Rasha Salti

The Bougainvillea Are in Full, Glorious Bloom

This siege note is dedicated to Akram. Akram was my first friend from Saida. I had visited Saida before I met him, but it became a whole other story after I went there with him, and after I became familiar with his work. Akram is also one of the constitutional elements of my life in Beirut. Our friendship is peculiar because it has carved a world specific to it, a language of its own, replete with metaphors, a stock of memories, and piles and piles of images and stories. I like to think of it as a space, a retreat, like a small interior garden where a deeply anchored quietude prevails. 

"There was a massacre at Qana"

Coming into consciousness of, or bearing witness to, a massacre only a few kilometers removed from one’s being (or home), feels very much like the experience of being in the proximity of a very powerful explosion only at an extremely, extremely slowed motion. Taking stock of the information on time, place, and the toll of victims, watching televised transmission of rescue workers piling a kindergarden in rigor mortis, is identical to the astounding sensation of the air being sucked from all around, that typically precedes the explosion. And at some point, it all sinks in … 

1,500 souls in Bint Jbeil, Nasrallah, and the "New Middle East"

My siege notes are beginning to disperse. I write disjointed paragraphs but I cannot discipline myself to write everyday. Despair overwhelms me, along with a profoundly debilitating sense of uselessness and helplessness. Writing does not always help; communicating is not always easy, finding the words, deciding which stories should be included, and which should not. The experience of this siege is so emotionally and psychically draining, the situation is so politically tenuous. I miss the world. I miss life. I miss myself. People around me also go through these ups and downs, but I find them generally to be more resilient, more steadfast, more courageous than I. 

The Siege Continues: Evacuations of Americans Begin

“Cruise beyond your dreams” read posters pasted on the walls of the huge air-conditioned tent that functions as the final stage in processing the evacuees before they board the ship. The ship, as if someone wanted to amuse Edward Said for a brief minute, is called Orient Queen. It is part of a Lebanese-owned fleet of commercial cruises, AMC (Abu Merhi Cruises) and contracted by the US embassy to shlep American passport holders to Cyprus. Holders of American passports stranded in the south were shuttled by busses earlier that day to the port of Beirut. They were greeted by US embassy personnel, a small contingent of US Marines and Orient Queen crew. 

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. 

Day 5 of the siege

A quiet night in Beirut, more or less, compared to what the inhabitants of Tyre and the south and the Beqaa and Tripoli experienced. They were shelled from the air and sea with little respite. Tyre is in a tragically dire situation. 30,000 are displaced; the mayor was on TV screaming for help, his voice choking with despair. They are out of supplies, they have more wounded than they can handle and the city’s reserves in fuel and other basic amenities are nearly depleted. (The IDF wants to “clear” three provinces in the South: Tyre, Marja’uyun and Bin Jbeil, in preparation for the “20 km buffer zone.”) The port of Tripoli was bombed, the port of Beirut was bombed.