Tyre on the Potomac….

Tyre on the Potomac….

by guest contributor Joe David
Photo credit: Neshan H. Naltchayan

A Recap of Phoenician History: Washington came alive last week. Dignitaries, scholars, historians, and other prominent world leaders from Europe, Asia and America met in the U.S. Capital with a singular purpose –  to draw attention to Tyre, the UNESCO World Heritage site in Lebanon. The week-long activities began officially with a private reception for over 70 dignitaries, celebrities, socialites, and Friends of Tyre at the elegant Washington residence of The Lebanese Ambassador to the United States, The Honorable Antoine Chedid.


Dr. Maha El-Khalil Chalabi, General Secretary, International Association to Save Tyre presents artifacts from Tyre to H.E. Antoine Chedid, Ambassador of Lebanon

“I am so proud to welcome you to my home,” the Ambassador said to Dr.Maha el-Khalil Chalabi, founder of the League of Canaanite, Phoenician and Punic Cities and of the Tyre Foundation. “You have done so much for preserving this important and ancient Phoenician site. Thanks to you and your many friends around the world Tyre has survived the test of time. You, Dr. Chabali, are truly a woman of boundless energy and vision. Welcome to my home!”

In appreciation for his generous hospitality, Dr. Chabali presented him with two magnificent reproductions of ancient artifacts for his private collection. “I would like to present you with a little gift for your gracious support and interest in Tyre,” she told the Ambassador. “It is only a small token of appreciation for all you have done for our beloved Lebanon. Thank you for receiving me and all my friends of Tyre.”


Ambassador David Killion, chair American committee for Tyre, Mary-Jane Deeb, Chief, AMED, Library of Congress, Robert Newlen, Chief of Staff, Library of Congress, and Dr. Maha El-Khalil Chalabi, General Secretary, International Association to Save Tyre. The Symposium, which was the highlight of the week-long activities,brought together 14 speakers. Each one an expert in some aspect of Phoenicia’s historical legacy, from its wine industry to its phoneticalphabet, from its ceramic art to its famous purple dye obtained fromthe murex mollusks. James F. Fitzpatrick, adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law School, brought the symposium to an end by stressing the need to protect Tyre’s many priceless archaeological treasures.

“To ban the export of looted treasures, as some suggest, would merely further encourage groups like ISIS to destroy them. To allow such groups to sell smaller treasures in the black market to raise money
for their cause would at the very least preserve them, but,” he emphasized, “this would rob the country of its historical wealth. Areal solution can only be achieved when the entire international community solves the problem together.”


(R-L) Dr. Maha El-Khalil Chalabi, General Secretary, International Association to Save Tyre presents recognition awards to Jonathan Coopersmith and Clay Pell.

A gala dinner-reception followed the symposium in the evening. It was held in the main entrance hall of the Library of Congress, where hundreds of guests in government, academia, and politics gathered on
two levels of this spectacular column-and-marble setting to enjoy exquisite Lebanese food and to pay tribute to the late Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI) and the Honorable Esther Coopersmith for their work at forming the American Committee for Tyre.

“My grandfather would be thrilled if he were alive today to receive this honor,” Clay Pell said upon receiving an achievement award for the late senator. “Like you, Dr. Chabali, he was a lover of history, and he too dedicated his life to our cultural and historical heritage for the future generations to enjoy.”


T.H. Esther Coopersmith (seated center)

In celebration of the past and the hopes for the future, the week-long activities ended Thursday night with a barbeque dinner American-style at the mansion of The Honorable Esther Coopersmith, chair for the American Committee to Save Tyre. In special honor for all she had done, Dr. Chalabi graciously presented Mrs. Coopersmith with an award for her countless years of support. To which Mrs. Coopersmith remarked with breezy charm, “It hasn’t been that many years, my dear.”