Diaries: Live from Lebanon

A Resistance to War

Last week, I made my first trip to South Lebanon since the war began. Having traveled a fifth of the world, and been present during “wars” in Iraq, Palestine, and New York - I can honestly say that I have never seen such complete devastation in my entire life. The only thing that even comes close are the pictures I’ve seen from World War II. Much of South Lebanon simply lies in ruin. In the South, Israeli warplanes occasionally break the sound barrier, rattling people as they fly off on God knows what missions. Israeli drones constantly fly overhead. The low, insistent hum of their engines serves as a continual reminder that Lebanon is not yet safe. 

Smoke and Resolutions

Two days ago, my mother and I watched a building disappear. We had been taking a walk around our house in a mountain above southern Beirut when we saw it - the mad cluster of life, mediated through concrete buildings of different heights, starting at the coastline and spilling inwards. The city. It lay there, exposed. At first it was difficult for my American mother to discern where Beirut “proper” ended and its southern suburbs began. It all looks the same from a distance, especially from an elevated one. 

This will probably be my last letter to you

This will probably be my last letter to you. I will miss you all. Some of you I never met, but I feel that you are all so close to me. More than that, you probably already know it — without you I would not have made it throughout this hell. You were there by my side and that made me stronger. Every day, you gave more meaning to all this — peoples’ stories were heard, peoples’ suffering was shared. This was what I could do for my people: tell some of their stories. Knowing that you would listen, knowing that you would care made the whole difference. 

The last day of attack, the first day of the unknown

It is 7:45 in the morning, Ras Beirut. Two explosions wake us up. We run to the TV set. “Is it on Dahiyeh? No, they sound like the flyers’ explosions.” Nothing on the news. Then another, louder explosion and paper rain starts to fall on us. All the neighborhood are out on their verandas looking at them as they drop from the sky. “What is in there?” A father shouts at his son to go get one. Two workers pick one up, they start to read out loud: “To the Lebanese: We would like to inform you that we are going back to hit Hizbullah, Syria and Iran! Signed, Israeli Defence Force.” 

The War's Deathbed

It is 3 am in Beirut. The war is scheduled to keel over and give up the ghost in five hours. Those of us attending the deathbed scene are full of questions and doubts. Might we finally grasp the purpose of this war in its concluding moments the way we find, in 19th-century novels, the meaning of a character’s life in the death-bed scene? Or might we learn that the war is as meaningless as it seems? A few hours ago, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced that Israel will negotiate for the release of the two prisoners captured on July 12, something Hezbollah was ready to do 33 days ago. 

I was crying and shouting, but nobody was answering

Mahmoud Zeidan with Lens on Lebanon conducted interviews with citizens of southern Lebanon after they had been evacuated to hospitals. They and their doctors tell of indiscriminate bombing, the targeting of civilians and the use of unknown and exotic weaponry. Ahmad Ibrahim Hachim: “I lost my wife (31 years) and my three sons (2 years, 8 years and 12 years). My brother lost three sons (10 months, 7 years and 11 years). My third brother lost his two daughters (2 years and 4 years), and I lost my father (67 years). My cousin also lost his wife and five sons.” 

On the eve of ceasefire

This morning, I woke up with a smile on my face. My husband had jumped on top of me, kissing me all over my face, saying that the war was going to end, that the UN voted, that things were going to get better now. I had only fallen asleep two hours earlier, but jumped out of bed with a kind of energy I hadn’t had in over a month. It was a good morning. Everything changes this weekend. Things are supposed to come to some kind of end. One way or another. On the eve of ceasefire, I have mixed emotions. I am grateful that things are coming to and end. However, the real work now lies ahead of us. It’s not just about rebuilding — lives, country and morale. It’s also about moving forward positively on all sides. 

Beirut, the Incredible Shrinking City

Before yesterday, an Israeli missile slammed into an old, unused lighthouse in Beirut, near the Lebanese American University. Debris from the attack found its way to my father’s office building. Inside it was my father. When he left his office, he found a paper on the ground that warned him that he was in danger, and it was due to Hezbollah’s, not Israel’s, rockets. All over Beirut papers fluttered down to the streets, arriving in pieces sometimes (like snowflakes, Ahmad said) - perhaps exhausted from their long journey to the ground from the heights of an Israeli warplane. As the papers neared the streets cars stopped, bodies stooped, and people read. 

How it felt yesterday: The ultimate oppression

It is a feeling of ultimate oppression that is reigning in the streets of Beirut; ultimate oppression that turned a victory into a resolution for our colonization; ultimate oppression not only by the Israeli war machine but also by the international community that offered Israel what it could not take by force. Ultimate oppression for being witness to the defeat of the Israeli army but not allowed to live the victory. It was the quietest yet most painful morning in Beirut since the beginning of the war. It started with news about the UN resolution against Lebanon - the resolution that will end the resistance and leave us easy prey to the fully armed state of Israel. 

The struggle for balance

It has been much harder to write from here than from Lebanon or Syria. And I realize now that this is what I need to tell you all today. Especially today - because the reasons I haven’t been writing are I think an example of the obstacles we face as loving, caring people in this violent, angry world. I cried all day when I arrived in Jordan - for many reasons - but mainly because it felt so removed, so distant not just geographically, but mentally and emotionally, from the devastation being wreaked on Lebanon. Every day since, I have struggled here with the balance that plagues so many of us: How to participate in both our own daily lives and the world that often seems so distant from them.