They Have No Wine

We visited Qana six weeks ago. To get there from Beirut, you pass through Tyre and then head southeast. The village clusters about a hilltop less than eight miles from Lebanon’s southern border, and about thirty miles from Nazareth. There is a scholarly debate about whether this was the site of the Wedding at Cana, where Jesus is said to have performed his first miracle, creating wine from water. The Roman historian Eusebius and St. Jerome both believed this was the place. There is no doubt that Qana was an early Christian site. For those schooled in Hollywood movies and religious picture books, this is a Biblical-looking landscape that exceeds all expectations. 

We have lost our faith

I have been feeling numb for a while; the overwhelming news in the past few days has focused on the displaced, the searing stories of people who fled in fear and left all their possessions behind. Calls on TV stations and on the radio of people who lost their loved ones … Stories of their anxiety about homes they left behind … Scenes of people murdered on the roads as they fled … And stories of the destruction they saw on those roads. I get confused: Am I seeing and hearing the stories of Palestinians who fled their homes in fear in 1948? No: I am in Beirut, it is 2006, and these are the stories of the Lebanese who have been rendered refugees, but by the same perpetrators of the 1948 displacement: the State of Israel. 

Chasing oil and coming home to another massacre

I had a really bad headache all day … we were driving on the coastal road, stopped every few minutes to document. The smell was so strong. When I got home, I blew my nose and the tissue was all black. I made sure to take a really good shower. We were going to send out the press release, pics and video today, but we got even worse news … There had been a massacre in Qana early this morning. History repeats itself. The Israelis dropped a bomb on a building that was sheltering refugees. The news at this point is that 55 were killed. It was only a few years ago that the Israelis did the same thing, except last time, it was a UN building that they hit and over 100 people were killed. 

Islands in Arabia

Sitting on my balcony staring down at the Sea Gate of the American University of Beirut, and to the Mediterranean beyond, I am in no danger. The bombs are in the distance. The fighting is in the south. In Tel Aviv, Israeli citizens are staring at the same sea, in perfect safety. The missiles are landing in Haifa and farther north. And those following this war from living rooms around the world are in utter cocoons of safety. Most of us are separated from the violence that under girds our world and its order. But are we safe from fear? And does our fear make us wish for an order more and more strongly under girded? 

While I was building dreams, they were preparing my destruction

So, they’ve been planning these attacks all along. Why wasn’t I informed? For the last six years, I have been making plans. I have been building dreams. I got married. I bought a home. I painted. I exhibited. I made plans with people … for them to come here. I invested time, emotions, money, ideas, love … into Lebanon. For the last six years, I have been building bridges. From Beirut to New York. From Beirut to everywhere. For the last six years, I have made new friends. I have met with people. I have made contacts. I have made committments. For the last six years, I promised people things. At work, at home, with friends … 

Why I'm not leaving Beirut

From my balcony this afternoon, I watched as French, British, and American evacuees boarded chartered cruise ships in Beirut’s port about a half-mile west of my apartment. And over the last few days, while bombs and artillery pummeled the southern part of the city, I made the decision not to leave Lebanon. Explosions rock my building even as I write this, but I’m staying put. I’m not crazy, and I harbor no death wish. This is simply the rational decision of someone who has built a life in Lebanon, who believes in this place and its ability to bounce back. I choose to bet on Beirut. 

Criminalizing Civilians

After the IDF’s devastating losses at Bint Jabeil on Wednesday, the Washington Post Foreign Service reported this statement from former Mossad officer Yossi Alpher: “I dare say, based on what we’ve seen so far, these may be the best Arab troops we’ve seen so far.” An Nahar today reported that, Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon proclaimed: “Everyone who is still in south Lebanon is linked to Hizbullah, we have called on all who are there to leave.” He then suggested that “maximum firepower has to be used.” As justification, he cited the meeting in Rome, from which “we have in effect obtained the authorization to continue our operations until Hisbullah is no longer present in southern Lebanon.” 

Not a particularly good day

Yesterday was not a particularly good day. I was completely devastated, and had a lot ot do. First I had to take care of Oum Mostafa, a 75-year-old Egyptian lady who cleans houses in Lebanon since I’m guessing the ’70s. My friend Leila said we’d better get her out of here, she doesn’t have to go through all this. She’s not feeling well and she’s getting poorer every day because no one wants to hire an old lady who can barely move to clean their house. I don’t think you want me to describe to you the room (is it a room? It’s something with a roof on the top of it) where she lives. 

How many children, how many children

Sorry my writing has been so sporadic. I can’t seem to get myself to write what is going around me. I don’t seem to have words, and now it is all sound bites … bombing, destruction, deaths, counts, types of explosions, what they have destroyed next, how many children, how many children, how many children. I was at a vigil yesterday to say they should stop killing children. Lots of press, no people — exhausted and fearful already. And they haven’t even started on us randomly. The southern suburbs are getting flatter and flatter by the day as the death toll rises. Hospitals are filled to capacity with shortages on everything already. 

A self-conscious trip to the supermarket

I finally went to the supermarket. I have been dreading it … didn’t want to see empty shelves. Didn’t want to see people queuing. What I did see: shelves beginning to empty. A priest buying a lot of beer. Long lines. I have never been so self-conscious buying food before. My pride would not let me overstock. I saw long life milk. My hand reached out for a bottle, and then another, and then a third. As soon as I saw them in my trolly, I took one out and put it back on the shelf, and then the second, and finally the third. I did not buy milk. I was so self-conscious about it. I thought to myself, better leave it for a mother who has kids to buy it.