Letters from Beirut: Grasping on to normalcy

Destruction in the Lebanese capital of Beirut 22 July 2006. Israel air strikes have destroyed much of the Lebanese infrastructure and transport network. (MaanImages/Raoul Kramer)

13:30 Saturday, 15 July 2006

Hitting Dahiyeh continually now … all the roads across the border are closed.

People in the south are without fuel, power or telephones. They are soon to run out of food if they are in the cities. Those in the rural areas are able to live off of the farms. The generator companies and warehouses have been hit to prevent life from continuing as normal as well.

The Bekka and Broumana were hit this afternoon as well.

We had a few hours of peace in Beirut but now the ships are blasting.

There are more and more Israeli ships along the coast. They are even coming inside the Beirut Ports.

The French Embassy evacuated a large number of nationals over the land border a few hours ago. Many more are waiting to leave but the border is now inaccessible. They are talking of sending in a ship that the Israeli sea barricade will allow passage.

22:00 Sunday, 16 July 2006

There is an unsettling calm in the air … streets are abandoned … the blows are in the distance only … the airport, Saida, Jiye, Chouf and the Bekka are being hit like nothing else. The Dahiye is abandoned so they are going to the places where they think everyone evacuated to but still hitting the same spots, though, to see if there are any underground shelters where people are hiding.

Earlier today I ventured out and went to the grocery store. It was full of many things but nothing local. Lemons are hard to find - they come from the south; dairy products come from the Bekka valley to the east and bread from the bakeries that are open and have stores of wheat. Meat is getting old and there is absolutely no fresh fish. They are stocked with canned goods, water, alcohol, cleaning products, chips and other non-perishables.

I had a lemonade and a strawberry tart at the only cafe open in Achrafieh with my cousin. We ended up on the French evening news showing that we are still going on with enjoying life. If you saw that clip, just imagine the rest of the city like a ghost town around it.

Had dinner with my Dad at Aunt Yolond’s down the hill. Michele got a wild boar and made boar shawarma … believe me, Gilles, I was thinking of you!

Anyways, gonna catch up with the news since I can’t see the action here from Sassine anymore…

Sunday morning, 16 July 2006

Sunday church bells fill the air, along with an offshore wind blowing through the streets. We had a few hours of silence from the bombings until just a few minutes ago. Last night was the hardest one so far here in Beirut. The Dahiye is still burning after continual air and sea raids. They hit the Hazmieh Bridge around midnight last night as well.

As much as we may have seen here in Beirut, it is still nothing compared to the south. Sour/Tyre is devastated the death and destruction is hard to stomach. It is my favorite place in the south - the oldest inhabited city in the world, with incredible ruins, art, beaches and most of all the most relaxed and welcoming of people. The sea turtle reserve where I work is down there. It’s a secret I have been keeping from a lot of people because it is my safe haven and I did not want it to get crowded with people I may be trying to get a breather from. The women there are OK as of now. They are still taking data on a daily basis, monitoring the two different species of sea turtle that are nesting there now. I dream of the day that I can go back to the Orange House and see everyone there and breath the fresh air and chill on the sandy beach.

All the radar stations were hit along the coast so those who hear that precious Batroun was hit, don’t worry it was just the radar, no casualties.

The ports all up the coast were annihilated last night. Maaser Chouf and Kfraya were hit as well as Akkar…the list goes on. The Israeli military are cutting Lebanon up into little isolated pieces creating an archipelago of communities.

Quiet again …

We are lucky here at my uncle’s; we still have internet, phones and our generators still have fuel and are running fine. We are far enough away from the Dahiye that the glass does not shatter and high enough on the hill, we can see the whole city and see exactly where each bomb hits. There’s something comforting about being up high and being able to see where it goes.

The US Department of State is sending out an assessment team to Beirut to see how an evacuation of US citizens would be orchestrated. They will keep us informed. It is not a mandatory evacuation - it is just for those who want to leave.

I’ll keep you updated … gonna try to get some rest now while the calm lasts …

6:30 Monday, 17 July 2006

Four nights of no sleep, being glued to the TV seeing all the live shots from the Lebanese media, checking in on loved ones after every new site hit … etworking for aid to those in need, and now trying to figure out how to get out have caught up with me. Actually fell asleep with it all going on and woke up to the blasts in the Dahiyeh around 6 am … people still have their car alarms on. I wish they would turn them off because they go off with every explosion …

Last night it was not Beirut that got the brunt of the wrath - rather, new spots scattered all over the country. It was nothing like Saturday evening here. Instead, the fury ricocheted.

I’m still trying to filter all the information and deal with what we are receiving and not with what everyone is predicting will occur. Taking it day by day, dealing with what we see, otherwise we will drive ourselves crazy.

Just wanted to check in. We are fine; don’t really feel like writing today … will leave you with a poem written by a very special friend. I think he can say it better at this point.


The hum won’t cease, nor will they let the fire.

The Constancy of it, the peaks of blows, spread us out like butter and makes

Us numb, us tired, us drained, us dull.

My skull tries to ingest this new daily vibration,

To integrate its absurdity into my perception.

In vain for I can’t find voices outside to spark hope nor reason.

Outside belligerence and blindness are at order,

Speeches and oral masturbation of ignorance.

How much more will they let the monster grow?

Is there any white whiter than this “Carte” it was given?

Vetoes and Taboos and sedative diplomacy

Have rendered hope grim, outside, in

My veins pulsate frustration and disgust,

And my impotent hands taste of rust.

Is it my blood? Or the dream of the blood I wish to spill …

Suddenly … After the calm … The human … The humane …

I find myself insane … A helpless new ring in the chain

Of terror … Of hatred … Of violence

Of men.

— Christophe Katrib

Ooh, there go the church bells coupled by the crescendo of the Israeli planes. I wish I had a recording studio. I actually miss the call to prayer from the Bliss Street mosque. Yes, I know it is crazy, but even with the loudspeaker blasting from Snack Faysal, there was some normalcy to it all.

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  • BY TOPIC: Israel attacks Lebanon (12 July 2006)

    Renee Codsi is a 29-year-old Lebanese American who came to Beirut in June 2002. Codsi is a Marine Biologist and International Educator teaching environmental sciences and outdoor education at the American Community School of Beirut and coordinating an environmental and education program sponsored by NASA called GLOBE (Global Learning through Observations While Benefiting the Environment) in Lebanon.