in Lebanon and the region.

There is always hope, we have been able to plant 5000 trees with the help of municipalities and honorable people. The 25 “Hima” in Lebanon which make up approximately 4% of Lebanon, are our land, our roots, our history, and our heritage. They consist of perennial trees, windmills and exceptional plants.”

Lebanon should all become “Hima” because each village should have its own “Hima” that it takes care of. This is not a target for SPNL. SPNL merely guides the way, but it is up to villagers and members of the communities to protect and preserve their lands and heritages. You have “Hima” that succeed and do extremely well, and others that do alright but on a lesser scale because of a certain amount of carelessness and not realizing the full importance of land and of “Hima””

The name Hammana goes back to the Phoenician God Hamman which means stone pillar dedicated for the worship of the sun, and this word is also derived from the word “Hima”

From here SPNL established the highest point for Migratory Bird Observatory for birds that fly over Lebanon. It set up the project “Hima Hammana” – a distinctive ecological model that includes a small house and a natural water spring that is fed by “Shaghour Hammana,” where water flows fiercely from rocks and constitutes an attraction for water sports lovers in the Spring. Add to that bee breeding and growing vegetables and cherries in an organic way.

In Japan as in Hammana, the capitol of Lebanese Cherries, cherry trees blossom every Spring and turn nature into a vibrant tapestry of colors that attract different species of birds that bring with them the promise of new hope.

Cherries trees are considered among the most important fruit trees in Hammana, and this has replaced the farming of silkworms. You can still find remnants scattered in the area, reminding us of the change that happened, because cherries used to provide a good income for the residents.

Salah went back to Hammana to revisit his childhood memories before the war; when his father died and he would help his mother with Cherry picking to secure their livelihood without needing outside help.

It used to be me, my 2 brothers … mom would get up the earliest at 4am and start picking cherries. We would wake up at 6am every day, until the bazaar time came when we would have our cherries neatly packed in boxes, ready to be delivered to shops and markets. Everyone participated in the preparations. Some would arrange the crates or boxes while others would neatly pack them with cherries, and we would send them all off.

Feraouni,” “albel tayr,” almwashaa,” are a few of Hammana’s cherry categories and names that the residents are so proud of and come together to celebrate by holding their Annual Cherry Festival, that started in the middle of the 20th century. This festival attracts visitors from all of the world that come to taste the famous cherries of Hammana.

This is the true Hammana cherry, that comes in clusters of 4s and 3s, and is very crunchy and tasty. Last year I compared it with the cucumber. This year I don’t want to compare it; the cucumber should be compared to these cherries instead. This is was makes our cherries outstanding: they are so crunchy and they are extremely tasty. I wish you would taste it and find out.


And between the pain and the hope, promoting sustainable development and protecting biodiversity remains the link between Japan and Lebanon.






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