The other day I started writing notes from my reading Tea With Hezbollah to Samer via Skype. It's enjoyable having a genuine Arab to discuss this book with. If I were reading it alone, I would never know the history behind certain things or know that this or that person is pretty famous throughout the region. Instead I can say "do you know this person?" or "have you heard of that?" and 80% of the time Samer has. Also I can hear if he agrees with what author Ted Dekker (along with fellow traveler Carl Medearis) have to say in this book.
Notes from the first pages are here.
And these are things I wrote from the next pages.
Oh, I forgot to mention that the co-authors are on a mission to meet with people and ask what they think of Jesus' teaching of the Good Samaritan and loving your neighbor as you love yourself. They ask most everyone they meet including cab drivers and the people interviewed.
February 16 -- Notes from pages 45 -75
Samer mentioned that although this book says Cairo comes up with Islamic law and Saudi implements it, he said there were two forms with Egyptian law being more moderate/liberal. He said his people followed more of the Egyptian school of thought on Islamic law. Saudi is known for being a bit extreme on the conservative side for most. I think much of this has to do with culture influencing interpretation moreso than true Islamic teaching.
Ted discussed their meeting in Saudi Arabia with the bin Laden brothers who think their brother Osama is a "jerk"
They also talked to Sheik Muhammad Yamani who got his Ph.D. at Cornell -- this guy lives in a 28,000-square-foot palace in Jeddah and has another in Riyadh
We were introduced to the story of Nicole Wagner which includes 7 chapters in the book - quite an intriguing story of how she ended up leaving Iowa and visiting the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon to look for her biological father
Next they left for Beirut and Ted gave a good lesson on the history of the Samaritans trying to explain how the great animosity between them and the Jews began.
February 17 -- Notes from pages 75 - 106
Ted discussed their meeting with the famous ayatollah, Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah. I was impressed with many things in the transcript from the talk with him especially when he talked about God's unconditional love and how much he loved God. Also interesting was his answer to whether or not he loved his enemies as Jesus instructed his followers. Fadlallah's assistant had provided background on the many times the CIA, Saudis, Saddam Hussein or Israel had tried to assassinate this man for his ties with Hezbollah. -- Samer was very familiar with this man and was able to give his impressions of Fadlallah as an admirable, seemingly peaceful person. Samer said he was the ayatollah (like a spiritual leader/adviser) to the Shia Muslims in Lebanon and Syria.
The next chapter continued Nicole's story and discussed Walid's hookah bar and how secret meetings had taken place there and how he knew much of the happenings around the refugee camp. This chapter lead to a discussion of the Druze since Walid expressed his great hatred for them. Samer and I discussed why people disliked the Druze and I found out they are Arab, but they side more with the Israelis against their own people. They are hated by Muslims and Christians alike in the Middle East.
Next Ted and Carl were on their way to Baalbek - "Baal's place" - which is now the home of Hezbollah. Ted said the place was spectacular, even more impressive than the Greek ruins at the Parthenon. Ted gave an interesting description of the history of this region going all the way back to Cain and Nimrod and future idol worship of Baal. He recounted the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel as recorded in the Old Testament and shared how Romans, Christians and Muslims had all built places of worship in the area.
Ted said in Baalbek and other places in the Middle East you see their heroes. Their superstars are not the same as ours, but you will see photos of Hezbollah or Hamas leaders because these are the ones they admire. Indeed I noticed this during our trip to Syria last year. I saw Hassan Nasrallah's photo around town and even one of the guys we met had Nasrallah as his laptop wallpaper. By that time I was used to these leaders being heroes (freedom fighters!) there and just smiled thinking,"Yup, I'm in the Middle East all right."
Ted and Carl enjoyed tea and an interview with a Bedouin prince in the south of Lebanon. The next day would be tea with Hezbollah.