The Emblem of Vitality
Cedars know the history of the earth better than history itself.
Alphonse de Lamartine, French poet and historian (1790-1869).
The Cedar may be the emblem of the Lebanese flag, but it represents much more than that as well. For as far back as history can remember, the Cedar has been cherished for its beauty, majesty, mystical and healing powers. Revered and admired, it has come to symbolize prosperity and national pride.
In the past, Lebanese mountains were covered with Cedars. In fact, the Cedars of Lebanon formed one great big forest. Sadly enough all that is left today is 18 scattered patches of protected Cedar land. In total, protected forests (both Cedar and other) make up approximately 4 to 8% of the Lebanese territory.
As you well know, the Lebanese Cedar is an endangered species. Considering the fact that it has been cut down for centuries, it is little wonder how it came to be so scarce. Come to think of it, history tells us that Cedar deforestation started even before the times of the Pharaohs and ancient Egypt when it was fashionable to use Cedar wood as building material. Among other things, Phoenician boats were built using Cedar wood and so were some of the first hieroglyph bearing rolls of papyrus.
According to Rania Masri, Doctor of Forestry from North Carolina State University, "The Phoenicians and the Egyptians were not alone in utilizing the cedar. The Assyrians, Nebuchdrezzar, the Romans, King David, King of Babylonia, Herod the Great, and the Turks in the Ottoman Empire all exploited the cedars. During the War of 1914-1918, most of the remaining stands were exploited and destroyed for railroad fuel. As a consequence, the extent of the cedars in Lebanon has dramatically declined." But the most famous reference to Lebanese Cedars in history remains the use of it in the construction of King Solomon's temple in Jerusalem.