Letters from Beirut: Grasping on to normalcy

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. 

Don't leave us alone in Beirut

“So it’s Saturday. The day we fear. It seems the Israelis will have to postpone some of whatever plans they might have: the evacuations are not done yet.” Continuing her reports from Beirut, Hanady Salman recounts the stories of those taking advantage of a brief lull in Israeli bombing to return to their homes in the heavily hit southern suburb. “Some of my friends who live in the Southern Suburb went there yesterday to check on their houses and bring some of their stuff. They weren’t able to find their homes. Whole neighborhoods are completely destroyed.” 

Why We Are Staying

It will be an emotional scene tomorrow saying “yalla bye” to our friends who are evacuating from this nasty little war. Most swear they will return. The campus of the American University of Beirut (AUB) will seem a different place then, though it is hard to imagine what it will be like. A handful of non-Lebanese faculty and staff have decided to remain. Betsy and I are among them. We have been together since 1972, and we made the decision together to stay together here. What could we be thinking? We do feel anger at what is happening to Lebanon. We don 

"Every night the bombing starts at ten past one"

“The Israelis love to start their raids at ten past one, sometimes at five past one. That’s when I’m in bed. Every night, when they start, I rush out to the balcony to see where the smoke comes from. I live on the twelfth floor. Every night, when I go out, I see the moon, my lovely moon, shyly hiding behind the clouds caused by the fires that are surrounding my Beirut.” Hanady Salman recounts her experiences and thoughts as her family from the south arrive in Beirut after a harrowing escape from the Israeli offensive. As the bombardment of Lebanon continues, villages in the south are without electricity, food, water or contact with the outside world. 

Another Update from Beirut

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? 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? Will they then finally go for the all out Beirut attack? Beirut is nothing without her foreigners. Please don’t leave. 

The fear is growing in Beirut

“The fear is growing in Beirut. Beirut is sad, scared, wounded and … left alone,” writes Hanady Salman. “Today has been an exceptionally calm day: the US marines are evacuating US citizens. By tomorrow, the country will be left to its own people and Israeli shelling. In Beirut, by Saturday, there will only be those who have nowhere else to go and the very few who deliberately decided to stay. There were also be those who managed to flee the south and the southern suburb of the capital. What will happen to us on Saturday? Worse than not knowing what will happen is knowing that whatever the Israelis decide to do, nobody wants or can stop them.” 

Reconnecting the Displaced: An Update from Lebanon

It is Tuesday and Mariam has a smile on her face this afternoon; something that I haven’t seen since Saturday. She finally heard from her family. They are safe, she says, after a hard trip from Tyre to Sidon. She has been staying at my house since Thursday morning, trapped in Beirut after the roads to her native village Siddiqine, just 12 kilometers west of Tyre were blocked. Her only alternative refuge was an apartment in Haret Hreik, too close to Hizbullah’s headquarters to be safe. I am relieved that she is here, out of harm’s way in my house that now hosts many other friends. I think of her family, this one is not their first escape. They fled Siddiqine last week and stayed with relatives in Tyre. 

Cruising out of Beirut

In the early evening, we watched from our apartment balcony as a huge white cruise ship glided past west Beirut toward Cyprus. Aboard were several groups of evacuees, including a number of US students from American University of Beirut. A few minutes later, another colossal cruise ship came by in the opposite direction; we heard it was a French ship that would be taking out more evacuees tomorrow. It looked like time for a Caribbean festival. At our apartment were gathered a group of about 10 AUB faculty and staff, and one young Filipino woman. The phone rang: it was an AUB official who needed immediate answers. The time had arrived: each of us had to decide whether to stay or go. 

Day 6 of the siege: Notes on solidarity, Hezbollah, and Israel

Most of Beirut is in the dark. I dare not imagine what the country is like. Today was a relatively calm day, but like most calm days that come immediately after tumultuous days, it was a sinister day of taking stock of damage, pulling bodies from under destroyed buildings, shuttling injured to hospitals that have the capacity to tend to their wounds more adequately. The relative calm allowed journalists to visit the sites of shelling and violence. The images from Tyre, and villages in the south are shocking. 

A Beiruti's drawn diaries: "How can I show sound in a drawing?"

The following drawings are by Mazen Kerbaj, a Beiruti comic author, painter, and musician who was prompted to start his “Kerblog” after “two years of laziness” when Israel began to bomb his country and city. With the dark humor characteristic of his blog entries, he writes, “I’ll begin then by thanking Israel, who burned in one night two years of efforts to avoid getting myself trapped in this adventure. Good job guys! Especially the airport party. And the bridges. No way to leave the country. Nothing else to do than this blog.” His entries onto Kerblog are a heady mix of despair, wit, and the determination to persevere.