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Albert M. Jabara

Photo: M. Dayfallah 2008

Albert M. Jabara was born in Lebanon on August 17, 1947, in a little village directly opposite Mount Haramoon. He moved to Canada where, at bare age of 13, he held his first job to support himself, his mother, and younger brother and sister.

Mr. Jabara attended schools intermittently and believes self-education can produce equal results to any institution if will and power are applied.

Training himself, he became reasonably read and established himself as a poet and writer. His first collection of poetry was published, by a small Ottawa publisher, in 1963. During the next ten years, three more collections were also published in Canada. For six years he was a freelance columnist/journalist for Arab News and other publications. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he has had essays, short stories, columns and poems (more than 100,000 words) published on Aljazeera’s and other major websites.

“Crime Scene Collection”, his latest work was translated into Arabic in May 2007. This latest book sparks a burning sensation in your mind and soul. Politically right or wrong, the answer must be left to readers. In 2008 “Crime Scene Transcripts: Who Terrorized First?” was released.

In addition to the difficult lives most immigrants face, writing in another language adds hardship and raises the bar for literary accomplishment. In spite of this, Mr. Jabara was a successful banker for 12 years. He left banking to begin his own business in 1986; married, with four children, ages 11 to 30; Albert Jabara also has several other books almost ready for release. 

Hardly A Chapter Of An Autobiography

Nearly fifty years ago I left my home in a small village in the tiny country of Lebanon. My home was for me like a fur coat that kept me warm on a cold, freezing day; it was a soothing breeze that kept me cool on a hot day; it was a heavenly feast that crushed my hunger; it was healing water that quenched my thirst. It was always the air that circulated into my lungs, never tired or stopped. That was my home!

As a young boy, back then, I always felt, as I was told, that God gave us two sets of parents; the mortal parents who raised us, clothed us, fed us and educated us and will one day die, leaving us with our immortal parents, our home. 

I cannot say I remember my home from the moment I opened my eyes to the world; but I know I felt the presence of my home inside of me, as I felt my soul when I made my first step. I felt that my mother truly delivered me from one womb to a bigger womb. As I grew older, my new womb grew with me. This was my home!

This natural connection you make, as you grow your soul in your body. This connection is proof your home is the large self in which you actually live; you carry it as it carries you. This was my home! It was not a castle or a mansion. We lived in a humble, three room house. Nine members of my family slept on a concrete floor. But it was my home! 

The elementary school I attended in my village was just behind my house; as short a distance as it was, it always felt far for me. Whenever I was back in my home, I felt loved and safe. By the time I was 12 years old, I knew the connection between people and their homes was real, and the nightmare that scared me to death was whenever I imagined losing or departing from my home. 

My father passed away before I turned 13 years of age. With no source of income, my mother decided we should move to Canada and join my grandfather in Halifax. My older brothers and sisters were married and had moved on with their lives. I was left with my mother, one younger brother, and one younger sister. We left Lebanon shortly after my father’s death. Our journey to Halifax took more than one month by boat. The experience was like living through hell sixty times. I felt fractured inside, amputated, totally immersed in grief when we landed in Halifax and arrived at my grandfather’s home. 

I was now separated from my home by seven seas, and I did not know how to swim. Barely 13 years old, with a family to support, I earned the rank of “man of the house”. My grandmother was neither kind nor generous. She watched the pieces of toast we ate for breakfast and counted the french fries during lunch. 

After one week, I told Mom it was time to move on. We took the train to Ottawa with no money at all; Grandfather paid for the train tickets. The train arrived at mid-morning. We walked from the station to a restaurant owned by my uncle, whose hospitality was chilly. We stayed in the restaurant for a few hours. I told Mom I was going for a walk. I strolled down the street and looked up at a street sign that said, “Irving Avenue”. I walked up the street and found myself staring at another sign that said, “Apartment for rent”. I knocked on the door. A lady opened the door and was very polite and pleasant. I asked if the apartment was rented. She replied with a smile, “not yet.” Her husband came to the door and both invited me in. We talked for some time about my nationality and the reason we left Lebanon. They were completely shocked when I told them my age. The first question they asked was how I was going to pay the rent. I assured them I would find a job and work overtime to ensure rent was paid on time. The family came from Russia. They knew how tough things were for them when they arrived in Canada. They agreed to rent me the apartment on the second floor. They asked about furniture. I told them we did not have any but will purchase some. We shook hands and I returned to the restaurant and broke the good news to Mom who did not believe it until we both took a walk and met our new landlords.

My oldest brother was a well-known chef in a famous restaurant called, “Le Bocage.” Next door to this famous restaurant was Achbar Furniture, a store owned by a Jewish man named Ben. I asked my brother to introduce me to Ben, and he did. We walked into Ben’s office and spoke to him about long payment terms on purchasing furniture and stated the reason we just arrived in Ottawa, and our need to furnish our new apartment. Ben looked up at me and asked, “Who will sign the purchase agreement and make the monthly payments?” I replied, “I will.” Ben asked if I had a job. I assuredly stated I did not have a job but searching for one. Ben laughed and asked my age. I told him I was thirteen. He rubbed his chin and shook his head several times before he looked at me again and said if I had this kind of courage and responsibility towards my mother, sister, and brother, he was willing to take the risk. We selected the furniture that afternoon and Ben got his movers to deliver them the same day. 

It only took two days to move into our new apartment. I found a job as a dishwasher and doubled my shift for a while. I made certain rent and payments on our new furniture were made on time.

This was a turning point in my character, and it helped me not to miss home so much. I felt destiny brought us to a beautiful city, Ottawa. I found Ottawa clean and peaceful. 

The events that brought me to the Russian family and the Jewish furniture store owner changed my life forever. I honestly feel some invisible force had guided me to them. I also believed they too were guided by some force, searching for people like us to rescue from a near-drowning situation. 

At this point in my life, I wanted to become a missionary, but I needed to work hard and build some financial security, so I could support my family and be able to donate to good causes. I did not know how else to return the Russian family’s kindness. I did not know how else to repay Ben, the furniture store owner. I am not surprised, after nearly fifty years, that these memories are still as vivid and as warm as they were then. 

I moved between jobs, made a lot of money, and made a lot of mistakes. I became extremely disturbed by the compulsive thirst and hunger of the United States of America for control of the Free World; worse than that, the U.S. military, under orders of its Administration, used brutal aggression, invaded helpless countries. The Vietnam War opened my eyes about what the United States of America was doing. More than two million Vietnamese had perished, were denied their rights to live and raise families. Then I discovered the war machine that was driving Israel into wars against Palestinians and Arabs. 

I learned about the British occupation of most countries in the world and how Great Britain was defeated. I learned what the French did in Lebanon and Syria and how a small group of resistance fighters kicked them out. I learned that Palestine was handed to European Jews by Britain and by the Arab rulers of that time. I felt the plight of Vietnamese and Palestinians.

I could not figure out why the United States and Israel were waging wars. In the last seven years alone more than one million Afghani and Iraqi civilians have died. 2006 invasion into Lebanon by the Israel army completely destroyed well over three hundred villages, towns, and farms. Dec. 27/09 - Jan. 18/09 attack on Gaza was Israel’s cruelest war. 

I tried to find Ben and the Russian family in all of this. I could not, but Ben and the Russian family became a symbol I will keep and cherish all my life. 

The older I got the harder I was able to bear the burning yearning for my home. I developed acute anxiety filled with fear, mixed with courage, hope, and determination. I never stopped imagining “what if my home was occupied?” I saw myself living in Vietnam under huge clouds of Orange Agent. I saw myself living in Afghanistan between the tombstones of countless sisters, children, elders, and brothers. I saw myself in Iraq picking up human remains to give them a resting place.

It is true! Home is your immortal parents. Home is your people, your country with its mountains, trees, and rivers, with its seas and skies. Home is what you really are. 

Will I be able to return home one day? I have asked myself this question since age 15. The more Arab and Muslim land was snapped by Israel, and the more Arabs and Muslims were killed, the more angry and confused I became. I was boxed in a world that turned ugly and means. Busy with sometimes two jobs to make ends meet for my small family, I still kept abreast of what America and Israel were doing to Arabs and Muslims. 

The one-hour documentary aired by Al-Jazeera grabbed my emotion and imprisoned my soul to the end. The hosts interviewed Palestinian families, dispersed in various countries from Australia to the Palestinian camp in South Lebanon. Saddest for me in this documentary were three scenes. The first frame showed a Palestinian in his mid-eighties who broke into tears when he talked about his home. He showed the camera the key for his home which he had kept since he was thrown out sixty years ago, was never allowed to visit but could only see his home from a distance. The other two scenes were about two old ladies. One held a small bag of sand, the only memory she could take with her when she was pushed out of her home with nothing but the clothes covering her body. The second old lady held a tiny stone that looked like a marble. She saved this small keepsake as a young child when she escaped death with her parents.

While viewing this documentary, my wife stepped over to my side with a handkerchief and begged me to stop crying. I was in serious pain. I felt knives were moving inside my stomach. I felt horrible, useless, and could not control my tears for a long time. That was when I took my pen out of my pocket and, holding it above my head; I swore on the graves of both my parents that I would dedicate my life and energy to research on the wars and murder of innocent people. I then proceeded to start writing this book, determined to finish it to the end. “Crime Scene Collection” was conceived in the year of 2007; “Crime Scene Transcripts: Who Terrorized First?” followed in 2008.

Copyright © 2009

Book Reviews:

Crime Scene Transcripts: Who Terrorized First?

Author: Albert M. Jabara
Hardcover 227 pages ISBN 978-0-9782296-5-8 SRP: $68.95
Softcover 227 pages ISBN 978-0-9782296-6-5 SRP: $38.95
Mirath Publishing Inc., 2008

Answering the question on the cover of his book, Albert M. Jabara’s anger permeates his explosive diatribe against the evil events that stole his childhood, uprooting him from his home and everything he valued. His outrage contends that one's home is an intrinsic part of one's self and its cruel and forceful amputation is the ultimate inhumanity.

From his own hurt at this personal tragedy, he tells us in simple words about the nine million Palestinians, more than two million Afghanis and well over five million Iraqis who today suffer from cruel dispersion and similar separation from their vital roots.

As a 12-year-old Lebanese child, the sole support of his widowed mother and young siblings, this author found himself in Canada, a startlingly foreign environment, with diametrically different folkways, mores, and language. Now a respected author, poet, and prominent Ottawa businessman, Jabara's latest book explain that blame for the collapse of the world as he knew it cannot all be heaped on any one person, or nation.

Still infuriated by massive worldwide inhumanities, his intransigence on the culpability of the perpetrators of evil around the world pervades. Explicitly describing the several forces involved in setting the stage for the crimes of our times, this book well expresses the anger of the author towards them all.

There is no ambiguity in Jabara’s message. Following an explanation of his immigrant boyhood, and a brief outline of his career in Canada thus far, he plunges the reader into the transcripts, wherein lie answers to the title question. Included are long outpourings of fury against George W. Bush, and quotes from the Holy Qu’ran, interlocked with history and information about terrorism today.

“Germany, France, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and even Iran, sat back and watched the U.S. and its co-conspirators bomb Baghdad; they endorsed the invasion and stamped it ‘legal.’ They betrayed the popular opinion of their people.”

After much railing about these atrocities, the author calls on journalists, writers, scholars, and researchers to “wake up” and “expose war criminals and find ways to stop them.” About halfway through his book, Jabara states that only a few honest journalists continue to gather evidence revealing the truth about 9/11 and its connection to the war on terrorism, "as ordered by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Israel." The 14 individual Crime Scene Transcripts contain accounts of atrocities, nuggets of ancient and recent history, anecdotes and poems, along with unremitting expressions of anger against Israel and the U.S. This book goes to great lengths to answer its own question and provides a great deal of detail to substantiate its conclusion.

True North Perspective, Rosaleen Leslie Dickson, author, critique and journalist


Crime Scene Collection

Author: Albert M. Jabara
Hardcover 191 pages ISBN 978-0-9782296-1-0 SRP: $59.95
Softcover 191 pages ISBN 978-0-9782296-2-7 SRP: $35.95
Mirath Publishing Inc., 2007

“Poetry begins in delight and ends in wisdom,” says Robert Frost. But while going through “Crime Scene Collection” of Albert M. Jabara, one shouldn’t expect delight because it’s not a recollection of thoughts in tranquility. There is wisdom bred by deep pain. Jabara was born in a little village directly opposite Mount Haramoon in Lebanon in 1947. He immigrated to Canada at the age of 12. He is now a Canadian national, a prolific writer and a born poet who has a sensitive soul. Jabara had seen death and hunger that breed madness and make an ordered life impossible. Man’s cruelty to man, open injustice and the death of the world conscience fill Jabara’s heart with a sense of loss, anguish, and anger that flow through his poems. See these lines of his poem “Eye and Pen Good Enough for Me.”

My pen consumes my brain
Wars eat Arabia and Moslems
You ask for light poems
Filled with romance and mysteries
Leave me be!….
You ask for light poems
To please your Yankee friends
Laughs don’t come from seas of sorrow…
A heavy poem, my friend
Is a golden treasure
It is a pain that cures pain
Every time you read it
It is the poem that first originated
In Arabia and was first, read
By an Arabian knight to his horse
Every culture has a beginning
Measured by time
My Dad taught me
The first chapter on my culture,
Minutes after my birthday
When he touched my forehead
And said, “Your religion is Islam,
Arabic is your culture
Poetry is your sword…
Use it; don’t use deadly force
Humans grow old and die,
Cultures wear many skins;
Beneath each skin
There’s always a new poem.

Arnold Toynbee talks about an encounter between civilizations; Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington are concerned about the clash of civilizations, but Jabara believes that there are many skins beneath each skin of culture. He knows about these different layers of cultures. Skin is necessary to save human or animal flesh and bones, as different layers give them depth and save them from the scorching sun of hostile human attitude and inclination. Here is the wisdom that was derived from the ancient Arab culture that was the cradle of great poetry for centuries. In the above stanzas, there are references to that great age, especially in this stanza when he says:

A heavy poem, my friend
Is a golden treasure
It is a pain that cures pain
Every time you read it
It is the poem that first originated
In Arabia and was first, read
By an Arabian knight to his horse

The reference to the Seven Suspended Odes (Saba’a Muallaqat) of pre-Islamic tradition is quite clear in this stanza.

When Jabara writes about Iraq or Palestine, he seems to be carried away by emotions, and sometimes overwhelmed by the grief seeing the rivers of blood flowing in these ancient lands that have taught religion, morality, and civilization to the whole world. Without mincing words, he criticizes George Bush, Tony Blair, and Ariel Sharon for their part in the atrocities that continue in Iraq and Palestine.

The Iraqi people’s pathetic condition is quite visible in this poem. See some lines of his poem “Iraq, Don’t Die Before Me.”

Each grain they touch
Turns into blood
Then it returns to the soil
Their loved ones are mixed with earth
This is the memory killers left behind
Arabia bleeds for Iraq
Baghdad’s funeral
Will not end until Bush and Blair leave
America’s crime is an Arab shame
Arabs forgot Iraq
In his poem “Palestine, Eternal Mother” his heart melts away.
Palestine, rise from your ashes!
Hell released its reservoir
Only days ago!
Lava flows, pure like honey…
Guided to reach bloody hands
Killers of your people, trees, and fields
Have no place to hide —
Lava’s flames
Destined to burn their hearts
And prolong their lives and pains
Killers of your people, trees and fields,
Their final places in zones unknown:
They shall burn their, rot but not die…

There are many heart-rending poems in this book. “Crime Scene Collection” was translated into Arabic in May 2007. The reader should take this collection of poems as the anguished cry of an honest soul.

Muhammad Mujahid Syed | Arab News

Crime Scene Collection / Arabic Translation

Author: Albert M. Jabara
Hardcover 219 pages ISBN 978-0-9782296-3-4 SRP: $59.95
Softcover 219 pages ISBN 978-0-9782296-4-1 SRP: $35.95
Mirath Publishing Inc., 2007

Thoughts Fall Like Rain.

Author: Albert M. Jabara
Hardcover 93 pages ISBN 0-920575-00-5 SRP: $45.95
Softcover 93 pages ISBN 0-920575-01-3 SRP: $29.95
Wisdom House, 1984

Time and again his Oriental heritage shines through his words and imagery, a sort of verbal luminosity which at once distinguishes his work from most Canadian poetry... Jabara’s words illuminate like candles the many paths of life. OTTAWA CITIZEN. Don W. Thomson

In his latest book of poetry A Life Of Many Paths, Albert Jabara makes a brave attempt to explore his deepest feelings and thoughts. It is a quest to capture in words the feelings, fears, and regrets that for most people remain buried, emerging only in dreams or perhaps under psychoanalysis. ARAB NEWS. SAUDI ARABIA. John Hopkins

The vigor which one finds in his work is in a way representative of his culture and his own individuality. Some of his poems are so powerful that they touch one’s heart immediately.
ARABIA. THE ISLAMIC WORLD REVIEW. Abdul Khatib

A Life of Many Paths

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Publications

Born To Write., 1963
The Sonnet Gate and the Poem Cell. October Gull, 1974
A Life of Many Paths. Jerusalem International Publishing Inc., 1983
Thoughts Fall Like Rain. Wisdom House, 1984
Crime Scene Transcripts: Who Terrorized First?. Mirath Publishing Inc., 2008
Crime Scene Collection & Its Arabic Translation.. Mirath Publishing Inc.,, 2007
Eligible for National Public Readings Program :
Yes

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