Another Update from Beirut

The coast road from Beirut to Khalde bombed by an Israeli air strike, July 20, 2006. (MaanImages/Raoul Kramer)


Evacuation is not the solution. Just stop the bombing and then no one has to go.

I would say that the biggest issues on my mind today is what is going to happen to Beirut after all the foreigners are shipped out? On tv and online, I’m seeing thousands of people fleeing the country. Where are you all going?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I can finally say that I had a total breakdown today. It really hit me hard. I was crying all day… And I’m not ashamed to share this with you.

I have been helping foreigners leave. Two already gone. One tomorrow. And one that keeps postponing her departure… She doesn’t want to leave. Her parents have pleaded for her to leave, but she loves Beirut as much as I do…

What happens when they are gone?

When the US and Europe evacuate all their citizens will they then give Israel another “green light week” or even month of bombing. Will they then finally go for the all out Beirut attack?

Beirut is nothing without her foreigners. Please don’t leave.

So, I cried and cried… Because I felt an incredible wave of fear and sadness take over my mind. I have not been sleeping. Combine fear and lack of sleep and you get one big breakdown.

Church bells are ringing now telling me it’s 3am. In about an hour I will hear the mosques singing to me. Only in Beirut. I love Beirut.

I got a lot of emails today from people in England. They said it was really really hot. My husband said that if this war doesn’t kill us, global warming will. Hehe.. I did manage to laugh today.

Spent the whole day working to bring international media to our peaceful demonstration tomorrow. I hope they show up and I hope it remains peaceful. It is so important that the world sees what is really going on. I can not thank you all enough for the media contacts you have been sending my way. It is proving to be a small miracle. Thank you. Thank you so much.

I feel like I’m in a WWII movie right now. there is a loud propeller sounding plane flying around. It is so loud. What is it doing? I wonder if this noise is similar to what the Jews were hearing back then.. How frightened they must have felt. Hearing these loud sounds, and not knowing if this was going to be their last breath. … So, what I don’t understand is why they are doing it to us now? My Israeli neighbors… Violence can only bring violence… Please ask your government to stop. How can a people who have already had this, do it to someone else?

Though this Israeli aggression right now is of the most brutal kind, I think that it is so important that we retain our dignity tomorrow at the demonstration. The last thing the world should see is Arabs burning flags.

My eyes are stinging and the computer screen is blurry…. If only I could sleep.. I would sleep…

I also cried so much today when I found the catalog of the art exhibit I curated that took place last month. Last month lies in a different universe now. The show targeted young Lebanese women artists. it was all about providing a platform for a new generation of artists… What is to become of them now? Some of their work is still in the gallery..

I called so many different friends today, crying to them over the phone.. Apologizing for crying so much… But I guess I had to let it out. Just wanted to speak with people incase this was the last day I could actually do so. Phone lines in the south have been cut, people are stranded.. No way to hear from them. No way to know if they are alive. No way to get to them.

One friend was trying to instruct me on how to find a shelter near my house since we don’t have one in our house. I almost threw up. I don’t want to have to go around my neighborhood asking people if they have a shelter. Apparently you then get your own blankets, candles, mosquito coils, etc and store them there… For when it happens. I almost threw up from fear. Then I called my other friend and he told me he was sitting in his room listening to Enya. He is stuck in the suburbs/mountains. Yesterday the Israelis blew up a huge gas reserve near his house. Glad to see they are hitting Hizuballah so well. In areas they don’t exist. And my friend, so close to the burning site, has only the option to sit back and drown out the sounds of taunting flames with elevator music.

..wow, just realized I have no idea what day it is today. Did the gas blow up yesterday or was it the day before?

What does it matter… Everything is blowing up.

My friend told me about a bartender today who has not been able to speak with his family since this whole thing started. They were in the south. He has no idea if they are alive. His parents have a house in Dahiye (Beirut suburb where they bombed)… He made a run over today to see if he could grab his passport. It is such a huge risk to go anywhere near Dahiye! When he got to his home he realized that he would never be able to see his passport again, his building no longer existed. This bartender is stuck in Beirut for eternity.

What is this madness… Tell me why I shouldn’t cry.

And I watch the people leave.

Lebanese and foreigners..

All going…

What is going to happen when they all leave?

What is going to happen to Beirut?

What is going to happen to me?

I am now going to stuff some cotton in my ears and try and get some sleep. Big day tomorrow, wish us luck.

…and I have still not learnt to hate.

With love, Zena el-Khalil
Beirut, 4:13 am

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. She currently lives in Beirut. Her blog, documenting her writing from Beirut, is located at http://beirutupdate.blogspot.com/.

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