Born in the town of Ehden, northern Lebanon, in mid May 1823. Youssef Bey Karam’s father was Sheikh Boutros Karam, Governor of the district of Ehden. Since his early days, Karam relied on a distinguished bravery, high standard of education and deep faith. He grew up as a man of faith, integrity, and literature, a standing which often exceeded his status as a man of the sword and politics in the traditional sense.
On 14 March 1857, he was assigned by the people of Ehden and Al Jibbe to be the region’s ruler and was granted comprehensive administrative and judicial powers.
Late August 1859, Karam decided to retire from politics to concentrate on the service of God by helping the clerics spread the spiritual message. However, the 1860 bloody events forced Karam to return to the political arena.
In 1860, he was appointed the acting Christian Governor for Mount Lebanon.
In 1862, Karam rejected the new Moutasarifeen system which was imposed by the European nations and the Ottoman Empire because it allowed a foreigner to be the ruler of Mt Lebanon. Karam’s rejection earned him his first exile.
On 12 November 1864, Karam secretly returned to Lebanon following the renewal of the term of Dawood Pasha, the foreign Moutasarif.
He fought numerous battles against the Ottoman army with Bnachii being the biggest in which Karam and his fewer men defeated the might of the Ottoman army. The battle of Sebhel was another major battle along with numerous other battles where Karam and his men emerged victorious.
In February 1866, Karam agreed to leave for his second exile to spare his men and people more battles, blood and destruction. As he was leaving Lebanon’s shores he stated his famous motto “I shall sacrifice myself so that Lebanon may live.”
During his long exile which lasted until his death, Karam never spared a political nor a diplomatic effort to change the oppressive regime imposed on his country and his people.
In 1878, Karam rented a villa in Napoli, Italy; he called it the “Villa Libanaise” where he distanced himself from politics in order to dedicate the rest of his life to his Christian faith. He turned one of the rooms into a small place of worship decorated with portraits of Jesus Christ, Virgin Mary and St Joseph, complete with a wooden altar. Karam spent hours praying.
In his last days, Karam founded the St. Joseph Religious Association dedicated to help the poor, sick and needy and spread the word of Christ. The association’s centre was located at Mar Youssef, Abra, between Zgharta and Ehden in northern Lebanon.
On 7th of April 1889, Karam passed away in Napoli, Italy.
On 13 September 1889, his body was brought back to Zgharta and was moved to Ehden on the next day to keep at Mar Gerges Cathedral.
On 11 September 1932, a bronze statue of Karam was erected in his memory outside the Cathedral of Mar Gerges, Ehden.