Dr Jamil Talhouk

Statesman

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Dr Jamil Hussein Talhouk was born in Aley in 1884.

He was born into one of the most prominent “founding families” of Aley, and continued his family’s tradition of selfless service to the community, until his passing in 1957.

HUSSEIN MAHMOUD TALHOUK & MAHMOUD HUSSEIN TALHOUK

His father, Hussein Mahmoud Talhouk (1846-1916), contributed to the development of the railway from Beirut to Damascus, and was the first to recognise and encourage the potential of tourism and commerce in Aley.

 

He built the Souk – Sayha – Aley, with more than 20 merchant shops, which still stand today.

Jamil Talhouk’s mother, Zalfa Assad Talhouk, donated land in the main street of Aley on which the train station was erected.

 

He had two brothers – Mahmoud and Hussein, and three sisters – Latifi, Sharifi and Amilia.

 

His brother Mahmoud (1872-1960) was the first mayor of Aley, responsible for bringing to the village the supply of water from Hammana.

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Jamil Talhouk received his primary education at Souk El Gharb School. He then moved to the Choueifat School, where he obtained the preparatory secondary certificate in the year 1899.

 

Upon completion, he entered the Syrian Protestant College (later known as the American University of Beirut), where he graduated as a doctor in July 1905.

He was not yet 21 years of age, which presented a legal problem as he was not entitled to be granted his final certificate. The university administration decided to present him with his certificate at the graduation party, provided that it was taken from him immediately after, and then returned to him three months later, upon reaching the prescribed age.

 

His father, Hussein Talhouk wanted him to enter medical school, given the high status of doctors at the time.

 

Jamil’s personal inclination was to study law. At the time, there was no law school in Lebanon, which would have necessitated him travelling to Istanbul to study. He preferred not to leave Lebanon at that time.

 

Forced to submit to this reality, he responded to his father’s request.

AUB MEDICAL SCHOOL - 1905
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In 1922, Jamil Talhouk was elected mayor of Aley by acclamation, and he remained in this position until 1927, when he abandoned it due to the concerns of the prosecution.

 

In 1924, he married Samia Hamad Talhouk, the daughter of his maternal uncle, Sheikh Hamad Talhouk from Aytat.

 

Together they raised two sons – Afif and Sami. Afif graduated from the American University of Beirut in political sciences, history and economics in 1950, and Sami also graduated from the AUB, obtaining a chemistry degree, then a doctorate (Physical Chemistry) from the USA in 1966.

 

With his sons attending university, in 1947 Jamil Talhouk went to Beirut with his family and settled there until 1949, without engaging in politics or business.

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In 1943, the area of Aley escaped bloody encounters, thanks to Dr. Jamil Talhouk, who warned of the arrival of French troops making preparations to attack the region, and obtained from General Edward Louis Spears (who was installed by the government of independence, and was using the home of Emir Majid Arslan – now the Faisal Arslan Museum – as his headquarters), the withdrawal of soldiers who were on course to combine to collide with the civilian population.

GENERAL EDWARD LOUIS SPEARS - HOME OF MIR MAJID ARSLAN - 1943
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In 1952 – 1954 he once again assumed the role of mayor of Aley, at the request and insistence of the citizens, and then voluntarily relinquished the position, due to his ill health and deteriorating physical condition.

Jamil Talhouk served the Public Prosecution Office for twelve years, during which time he was appointed Minister of Supply and Agriculture in the third cabinet (of the late President Abdul Hamid Karami, from January 9, 1945 to August 22, 1945). This was during the Second World War, when the spectre of famine once again threatened Lebanon. Dr Jamil Talhouk played an integral role in ensuring the supply of provisions to citizens.

He was also appointed Minister of Public Health in the fourth ministry (of the late President Sami El Solh), which immediately followed the ministry of Abdul Hamid Karami, from August 22, 1945 to May 22, 1946.

He made great improvements to the ministries of health and agriculture during his tenures, establishing district clinics and a hospital in Baabda.

 

 

PRESIDENT BECHARA EL KHOURY, PRIME MINISTER SAMI SOLH, MINISTER OF HEALTH JAMIL TALHOUK - ANJAR, NOVEMBER 1945

Jamil Talhouk was greatly admired and loved by the late President Abdel Hamid Karami, so much so that when Karami went to Egypt to attend Arab Congress meetings, he appointed Dr Jamil Talhouk in charge of the Parliament, even though he was not his deputy – he was the only Druze politician to have ever held that position.

ABDUL HAMID KARAMI
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Dr Jamil Talhouk was a daring orator in the House of Representatives, evidenced by the minutes of the House meetings. In the third session held on the afternoon of Thursday, 7 October, 1943, under the chairmanship of the late President Sabri Hamadeh, and the membership of each of the two secretaries, Mr. Rifaat Qazoun and Emile Lahoud, in the presence of all the deputies, Riad El Solh as head of the ministry at the time, Dr. Jamil Talhouk ascended the pulpit and gave this speech:

“Where is our independence? Is this what prevented us from dealing with our external affairs, big and small? Is this what prevented us from dealing with our internal affairs, big and small? Is this the one from whom they created legislation according to their whims to create special laws that enabled those with good fortune to benefit by depriving the nation of freedom of agriculture, trade and industry? The correct and honest saying is that some articles of the constitution are a tyranny for the nation.

“If a constitution was written at a time when the global situation was complicated, and the mandated authority made it conform to its whims, is it permissible for it to remain as it is without amendment that makes it compatible with the higher public interest so that the monopolistic groups are not allowed to control the people and make them obey their goals!!

“As a result, I make this statement as a proposal that I will put before the Council. I ask them to reconsider and amend the constitution, in a way that confirms the reality of the country’s independence, requires the evacuation of foreign armies from its land, restores the nation’s sovereignty and guarantees its right to freedom of life. Then we will be proud to have the independence with which to lift our heads.”

His words are as relevant today as they were in 1943.

RIAD EL SOLH & SABRI HAMADEH - PARLIAMENT HOUSE - BEIRUT - 1943
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Jamil Talhouk’s positions were well known in the House of Representatives, he opposed the French Mandate, and he declared Lebanon’s independence on clear and solid foundations.

His opinion of the braggarts was clear:

“Those who brag claimed that they gave Lebanon its independence. They erred in the truth, for what they considered independence was the monopoly of the political gang, not the people … “

Jamil Talhouk was considered an unwavering and unquestionable patriot. He was known never to deviate from the path of integrity, despite the various temptations that were presented to him, and he did not close his eyes to that which he was not convinced of its justice and fairness.

At the conference held in the village of Ainab, Jamil Talhouk was one of the most ardent supporters of the establishment of the Arab Faisali government. He took a bold stand against the French mandate.

He adopted a prominent position in support of the Syrian Arab revolution led by Sultan Pasha al-Atrash and his companions in 1925.

SULTAN PASHA AL-ATRASH - 1925

Dr Jamil Talhouk always called for standing with the Arab countries in public policy, especially neighbouring Syria.

Regarding the estrangement that occurred between Lebanon and Syria during the reign of its president, Khaled al-Azm, Jamil Talhouk was against estrangement, and he was the first to advocate economic cooperation between the two countries.

During his tenure as mayor of Aley, he built roads, widened the public streets, extended electricity to Aley, and laid the sewage network. He established the Bkhechtay-Aley water supply project, as he sought to secure water for the Armenian Hospital in Al-Azounieh, and laid the foundations for the Barouk water supply to Aley.

Dr Jamil Talhouk worked to reach the pinnacle of independence, sovereignty, freedom and dignity in Lebanon. He spoke these words regarding elections in his country:

“The Lebanese people must nominate the representative of their choice, which is the people, and the people must impose their will on their loyal men.”

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Jamil Talhouk was known as a man of strong character, deep in thought, mature in culture, honest, with himself and with others, unafraid to speak the truth, whatever it was, humane to the extreme, generous, and compromising.

 

He was far-sighted and sharp-witted. Those who sat to talk to him felt that they were in the presence of a great man, a man of extensive scientific, political, intellectual and cultural theories, who spoke with ease on a variety of topics and supported his theories with conclusive proofs and compelling arguments.

 

His wisdom and counsel were sought by his peers, from all over Lebanon, especially the Aley region, from the Chouf, and from the Matn. It was customary to seek his advice on important and crucial issues, political and social, whenever the need arose, and the winds of distress swept the country.

1949 - DR JAMIL TALHOUK MEETING WITH DRUZE SHEIKHS - SHEIKH ABU SALMAN NAAMAN SHMAIT (FAR LEFT), SHEIKH ABU YUSEF ALI Al-FAQEIH, SHEIKH ABU YUSEF AMIN AL-FAQEIH - BOYS (FAR RIGHT) - SHAFIK OBEID & SOHEIL TALHOUK
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Jamil Talhouk also enjoyed a close friendship with Socialist Party leader, Kamal Beyk Joumblatt. Towards the end of Jamil Talhouk’s life, Kamal Joumblatt visited him on a weekly basis, where they would discuss the interests and needs of the people of the Mountain region, finding common ground in their desire to help their fellow citizens, and fight against corruption and discrimination.

Kamal Joumblatt and Jamil Talhouk
KAMAL BEYK JOUMBLATT & DR JAMIL TALHOUK
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SHEIKH AL AQL MOHAMMED ABU SHAQRA

Jamil Talhouk passed away on the morning of Monday, 24 June, 1957.

His funeral was attended by many official delegations from all over Lebanon, the villages of the mountain area, and Beirut. The religious ceremony was presided over by Sheikh Aql of the Druze, Sheikh Muhammad Abu Shaqra, and Sheikh Ali Abdul Latif.

After the prayer, the orators followed with the memorial service, including Mr. Hani Baz, Mr. Ramez al-Rayess, Mr. Rafiq Wahbi, Mr. Ali al-Haj, and the poet Mr. Farhan al-Aridi (of the village of Baissour) eulogizing him.

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A memorial ceremony was held late in the month of August of that year, in the lobby of Tanios Hotel in Aley, attended by a large crowd of citizens, intellectuals, senior writers, poets and politicians, in which each of the following spoke:

The writer, politician and intellectual, Dr. Fouad Sarouf, the honourable Kamal Beyk Jumblatt, Mr Hani Baz, Dr. Elias Chibil El-Khoury, Ambassador Khalil Takieddine, the lawyer and activist Shakib Jaber

DR FOUAD SAROUF, SHAKIB JABER, KAMAL JOUMBLATT, KHALIL TAKIEDDINE, ELIAS SHIBIL EL KHOURY - HOTEL TANIOS, ALEY - 1957
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This is an excerpt of the eulogy presented by Dr. Fouad Sarouf at the memorial service for Dr Jamil Talhouk:

“Jamil Talhouk was an excellent doctor in knowledge and moral character in all the phases of his life. Jamil Talhouk, with his pure instinct, rooted in ancient lineage and noble traditions, realized that the oath of Hippocrates, called upon him on the day he raised his oath to adopt it as a constitution and an approach, to allow his knowledge and experience to be available to every student, so that no one would be turned away from his door, and that he be of assistance, so that no hardship would discourage him from rushing to whoever was in need – For he who needs medicine, and for his essence as a human being and a doctor to prevail over all sectarianism, segregation or discrimination. The impact of this oath reinforced in him a correct understanding of the nature of modern society, and that science and social responsibility have become one in this era, intertwined and should be inseparable.

“Jamil Talhouk responded to the motives of pure instinct, sound understanding, and the sacred oath, the response of the noble Essence to the rays of light. He used to treat everyone in need and did not accept payment, and he often added medicine to his service, the price of which would be paid from his own pocket or from his pharmacy’s box.

“In his view, the doctor is not only the one who treats the ills that afflict people, but he is also a man who studies their social problems that may be inherited by the ills, and he solves them or seeks to solve them so that they avoid the ills and their consequences.

“He is an educator who teaches people that health is not only the prevention or abstinence of disease, but rather it is in the body and mind all in good state that allows a person to perform the best that he can for his family and his people, then he is in addition to this and that an accountant who knows thanks to what he has learned and practiced that people are the original capital and he will not dispense with them, no matter how rich and palatable natural resources are.

“Between the righteous ancestors from whom Jamil Talhouk descended and the righteous citizen to whom Jamil Talhouk became, there is a long and rugged road, whose bumps were paved with action rather than words, for he knew the saying of Ali, may God be pleased with him, “He who slows down his work does not speed up his lineage.”

“He eased his hardships and overcame his difficulties by serving without calling, remembering that a caller without action is like an archer without a bowstring. It is a path that he took from the glory of lineage to the glory of reckoning, so he was in the chain of life, a strong link that connectsbetween a glorious past and an honorable present, despite its pains and tribulations, from the height of his generation to farther horizons.

“This is a bounty that God bestows on whomever He wills and deserves from among His children. Didn’t life bless with what it did, by allowing me to get to know Dr. Jamil Talhouk intimately, and to know from one of his sons, cousins and his aunt who carried the message of love in Lebanon for generations, following a group of men who descended in me to the highest and most honorable status, but I felt that I had set out to draw this picture –  This image is that I have become a nobler and greater human being, if I increase the knowledge of his worth among men and thanks to him being an example to be emulated among the citizens.”

“We are the sons of the American University of Beirut, wherever the processions of life take us, we are honored that Dr. Jamil Talhouk was our brother and colleague, and one of the sons of the university loyal to its ideals and mission in science, service and good citizenship.”

“Dr. Jamil Talhouk was one of the few men who demonstrated sincere patriotism, a sound opinion, a determination to work and a love for the country. From the mayor of the municipality, to the prosecution, to the ministry, to opening the clinic and pharmacy, to the social services that he performed for his citizens, there was an unyielding determination and a man who never stopped moving.

“We pray to God that the biography of his life, his exploits, his virtues, and his righteousness, be a supreme example for us to follow, and a shining beacon to guide us in combining knowledge and virtue, between words and deeds, between adherence to an authentic heritage and embarking on an unknown future, so that we may be for our society and our country the best torch by which to light the horizons … In this way, we will be truly be the son of righteousness, raising the status of the homeland and the Arab nation.”

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Heather & Sami Eljurdi

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