Sunday, December 31, 2006

A trip to the South

I was thankful to go to the south with Evelyne’s family. I would not have felt comfortable going by myself. On our way, we were also able to drive through Ain Roumaneh, an area of heavy fighting during civil war. We also drove by the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps where there was a massacre in 1982.

I lost count of all the destroyed bridges along the way. More than 10, that’s for sure. Lynn took some photographs for me as I was in the back of the van. I am very grateful to her for the photos. I really want everyone to get a sense of the destruction that still remains. (I will have to post them next year:) Photo uploading is proving difficult this afternoon.)

I was able to see the spot where the petrol tanks were blown up causing a large amount environmental damage. Some people’s livelihood depends on the sea, not too mention all the marine life that was affected. Thanks to groups like Greenpeace and Greenline, the beach looks pretty clean but I cannot say what lies below the water’s surface. I was thinking of this as I also felt great joy in seeing the flat craggy rocks that I remember.

Near Saida, we passed by a huge stadium that was not touched. Why not? Evelyne commented that the Israelis must appreciate sports. The sport of war was my thought.

There are pictures of the martyr and former prime minister Hariri everywhere in Saida. This is his town. He left and made a fortune in Saudi and then came back. I feel that it is important to remember that he had his own interests too. One perspective that I have heard is that he rebuilt areas of Beirut that he owned or stood to gain from. Politics for personal wealth. Does this sound familiar?

During the summer attacks, this second war, people had to stay in the area if they did not have means. They had no place to go. Please try to imagine what this is like, being attacked from the air. It is more than just fear, it is terror.

Due to the summer destruction, the main roads are closed and we had to take old single lane narrow roads. So much squeezing. Even the van’s side mirror was hit. But nothing stops people here. There is so much perserverence. What would we do if our main artery- I-90, I-5, I-10 or whatever it, was bombed, destroyed, reduced to rubble?

What am I saying? I know what we would do. We would wave flags, invade another country, and call those who disapprove unpatriotic.

There are billboards everywhere.

Children with Lebanese Flags on their faces, “The future will be brighter.”

A visual display of all the different types of unexploded bombs that people may still find all around, "Keep away and notify the authorities immediately." A gift to Lebanon from the United States via Israel.

1,200 killed in 34 days
4x this amount wounded.
And people are dying and being maimed still due to these unexploded bombs.

I feel so sad here. So helpless. People having to live through such terror and now having to function around the destruction of war. I feel like all of this is my fault. My taxes and my supposedly liberal politicians caused and allowed this to happen.

I know that it is not exactly me that caused this but I am complicit so is everyone that pays taxes and votes for representatives that don’t speak up. I stand here with light hair and my helplessness and all I can do is cry.

Hizbullah poster above a bridge, “Victory will come with your resistance.” In Arabic and English. They wanted to make sure I could read it. Nasrallah photos on the sides. Have I mentioned that Hizbullah is much stronger now than before the Israelis attacked? What has Israel really gained? One of my nonpolitical friends believes it is all about economics. Whenever Lebanon starts doing well economically, Israel pushes it back down. There is a lot of truth in this. No milk, no tourists, and much more.

As we enter Tyre, Sour, we pass through a gate of yellow flanked with posters of Nasrallah and Nabih Berry from the Amal party, a collaboration that very well may bring the country to a standstill and cause a third war.

Evidence of an international presence abounds. A United Nations logistics center, and I see UN jeeps much more frequently now. Red Cross, Caritas, Handicap International signs on trucks, cars, and buildings.

This whole trip, I talk about destruction and rebuilding of the first war and the second war. When I get confused I even ask, “Which war? My war?”

Why all these wars? How many wars can a country, can a person withstand in one lifetime? I even feel a desire to not call the summer attacks a war. Why? For my own selfish sanity? When people are savagely attacked under the pretense of defense and the kidnapping of two soldiers, when civilians who had nothing to do with this die, is it a war? When an attack that was supposedly a response was actually planned for months beforehand, is it a war? Whom is fighting whom? Do the “good guys” and the “bad guys” need to be clearly identified? It is a myth if we think they ever can.

This is my last post for the year. May next year have more promise than this year has had.

Who am I kidding.


Myrthe said...

The bf and I drove south one day and we ended up having dinner in Naqoura, in a small diner next to the UN-mission. The bf had never been this far south either. This summer we repeatedly told each other we were glad we made the drive all the way down, because it was easier to understand the hold Hezballah has over "its" territory, something you'd notice already by just driving through the area: signs and posters of "martyrs", Nasrallah, kalashnikovs and the yellow Hezb. flag on every single electricity, phone or other pole along the road, no women out on the street, greater poverty than elsewhere in the country (apart from possibly the southern suburbs of Beirut). This simple, short trip already made later events easier to understand.

Almost ending up in a Palestinian refugeecamp by taking a wrong turn in Sour while listening to an Israeli radiostation broadcasting in Hebrew certainly added to the experience. The Israeli station was the only one we could find that played decent music - we listened to it almost all day.

Ay, Margaret, your posts spark memories!

Margaret said...

I've been doing some thinking, listening and reading about Hizbullah and the situation in Lebanon right now. I will share shortly.