After the ceasefire

A sign in Dahiye reads “Made in the USA” (Mayssoun Sukarieh)


I’m alive.

Ceasefire does not happen overnight.

It’s not like you wake up one morning and the birds are singing and the sun is shining and you go to work like nothing ever happened.

Week of hell

This past week has been slow and tough. It is almost as if last month was all played in fast forward and then since the ceasefire, we are moving in ultra slow motion. For the last month, I just wanted everything to end. Now I don’t know where to begin. For the last month, I would purposefully try and numb myself because I was too afraid to feel everything. Today I am begging for my feelings to return because without them, I cannot live.

After a month of stress and living in fear, everything has caught up with me. My throat hurts a lot and my stomach is a perpetual mess. The knots have not gone yet and its beginning to cause physical damage. I am down, down, down. I couldn’t lift a finger to type. I couldn’t answer my phone calls. It was so difficult to wake up in the morning (and I’m usually Mrs. super positive!).

I guess it has all hit us one way or another - things are never going to be the same again. We cannot live the lives we had a few months ago.

We have to live better. Somehow, if that makes any sense.

I have been having the worst of nightmares. I don’t know why I’m getting them now. Before, I would give anything for a good night’s rest. For a quiet night. Now that I am sleeping, finally, I have allowed myself to return to the dreamworld. But it’s not a very nice place at the moment. It is full of fears and worries … and so many dead people.

I don’t know if I could handle war again. I don’t know how it is that I am still alive. I don’t know if I could do it all over again. Please, I don’t want to.

The aftermath

There were mass burials held this past week. So many bodies had been left to rot because no one could access them before. Now they are being buried.

Families are wondering why … why?

Many people are getting sick. There is a new virus going around. I heard it has something to do with the toxins coming out of the damaged buildings plus the dead bodies. It could be from the oil spill, or from the tanks that burned for three weeks covering Beirut in a black smog. The virus lasts for a few days. Its symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea and very high temperature.

On the day of the ceasefire, many people began the return to their homes. They crossed the rivers by foot when necessary, they were so determined to get home … to see if they still had a home. Nasrallah announced that he was going to fix all the houses for free, and that he would provide money to pay for accommodation for people who had lost their homes, while he fixed their old homes.

There are cluster bombs everywhere. They dropped cluster bombs on us. There are so many that didn’t explode. They are so, so dangerous.

In Dahiye the other day, people put up banners on top of the rubble of the buildings. The banner read: Made in the USA.

The oil spill

We have spent this last week trying to clean up our beaches. We were shoveling polluted sand and setting up absorbant “boomers” to capture the oil that is still spilling in from the water onto the beach. It has been physically demanding work. We went down wearing masks, gloves and protective clothing under the summer heat, shoveling sand off the beach and putting it into a big pile that would be later moved/contained. The ministry of environment has been slow to act. So, we, the civilians, as always, are taking care of our beautiful country.

The oil has been in our waters and on our beach for five weeks now. It is the worst environmental disaster Lebanon has ever seen. In most oil spills, the spill is cleaned up within 72 hours. It has been five weeks in Lebanon and we have yet to see a proper clean up process. A lot of the oil is now so deep into the sand and rocks, it will take years and years to clean up. A lot of the oil sunk and has now settled on the sea bed. This is almost impossible to clean. A lot of the oil in the water has now broken into small globs, like a mirror that has been smashed into shards, making it also almost impossible to clean.

I wonder why. Why did the Israelies target a power plant? There were no Hizuballah fighters hiding there. It was no where near Hizuballah territory. This power plant is located only 30km south of Beirut in an area called Jiye. Jiye is where all our great beach spots are. Jiye is a touristic spot. Jiye is where all the girls flaunt their new g-string bikinis and all the boys flex their hard-earned muscles. Jiye is where we take Tapi to on Sundays to play with her ball on the beach. Jiye is where we somehow run into the same people we were hanging out with the night before. Jiye is where we somehow continue the conversations from the night before over an ice cold beer. Jiye today, however, is black, dark and toxic.

Did they do this on purpose? Part of the plan to wreck economic damage on the country? Ruin our tourist season, knowing that at this time of the year, the current moves north, away from Israel?

Please, this is just too much. Today, as I was on the beach, redistributing the boomers that are soaked in this heavy fuel oil, dragging them across the beach, I caught myself wondering how on Earth I was ever going to get pregnant now.

Rriends

Maya had her chemotherapy session and she did really well with it. She has been very positive and is determined to stay in Lebanon now more than ever.

not friends

There has already been a breach of the ceasefire from the Israeli side. I wonder if it was reported out there in the West. There was an air raid on Baalbeck a few days ago. This UN resolution is really fragile.

Imagine it was the other way around. Imagine the Lebanese army was occupying Israel, blowing up the country, conducting air raids as it sees fit, even after a ceasefire has been called. Imagine it was that way around. Imagine what the world would be saying and doing.

Why is it that Israel has a green light for everything?

Why is it that Israel defines itself through violence and terror?

Afterthought

Our generation is a beautiful one. We are all connected, somehow - online, at least. We have tools our father and mothers did not have. These tools should help us to understand each other better. I really believe that we have the power to change things. We are living in a beautiful era of telecommunications and global understanding.

A cold war can not exist anymore.

To all who have been posting comments

I am sorry i have not been able to respond to you all … I guess I’m not much of a “blogger”, but rather see this as a sort of online diary. It is difficult for me to respond to most of your questions. I am not a politician. I don’t understand how their minds work.

For those leaving beautiful messages, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have become part of my everyday being. I have come to recognize so many of you now, and often look forward to your comments. They give me strength. Thank you.

I may not be posting as often as I was before because really, there is so much work to be done now. Being online these days is a sort of luxury. I am sorry if any of you were worried by my absence. Thank you so much for thinking of me.

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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/.