Mousaler Anjar

By Raffi Haig Kendirjian

pp.58-59 of the 1939-1999 Sixty Year Anniversary Booklet

Establishment

In 1939, the Armenians of the Sanjak region, which includes Mousaler's seven villages, were obliged to abandon their ancestral lands since the French were handing the region to the Turks. They were established under tents in the Bekaa Valley — on the Lebanese-Syrian border. They were settled on a desert-like land called Anjar (which in Arabic means springs), that was purchased by the efforts of the French from Rushdi Bek.

The first couple of years caused excessive loss of lives due to the catastrophic environmental conditions. Malaria took the lives of hundreds making life in Anjar a real struggle.

Despite all the suffering, the people of Mousaler were determined to struggle and survive, just as they had done during the 40-day heroic battie of Mousaler that gave birth to the creation of the world-famous novel "The Forty Days of Musa Dagh".

The tent-school and tent church reflected this people's belief and civilized lifestyle.

Part of the people was temporarily accommodated among the neighboring villages of Majdal, Qab-Elias, Rayak, and Zahle... till the completion of the necessary housing construction.

The eagle-shape village was soon under construction, being the first village in the Bekaa that was constructed according to a redesigned architecture.

The construction works started with the building of the "French Houses" with a small toilet next to each. Anjar was divided into six villages namely Vakef, Kheder-Bek, Haji-Hababli, Kabousieh, Yornouloukh, and Bitias.

The Organizational Years

The first couple of years were difficult and tedious during which Anjar began organizing its institutions among which were the municipality, churches, and educational establishments.

With time, Anjar's infrastructure was developed. Potable water fountains (Kastals) became available on every street. It is to note that prior to this arrangement, water used to be carried on shoulder all the way from the spring with jugs and pails.

In 1947, approximately half the population of Anjar decided to permanently establish themselves in Armenia. Those remaining in Anjar clung to the land, upon which they grew apple trees replacing orange trees which was the main agricultural produce of Mousaler.

Each religious division established its church and school thus enhancing the academic life of the village.

With the efforts of the national leader Shavarsh Missakian, Haratch School was established. Besides the school, St. Paul Apostolic Church was built. This educational later developed into three divisions: Kindergarten, Elementary, and Secondary schools now Kaloust Gulbenkian College.

Similarly the Catholic denomination established its church and school. Later a huge complex, Aghajanian Orphanage, was built.

The Armenian Evangelical denomination also built its church and school. A boarding school was later added contributed by the Hilfsbund Missionary.

These churches and schools undoubtedly contributed to the development and enhancement of Anjar. They were established to nourish and educate the new generation upon whose shoulders laid the responsibility of further developing their village.

In 1952, the historic ruins of the Ommayad era emerged in Anjar. After great efforts of renovation and reconstruction (by Haroutioun Kalayan) the ruins became one of Lebanon's most renown touristic sites of the Bekaa region next to Baalbek, Tyre, and Byblos.

The Development in Living Standard

Anjar underwent various stages of development. The village became transformed into a greenland and a vast part of the land became covered with trees. It seemed unbelievable that this desert-like land could one day be transformed into a place so dense with fruit trees and forestry.

Sister Hedvig's health clinic, the Howard Karageuzian children's clinic, and ARC's "Aghtamar" chapter all contributed in alleviating the health problems Anjar faced since its establishment. The social, cultural and athletics activities were organized by the establishment of the Hamazkain Cultural Club and the HMEM athletics and scouts club.

We can not ignore the active participation and contribution of ARF's "Garmir Ler" in all these developments and accomplishments. It has always been the one organization that has tried to solve and alleviate the hardships faced by the citizens of the village.

It was in 1960 that potable water and electricity became available in every household.

Since the 1970s, Anjar developed a cooperative institution to develop the areas of dairy production, consumption of basic groceries, sericulture, and fisheries.

Anjar during the Lebanese Civil War

Without doubt, the lengthy and devastating civil war had its negative implications on the citizens and development of Anjar. The village was obliged to cease various activities. Anjar became a shelter for thousands (approximately 10,000 citizens) of Lebanese-Armenians (1978–1990) who found refuge fleeing the catastrophic conditions in the capital.

Despite the 15-year war, Anjar was a very safe place. It was far from the war zones at almost all times except for 1982. Thanks to the regulatory parties of Anjar, it remained calm and peaceful throughout the war years.

Recuperating Years

Like almost all the Lebanese villages, Anjar recovered from the aftermath of the Lebanese civil war.

All the participant institutions began functioning normally, especially the municipality that took drastic steps to repair the village's infrastructure (water and sewage systems).

One of the most important events was the construction of the Mousaler Commemorative monument next to the apostolic church. It stands strong to represent the heroic spirit of the people of Mousaler.