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Then again, for one reason or another, it seems that every time I go to the Bekaa it turns into a wild day. It was to be a quick trip to the city of Zahle to attend a trial of a friend in the Mahkama Genaeya Criminal Court. The defendant is a sometime journalist who has done plenty of favors for visiting Americans over the past few years at my request. When delegations of Yanks arrive in Lebanon, I am sometimes asked if I could help arrange meetings with political leaders, a visit to a Palestinian refugee camp, perhaps a trip to the south or to the amazing Bekaa Valley.
My friend X is always happy to receive people I send to him, is unfailingly generous with his time and hospitality, including home-cooked meals with local delicacies, and often as not becomes friends with many of the Americans he meets. Yet I felt indebted to my friend, and, anyhow, his lawyer convinced me as every Lebanese consistently convinces me that they are telling the truth—so very persuasive these people are!
It took the case nearly five years to come to trial. X, while in fact having the same name as my friend was in fact a difference person altogether. My friend is tall, heavy, and light-skinned, and the witness said his dealer was short, skinny and dark. All I had to do was tell the court that Mr. By the time I arrived at the Zahle Courthouse, I was happy that I could be of some help; plus it was a beautiful warm March day, with buds beginning to swell on the fruit trees, bright yellow forsythia blooming, steam rising from the just plowed rich brown soil fields, which feed Lebanon today as they fed Roman legions two millennia ago and many other invaders before and since.
Spring was bursting out all over. I entered the second floor of the fine French style edifice with 20 foot ceilings, found the right courtroom and took a seat in the back.
The Lebanese legal system is supposed to be based on the French system; there was no jury, only a single judge, his clerk and the Prosecutor, all decked out in really nice long black robes, with white ruffled bodice from under the chin plus bright red swatches of fabric down either side.