Michel Hayek talks about his youth, gift and time at “L’Orient-Le Jour.” Photo João Sousa
You are a very mysterious character, absent from the media. Why did you accept this in-terview?
It is true that I am rather a reserved person who keeps a low profile, probably because I believe that notoriety isn’t measured by the number of appearances on television or in the press, but rather by the content of these appearances, as well as their impact on society and people. In fact, in everything I do, I prefer quality over quantity. Scarcity is beauty, I think.
This is how I have planned a fairly clear professional course of action for myself, limiting myself to a single television appearance each December 31. Why “L’Orient-Le Jour,” then? Firstly, be-cause I had a good feeling when you contacted me. And also, above all, because an intimate and long-standing relationship binds me to this newspaper (to some of its editors and readers), which trusted me and devoted space for me in its pages from the very beginning.
What kind of child were you?
On the one hand, I looked like other children my age through some of my behaviors. I liked to mingle with them, play with them, carry them, steal gardenias together in Beit Shabab where I grew up... But at the same time, I remember that almost daily, I felt the need to isolate myself away from my family and friends. In these moments of solitude, sometimes in the shade of a tree, sometimes under an arch in the village, I liked to daydream and get lost in my thoughts, to go I don’t know where.
Very early on, too, I discovered an inclination for strange things, especially paranormal stories, flying saucers and these phenomena that are beyond our reach and are more or less real. Sometimes, I wouldn’t see anyone but myself, as if a voice, an image was calling me and taking hold of me. So much so that I wondered for a long time if my friends felt the same way. Their behavior quickly made me realize that this wasn’t the case, that I was both a child and not real-ly a child. I was a child like no other. I could join their world but they couldn’t join mine.
When was your first vision? How did you live that?
It’s hard for me to go back to one and only one first time; that was a long time ago. Having said that, I remember that from the age of five or six, I always had this need to look for something that would be lost, on the stairs leading to school or on the side of the road. Every time I got caught up in that feeling, I ended up finding something. I often left the classroom like that, as if something had called me, to go snooping around in the playground, so that after many repri-mands from the mother superior, the school had nicknamed me the boy who has a story with the outside.
Once, I was out with the mission of finding an object that I knew in my heart that someone had lost: it was a ring. A few hours later, I heard a teacher say that she had lost her wedding ring. It was this ring that I had found a little earlier. Growing up, that feeling was getting better and my stories were spreading. Also one day, a foreign journalist was visiting Beit Shabab for a report on the bell foundry. As I was showing her the way, I spontaneously told her, without knowing her of course:
“You will marry a man and a catastrophe will ensue.” Two weeks later, her future husband died in an attack. I had no idea that what I said was actually a prediction...
What were the reactions of those around you?
In the environment where I grew up, the paranormal is associated, if not with thoughts that go against religion, at least with something quirky and bad. My family and friends had discovered these sensations that I had before I even realized it. For me, it was natural, normal. In turn, in the village, I was called a sorcerer, a seer, a magician. My mother thought I was hallucinating and told me to stop telling weird things, and my friends would make fun of my stories, until those predictions came true more and more frequently.
Do your predictions apply to you, to your loved ones? For example, could you know in ad-vance what the subject of an exam would be?
I have discovered over time that this sense that I have doesn’t work internally, for me and for my loved ones. It’s a bit like a rocket that has to leave its base to go far and reach a goal. That said, it can alert me if something might happen to me (or my loved ones), without me being able to visualize what it is. Beyond the exam topics, I predicted unanticipated holidays without realizing it. Once, I was wrong, the school was open as usual. Except that after we arrived in class, an attack took place not far from the school and we had to go home...
Have your life choices been conditioned by this sense?
My decisions, I take them after reflection and concentration. I trust my instincts, as when I ac-quire old buildings to renovate them. This is one of my passions. Once I get there, if I can feel it, I do straight away.
Besides, how do you describe this gift?
It’s an occult force beyond comprehension, especially when one considers it to be a sense. It’s a bit like love, intelligence or electricity. You can see the effects but never the source. To me, this sense that I have and that I share with many people works a bit like a television or laptop an-tenna, with the only difference that an antenna can be turned off voluntarily, whereas in my case, my visions are out of my control. They come to me at random or by focusing on an idea. Sometimes, I meet someone and I unwittingly start doing a reading.
Sometimes, I focus on one subject and another pops up. Sometimes, I just see an image, like the Space Shuttle Challenger, which I saw on fire in my thoughts when they first talked about it on television (and actually exploded on January 28, 1986). In short, it’s never linear. I sometimes visualize an incident in all its details, with even sounds and names, or I can simply perceive a symbol, a negative image that becomes clear with concentration and it causes a shock in me. Like, for example, when I saw an explosion shake Solidere and a speech interrupted. This had in fact foretold the attack on Rafic Hariri, with Fares Boueiz stopping his speech when the attack occurred.
What do you say to skeptics who believe that everything is a lie?
I tell them that they have reason to think this way, since these predictions are of the paranor-mal and therefore of the unknown. People need what is concrete, and even often they find it hard to believe the truth. Hence the Lebanese saying: “A goat remains one even if it flies.” An-yway, what is being labeled a lie remains so until it becomes reality. And unfortunately, it’s hard to measure what I say and what I do, but my thermometer is my audience that has been following me for years...
When did you decide to make this gift a profession?
To this day, I don’t consider it a profession. Unlike other professions, this sense that I harbor has no schedules, social security, office, leave or boss. What I do is me, all me. My life is like that of birds, the horizon is my limit and I can fly and float as I wish. On the other hand, my real job is in real estate since I’m passionate about traditional buildings that I renovate. I was also intro-duced to the meat market by my father, who owned a butcher shop in Sioufi, and to bell found-ing by my grandfather, who practiced this profession at Beit Shabab.
Why did you accept the television challenge, and what state of mind are you in before reading out your predictions?
It wasn’t really a decision; I don’t have a manager and I don’t work according to supply and de-mand. When I made my name in Lebanon and abroad, and companies and individuals started to approach me more and more, I decided to set limits, releasing my predictions during a single television appearance on December 31. Firstly, because this date is symbolic, and also because television is probably the most democratic means of information.
Each time, it’s like the first time: I get nervous and fear that I would misformulate my thoughts, especially since often my visions chase me even while I am on television. This is very delicate, because it involves a responsibility before, during and after my appearance; it also requires work that spans the entire previous year. But the public is my only credit. It’s for the public that I decided to launch myself (into this field). It was the public which decided and earned me my notoriety, and for it, I continue...
Apart from your television appearance on December 31 of each year, you are very dis-creet, absent from social networks and the media... What does Michel Hayek do the rest of the year?
Most of my days are taken up by the predictions that happen to me unexpectedly. When they affect people I know, I have to tell them. Otherwise, I go out a little and spend most of my time in the countryside, surrounded by trees and birds that I raise. As I said earlier, I have a passion for old stones that I make speak by giving them a second life. I also listen to the news that sometimes sheds light on some of my visions, and I serve as a consultant for companies that trust me. In these meetings, I cause some surprise because I’m the only one who arrives with-out a stack of files. My kind of feasibility studies is done in my head without numbers or graphs...
The upheavals that the country and the region are witnessing are becoming more and more important and intense, and this has boosted your popularity... What responsibility does this entail?
As my predictions came true year after year, and at the same time people’s concern about the future increased, my December 31 television appearance attracted a growing audience, almost 90% of television rating that evening. There are even some who claim that events are made according to my predictions... The bottom line is that, de facto, I feel a huge responsibility to-wards my countrymen, now more than ever, so I have to think a thousand times before choos-ing my words, because I now know the effect they can have on society. It was quite disturbing to learn that some people sometimes even made decisions based on my predictions, that I am somehow like a compass to them. That’s why I avoid “talking for talking,” as they say at home, and I focus on the essentials.
You look very serene in spite of all these images, often appalling, which you say are wan-dering in your mind. How do you explain that?
When I first saw something black, I spent sleepless nights, torn between fear and guilt. Then, with time, understanding that my visions had no effect on reality, I learned to calm down and tame those fears. This is especially true since anxiety is the worst enemy of what I do: it only blurs my predictions...
Do you sometimes feel like stopping everything? Do you feel trapped because of this gift?
The option to stop isn’t my responsibility, because this ability to see certain things resembles breathing or heartbeat: it’s involuntary, and until today I enjoy developing it. As long as I’m alive, I will continue to have these visions. May be one day I will stop sharing them. At times, yes, the idea of quitting crossed my mind. Except that each time, the visions began flooding my mind. It’s almost like a mission I’m committed to.
Does chance, the unexpected still have a place in your life?
Frankly, as far as I’m concerned, I like to know nothing, especially about the beautiful things that await me. And that’s good because I can’t predict everything. So yes, the element of sur-prise continues to exist in my life. And many things, not least the mysteries of nature and the world, continue to surprise me...
Without this ability, what would Michel Hayek have been?
An archaeologist, an astrologer or a psychologist. I’m fascinated by the mystery, the paranor-mal and ancient civilizations: the pharaohs, the Incas, the Mayans... Having said that, I don’t know what my next life will hold for me.
What worries you the most: making a wrong prediction or seeing a dark year?
Like everyone, I’m afraid of error. But I’m especially afraid for my country, my compatriots and my loved ones. After that, I try to console myself by thinking that talking about it, may help pre-vent danger.
What was the event you have predicted that affected you the most? Why?
There are many. I think especially of the attack on Rafic Hariri, the death of Lady Diana, the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, the arrest of Saddam Hussein (I saw him at the bot-tom of a tunnel) and the July 2006 war. More recently, I think of the revolution [I visualized it as a dahché (big surprise)], the death of Qasem Soleimani, the pandemic and the image of the pope praying alone... But what marks me more, beyond these predictions, is being aware of my weakness in relation to the force of destiny.
Finally, it’s hard not to ask what you see for Lebanon, which is currently going through several unprecedented crises?
I see a significant event that coincides with the feast of a saint, or the feast of the Virgin, I don’t know, but it bothers me. I also see the Lebanese economic and health storm subside with the onset of natural storms in the coming seasons. But until then, the damage will be incalculable. Nothing will be spared and as the expression goes, the akhdar (the green of nature) and the yebiss (the dry) will be threatened. I also see controversial images in three places: Baabda, the government and parliament with a common denominator: the word faragh (vacant). Finally, Lebanon will receive several Israeli gifts that are being prepared for it, and to which it will re-spond with similar, even more important gifts...
(This interview was originally published in French in l'Orient-Le Jour on the 1rst of June)
In an exclusive interview with “L’Orient-Le Jour,” Michel Hayek unveils another part of himself, that of the man behind the medium, and recalls in particular his childhood in Beit Shabab where he quickly made his name with his “strange stories.” He explains how this strange sense works in him, looks back on some of his career’s highlights and, exclusively also, slips some predictions...