War is becoming a way of life

6 August 2006

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“Gloomy Sunday”: Today, I wish to die, by Mazen Kerbaj. View more of his work.

Last night I dreamed that I was at the beach. We were camping out, the whole family was there — then suddenly someone told me that we were at war, and that we had to leave. I got really panicky and my heartbeat started racing. I remember running around trying to find everyone to tell them we had to leave right away. The only way out was by boat. By the time I got to the boat, everyone around me had disappeared.

I was all alone. It was getting dark. There was no electricity or lights …

The bushes began to rattle and I began to hear really creepy noises, like someone moaning and nails scratching. I decided that I would try and take the trip out on my own. I turned on the boat and then suddenly some family members appeared in front of me. I was so happy to see them. I ran up to them and hugged them, but as I did, they vanished from sight again.

I was devastated.

I fell to the ground and started to cry.

As i looked up, I noticed blood on my hands and realized that it was coming from me … that I was crying blood.

I leaned over the boat to look at myself in the reflection of the water. The water was a light red and all I could see were dismembered humans in the water — arms, legs, torsos.

I began to scream and scream … until I woke up.

In some ways, I wish I never woke up. It seems that my reality is even worse than the dream. There are now around 1,000 documented civilian deaths in Lebanon. The numbers in Israel are beginning to rise as well.

Hospitals have begun to shut down due to lack of fuel. By this time next week, they will all be gone. Not only will casualties no longer be able to be treated, but what happens to the everyday people who regularly go in for stuff like chronic treatment — kidney dialysis and chemotherapy?

What is to become of Maya?

This attack is not going to bring about anything except for more anger and more hate.

You can not make peace through bombs!

There are over 10,000 Israeli troops inside Lebanon right now. The UN draft for the ceasefire is not going well. They are asking that Hizballah stop firing their rockets but say nothing about the Israeli soldiers leaving Lebanon.

The last time they were here, they stayed for 18 years.

I was only able to visit my father’s village in the south a few years ago, after the pull out. It was the first time I had ever been there. I remember how surreal it was. Our home had been used as an Israeli army center during their occupation. They used to detain, interrogate and torture people in our house. Is that going to happen all over again? After the pull out, we knocked down the old house and built a new one.

Why is it that Israel is allowed to occupy other peoples’ homes?

I was in that house a little over a month ago. It was July 1st, my cousin’s birthday. Now i don’t know if I shall ever see it again. Did I tell you my husband and I slept outdoors that night, on the patio? It was so quiet and serene … so peaceful …

For those of you who have been leaving messages of peace and love, I am so blessed to be surrounded by so many loving friends. You have done so much to keep me going. Sometimes I am so numb and down that I cannot feel your energy, but what happens is that I find myself on the computer typing away and then realize that at least you are providing me with some kind of distraction … and that is as good as it gets for now.

We have lost all sense of time and life. People wander around, trying to get their daily life stuff done, but we are walking around like zombies, not knowing where or when this will all end. Not knowing if this last breath in will be our last breath out … ever.

I know our neighbors are in pain too, so I wonder why and how this is all allowed to happen. So absolutely pointless.

It has almost been a month now, this violence. I have not been able to draw or make anything. I did manage to go to my studio once. It is still ok, but I had forgotten some jars of glitter by the window the last time i was there, a month ago, and the glitter had lost its color from the sun! I was so upset … I brought this glitter with me all the way from NYC :)

In the beginning of war, one is concerned about their personal safety. Then after a few days, you realize that you are still alive, so your thoughts then go out to those around you. You start spending your time trying to help others in need. Then you reach out and start thinking about all those who are dying or being displaced. You try and help them. If you can’t, you end up spending all your time thinking about them, writing about them — then you realize how much time has gone by, how much you miss your old life. You try and pick up a few pieces. You try and give yourself some personal time during the day to do the stuff you miss doing. Then you start to feel selfish. I went to the studio, but I could not work. I will try again. And again. Until something happens.

I have not given up on hope or life. I still believe in humanity. I have not yet learned to hate. I never will.

I am ok health wise … the anxiety attacks have lessened. At least when I get them now, I know exactly what is going on, and I know that it will pass. It makes a big difference. I try and breathe deep breaths. Sometimes I can control it, sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I break down into tears, being taken over by a fearful hysteria, resulting in cold sweats and vomiting. Sometimes I am able to snap my fingers, yell out loud to myself, “Stop it!” and then move on and try and do something productive or distracting.

As each day goes by, war is becoming a way of life. And that is so dangerous. People must never get used to this.

Today it is Lebanon … but tomorrow, who will be next?

Violence begets violence. And all this attack is doing is creating more hate for the West in this region. It didn’t have to be like this.

It was only a month ago that I was in the south of Lebanon listening to the radio. The station was being broadcasted from Israel — they were playing great music from the ’80s. I was listening, enjoying the tranquility, and thinking about how similar we were.

A part of me wants to just sleep and wake up when this is all over with — however, I am so scared that when I do wake up, things will just be a lot worse.

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Zena el-Khalil is an installation artist, painter, curator, and cultural activist. She is the co-founder of the art collective, xanadu*, that is based in NYC and Beirut. Her blog, documenting her writing from Beirut, is located at http://beirutupdate.blogspot.com/.