The Lost Tribe of Levant

Steve Bracks
In the 1890s, Bracks’ great-grandparents
arrived in Australia from a town in Lebanon called Zahlé.
About forty kilometres east of Beirut, Zahlé lies on
the eastern slopes of Mt Sannin and forms the centre of business
for the Bekaa valley… Another descendent of the Bracks family,
Michael, started Bracks Slacks in Sydney, which is still one
of Australia’s biggest men’s apparel suppliers.
Other descendents from Lebanese include Australia’s most
distinguished writer (David Malouf), the most successful name
in Melbourne’s fashion industry (Jo Saba), two of Melbourne’s
top chefs (Greg Malouf and Michael Bakash), and the Chief Executive
Officer of the City of Melbourne (Michael Malouf)… These individuals
are not only Lebanese, every one of these distinguished Australians
can trace their origins back to the same town—Zahlé.
There’s something a shade more heroic in the path that
he’s taken. Malouf’s family weren’t originally
in the food business: ‘My father was in the rag trade.
He was a marker up of women’s sportswear. He tried to
drag the sons into it. Hard worker, good cook.’ His son
preferred to make food his profession. He has since published
his own cookbooks, including Arabesque, which was a hit with
Melbourne’s Christmas market.

David Malouf
… the dislocated experience of physicality in Malouf’s
fiction reflects the stark difference between the physical cultures
of Lebanese and Australian. Lebanese culture makes physical
pleasures a priority—in eating fresh food, dancing and
physical affection. By contrast, Australians reflect the English
tentativeness towards the physical—in packaged foods,
inhibited dancing and interpersonal distance. The Zahlé
generation have been so successful in Melbourne because they
have brought with them the warmth of hospitality and conviviality
that is otherwise lacking in Anglo public life.

Neville Assad-Salha
Assad’s vessels offer a Levantine reading of the Australian
landscape as filtered through calligraphy. Whereas the Latin
alphabet is easily associated with vertical landmarks, such
as mountains, the horizontal nature of Arab writing is sympathetic
to ground-based features. The eye searches for clusters of marks
at odd angles to each other. It takes a horizontal scansion
on the world, similar to Fred Williams’ gestural landscapes.

William Gladstone
During Victorian times, any English gentlemen with pretensions
to scholarship made a study of Phoenicians—the Semites
whose feet actually did ‘in ancient time walk upon England’s
mountains green’, for Phoenicians were trading with the
Cornish people in tin and gold well before the Romans arrived.
William Gladstone wrote several books on the subject, in between
Prime Ministerial duties.

Israel Zangwill
Zionist Israel Zangwill had approached Alfred Deakin in 1907
about the possibility of block settlement, but had been rejected.
In the early 1930s, he and other Zionists cast around the world
looking for potential sites of Jewish colonisation, including
remote regions in Canada, Argentina and Uganda…
In 1935, the London-based Freeland League proposed the purchase
of seven million acres in the East Kimberley region for 50,000
refugees from Nazism. Dr Isaac Nachman Steinberg, once first
minister of justice in Lenin’s revolutionary government,
arrived in Australia to investigate its feasibility and garner
support. He won the backing of many politicians and community

Critchley Parker

"Annual shows would also be held, representative of all
branches of the community’s activities. Other Tasmanian
industries should be encouraged to display their wares; this
should be done at the Community’s own expense, so that
the perfect amity and accord existing between the Jewish settlement
and the Tasmanians be emphasised in this practical way. Later,
other states of the Commonwealth and other countries should
be encouraged to come here, so as ultimately to make the equivalent
of the Leipzig Fair. This could be called the Pacific Fair."
Melbourne businessman Joe Gutnick amassed a fortune in Western
Australian mining ventures. He attributed his success to his
spiritual advisor, the leader of the worldwide Lubavitcher movement,
Rebbe Menachem Schneerson. The Rebbe encouraged Gutnick’s
explorations for gold and diamonds, and gave Gutnick the special
title of Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Special Emissary for the Integrity
of the Land of Israel. Netanyahu’s election in 1996 is
attributed to the money that Gutnick poured into his advertising

Gutnick has explored the Kimberley region following the
Rebbe’s prophecy. While it is not his major source of
wealth in Western Australia, his older sister established
an alternative company, Diamond Rose, to exploit claims in
the Kimberley region. The prospectus stated that its goal
was to ‘find the 12 gemstones of the Breastplate worn
by the High Priest in the Temple of Jerusalem over 3,000 years
ago as described in the Bible’.

Mayor of Alice Springs, accepting a copy of the Koran, to commemorate
the Last Afghan Camel Train from Oonadatta to Alice Springs,
led by descendents of the first Afghan camelliers.

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