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Blog: Calling Beirut From New York City

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Nouhad Moawad left Beirut on July 2 for an internship at Women's eNews. Majoring in translation at Beirut's Lebanese University, the tri-lingual (English, French and Arabic) Moawad wished to spend the summer immersed in English and New York City.

Subhead: 
<P>Nouhad Moawad left Beirut on July 2 for an internship at Women's eNews. Majoring in translation at Beirut's Lebanese University, the tri-lingual (English, French and Arabic) Moawad wished to spend the summer immersed in English and New York City.</P>
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Nouhad Moawad

September 7, 2006: The Winner in Lebanon Is Who?

 

People have been saying that since the war stopped three weeks ago in Lebanon. On one hand Israel claims the victory. On the other hand, Hezbollah claims the victory too.

How could this war create two winners?

Each side has announced itself as a winner relating to its own criterion of "winning the war."

Perhaps, it is a partial winning. Israel declares it destroyed a large number of Hezbollah's arms depots. Hezbollah says it resisted the Israeli military.

Many of my friends are convinced that both sides in the war are losers: One side has failed to destroy the target; the other brought damage to its country and brought Lebanon back to a state of destruction much like the end of the civil war.

They add that only Lebanon is the victim of this non-sense war.

Some of my friends have fled the country.

"We don't have bread to eat in here and it is not anymore our country," one friend told me.

Some can't leave because they don't have money to buy the airline ticket and they are not able to get a visa. A few have decided to stay in Lebanon and work for it.

A good friend of mine told me that there are 8,000 undetonated bombs in Lebanon.

"Imagine that you are walking in a field of bombs. This is not an imagination in Lebanon, it is a reality."

My classmates don't know when college will start again.

One of my friends said: "It is really ridiculous how they claimed to open the Lebanese University and the public schools starting November. I wonder how students will be able to get into their classes through these dangerous and broken roads."

She added: "The traffic in Lebanon now is a nightmare. You need about four hours to get from Byblos to Beirut. Plus, the bus ticket's price has increased from 500 Lebanese Pounds (about 33 cents) to 7,000 Lebanese Pounds (about $4.75)." She also said: "It is ridiculous how Lebanese politicians are busy attacking each other and forgetting the real catastrophe that took Lebanon."

Lebanon and innocent people are real losers. It is a devastating loss of a nation's vision of its future.

 

August 21, 2006: Leaving One by One

On Saturday, I called my friend who is studying psychology at my college, the Lebanese University. She asked me if she should stay.

"I am so lost," she told me. "On one hand, I don't want to leave the country in this way as if we are kicked out. I don't want to leave it to strangers. It is my country not theirs. On the other side, I am afraid that the war starts again then time will stop. Everything will be destroyed. Schools and colleges will be closed. Food, fuel, electricity will run out. I want to continue my studies. I want to open psychoanalysis clinic. I want to live a normal life as all the people. We have been living here during peace; it is not fair to leave it now. It is a very hard decision to make!!"

I couldn't say a word, I agree with all that she said. I listened to her and I was feeling her anxiety.

Then, on Sunday, I signed on MSN. My friend who is a volunteer in the Red Cross told me that my ex-roommate had traveled to Australia two days before with her parents and two brothers.

She is about to finish her bachelor's degree in pediatric speech therapy. She had always told me she would never consider leaving Lebanon.

We have been friends since we sat near each other in 7th grade. We used to talk about our ambitions, Lebanon and many other things. Then in college, we shared the same room for two years. We did crazy things during that time, such as the chocolate "shopping" together, buying at least one of every kind available tat he nearest Aoun Supermarket.

We couldn't meet before my departure to New York City because she was preparing for her final exams. She phoned me with an apology, saying, "Hey the girl of the realized dreams!! You are realizing your dream to go to New York City as you told me since school. I am sorry I can't meet you because I am studying. I never changed my habit: I keep my studies to the last minute before the exams. But I will be waiting for you to tell me about your trip."

"Yes, sure!" I said and I laughed.

Now, she is not there anymore.

It seems that most my friends are either planning to leave Lebanon or they are already fleeing it.

Lebanon is losing its good and educated young people. Is that the goal of the war: to make Lebanon a place only for people who believe that war is the solution instead of dialogue and peace?

August 17, 2006: A Good Friend Leaves Home

Today, I got an e-mail from a close friend in her early 20s who lives near downtown Beirut.

She said she is traveling to Saudi Arabia this Saturday to her cousins. She will try to find a job there or somewhere else.

"The 1701 Resolution doesn't mention clearly that Hezbollah must give up its weapons," she said, referring the U.N. Security Council ceasefire agreement for Lebanon and Israel signed on Aug.13.

I knew she was planning to travel, but I couldn't believe she was leaving Lebanon.

We have been friends for six years, sharing interests in music, books, cultural events, civil society activities, politics and Lebanon.

She has been active in European Union youth projects and for women's rights and civil rights. Over the past three years she always seemed to be coming back from some international conference, or planning to attend another. The workshops were on globalization, media relations, conflict resolution. All of them were about serving Lebanon, making it a better place.

She was often so busy that we had trouble finding time together. Before my departure to New York City, we couldn't manage to arrange any time together. But it didn't matter, because she would be there when I returned. I never thought that I might come back and not find her still there.

I will miss her. I will miss talking to her and dreaming together of our Lebanon, the Lebanon of culture, of peace, of democracy and of human rights. She will always be a very good friend for me.

What did this war do? It couldn't eliminate Hezbollah. Instead it is pushing young Christian and Muslim moderate intellectuals out of the country. Is this is how we install democracy and freedom?

August 15: E-Mails Are Happy and Anxious

Sunday at midnight, the ceasefire between Hezbollah and Israel began after four weeks of war and destruction. My friends and my family are happy but they couldn't hide their anxiety for the future.

One of my classmates who is working now in a restaurant in Beirut sent this e-mail: "No more bombs for now!!! People are feeling free. Today was the first day since July 12, the restaurant was crowded."

Then, she added: "The refugees are going back to their villages in the South of Lebanon and in the southern suburbs of Beirut although Israel has warned them not to return before the arrival of the Lebanese army and the U.N. forces."

Another friend studying psychology told me on the phone: "We don't hear any more bombs! I feel relaxed a bit. But I am really afraid that the war will start again soon in case Hezbollah doesn't give up its weapons."

She added: "You can't imagine the destruction in Lebanon. Roads in the south were erased. Even the Zeus temple in Baalbeck, the famous Roman city, was badly harmed."

I'm unable to share the sense of relief that some of my friends are expressing. I remain very guarded, braced for more terrible news.

My attitude is shared by another friend who fled Beirut to the mountains surrounding the capital and is now back in the city. "Everybody claims the victory," she said in an e-mail. "But, what victory is that? I don't believe that the war ended, it will be back soon. Hezbollah doesn't look like it will abandon its weapons soon and Israel won't accept that. Lebanese people are stuck in the middle."

August 14, 2006: We're Both Lucky To Be Alive

On Saturday, I used my cell phone to reach a friend who is a supervisor in a school in Beirut. She fled the capital to her summer home in the north of Lebanon.

"I am lucky because I am still alive," she told me. "Yesterday, to change my mood, I visited my friends in Byblos. One hour after I left the town, the radio station's antenna was bombed. Its location is on the road that I took back to my house."

I found no words to express my feelings. All I said in reply was: "Please take care."

I went through a similar situation last summer. I was on a bus, by myself, going to an advocacy workshop camp in the mountains surrounding Beirut. The bus stopped so we could have lunch before the meeting in Zalka, a northern suburban of Beirut. Then we moved on. Two hours later, I learned that a bomb exploded near the restaurant where I was eating.

It is so mystical how events happen in life! As if we meant to deliver a message.

Time has saved my friend's life and mine as well.

August 11, 2006: Memories of Lebanon's Beaches

Yesterday, a friend of mine working for the Red Cross forwarded pictures of the Mediterranean beach--now called the "Black Sea" by Lebanese--at the ancient city of Byblos. I had seen pictures before of the oil-covered sands, but this time I was more shocked because there was a photo of the seashore I visited before my departure to New York City.

In late June, my friend, who is a college professor, suggested we meet on the Byblos beach. We both like the beach because the sound of the water, the blue sky, the warm sands and the salty air are all so relaxing.

We met at 10:30 on a sunny Saturday. The weather was perfect for the beach.

We settled in a strategic place where we could enjoy the sea and the view of the old city of Byblos with houses thousands of years old.

We hadn't been together for several months and we talked about nothing and everything.

We started exchanging opinions about the situation in Lebanon. We were thinking of a peaceful way to get rid of the Lebanese politicians who always fight for their own interests. We agreed that culture is the true way for real change and not politics.

We also spoke about the importance of the environment. Nature allows the human being to appreciate more the place she lives in and to have a healthier life.

Then, we discussed the situation in the Middle East, the nuclear capacity of Iran, the tragedy of Iraq, the Baath regime in Syria and the nonstop catastrophe in the Palestinian territories.

We were talking while sitting and walking on the sands. We were talking most of the time in English because he wanted to practice. He was scheduled to participate in an international colloquium in France a few days later about media and globalization.

I remember that the sea was so furious, with abnormally high waves. I joked: "I will never eat salt. I have had enough."

We also did the world tour in our imaginations. We would like to visit India, Japan, China and Iran.

We discussed philosophical topics too.

He told me, "I really like this beach. It reminds me of my childhood. When I was little, my mom used to bring us here with my sister and brothers. We used spend the whole day playing on the sands and swimming with the children of the town."

Then, we went to have lunch. In the restaurant, all the workers were young students in high school or in college. Before, most of the workers would be Syrians. I was so proud to see my country so young, active and energetic.

It was an unforgettable day enjoying the Lebanese beach with a very dear friend who is always an optimist for Lebanon. He always kept faith in it even through the bad times.

Now, the spilled fuel turned the sandy beach into a black ooze that will take 10 years to remove. But the blackness can't erase the memories of a great day.

 

August 10, 2006: Try, As Soon As Possible

 

Two days ago, I saw that the bombs had killed nearly 20 children in Sheyah, only 10 minutes away from the home of my good friend and classmate, the one who worked as a receptionist in a hotel until the airport was bombed. I called her on my cell phone and reached her. "Don't worry," she said. "I am in the mountains." Yet, I worry. Together, we would rush to her home between classes and check our e-mails because it was so close to our university. It is hard to think of a place where I once laughed with a friend that is now the scene of such destruction.

During the last few days, in other cell phone conversations with my friends or in e-mails from them, they all report being very depressed. "This war is making us suffer deep inside of us."

I am suffering deep inside too. News media show new pictures every day of the injured and the killed, mostly women and children. Every day, bombs are dropped, killing dozens of people. The most depressing photos for me are those of the fathers holding the dead bodies of their young children. Each photo reminds me of my own father and his love for me.

Transportation is getting harder and highways are very dangerous. A friend of mine living in Tripoli wrote me today in his e-mail: "Some Syrians are selling secretly fuel through Lebanese agents in Lebanon." He said many suspected that the Syrian fuels were causing damage to the cars, making the inoperable. "The food's prices are increasing so much because food is getting less," he added. Now, he writes, the streets and highways are filled not with cars but with people walking.

Many friends told me they are trying to flee to safety. One, a childhood friend living in my home town, wrote in an e-mail: "I am trying all the possible ways to flee the country to Canada." Another friend living in the center of Beirut told me: "I am trying to flee the country to Saudi Arabia." A third living in surrounding mountains of Beirut told me: "I am trying to flee the country to France."

As I read these e-mails, I worry. I know that the bridges and highways have been bombed; that it is nearly impossible to reach an embassy to get a visa or to reach an airport in Syria.

I write back: "Try, as soon as possible."

August 7, 2006: CNN Footage Sends Sadness to Brazil

Yesterday, I got an e-mail from a friend from University of Lebanon who had lived 20 minutes away from my family's house in the north of Lebanon but has been living in Brazil since February. She told me how she discovered the death of her friend by an Israeli missile.

"On Friday morning, I was watching CNN to see what the latest news in Lebanon was. A bridge linking the north of Lebanon to the Mount of Lebanon province was bombarded by Israeli missiles. I was looking at the photos of the burned cars. I noticed that one of the car's license plates was familiar to me, but I couldn't tell who was the owner. I called my sister who is stuck in Lebanon to assure me that everybody is fine there.

"Something was wrong. Her voice was sad, as if she was in a funeral. I asked her: 'What is wrong? What happened?' She couldn't tell me because she couldn't stop crying."

Later, I could understand that my friend, who was a 28-year-old man and who was an only child, passed away because of this Israeli rocket when he was going to his work at 7 a.m. as manager of a chicken restaurant in Jouniyeh, near the casino. His body is burned. I can't imagine that my friend died for no reason! It is unfair!! I can't believe that when I get back to Lebanon I won't find him. I can't imagine our Lebanon having the same tragedy as in Iraq or as in Palestine. It is enough!!

 

August 4, 2006: One Refugee's Story

 

This morning, I got an e-mail from a very dear friend. He is a hardworking man for intercultural dialogue in Lebanon and in the Middle East.

He wrote the story of a young refugee woman in Beirut. She was locked with other 15 family members in her uncle's house for 18 days and 18 nights without one minute of sleep, without contact with the outside, with little food and under heavy bombardment. Seven rockets directly hit the house where they were staying.

"The woman's story is the story of the injustice that a big part of the south Lebanese society has always faced," he said. "It is injustice from the Lebanese government which abandoned them to Hezbollah which imposed its law there for long time. It is injustice from Hezbollah which took their lands to establish its military basis and to launch rockets into Israel from these people's houses and roofs. It is injustice from Hezbollah who shoots on the innocent people in order to not let them run away from their bombarded villages. It is injustice from Israel to destroy whole villages. It is injustice from Israel to bomb all innocent people trying to escape. It is injustice from Hezbollah and Israel to open fire on people who are trying to have gas in order to flee South of Lebanon. It is another injustice from the Lebanese government for not reacting to rescue these people."

This young woman came with 200 people from the south to Beirut. Two cars were hit and the road took nine hours instead of the usual two hours. She came with her two brothers. Her mother and her other two brothers stayed in their South Lebanon village Rmeich in order to prevent the death of the whole family.

She was crying. "We lost everything: the farm, the land, the sheep… Everything is burned." My friend tried to assure her that this war will end in a couple of weeks and that they will get back to work to fix everything. She said: "I agree with you but for two conditions: if the Hezbollah's militants won't never ever get back there and if Israel won't attack us again."

August 1, 2006: An e-mail: We Sleep Tonight in Beirut

 

Late yesterday afternoon, I received an e-mail from my friend who recently graduated from high school and still has panic attacks from living through the civil war. She is living near the south part of Beirut and near the airport. I had not heard from her since our last conversation two weeks ago when she was terrified from the sounds of the bombs exploding near her home.

Her Internet still is working in her building, but the service is very slow. Using the more casual means of expression, she used Latin letters to write the Arabic words. It is what we call the "MSN language" in Lebanon. She told me that her family has rented an apartment in the mountains surrounding the Lebanese capital trying to run away from danger. However, she added that they are unwilling to flee; they wish to protect their building from being used by Hezbollah to bomb Israel and thus become a target for Israeli jets."We will sleep tonight in our house in Beirut," she wrote. "The Hezbollah militants go secretly to the top of any building they see. They launch their rockets on the Israeli jets and they run away. Then, the Israeli bomb the building which falls on the innocent people inside. We can't let them destroy our house!"

Turning to her inner turmoil, she wrote: "I wish I can go to the top of a hill and shout: 'Stop your game. It is enough!'" She added, "I really miss the life I was having. I even miss the boring days that I had in my house. I miss the calm life in Lebanon. It is unfair that we must support the cruelty of their acts."

Today, I called my parents' home in the North. My youngest sister, 17, told me that some gas stations are out of petrol and that every person has the right to buy only 10 liters (or 2.6 gallons) per day for $7 in U.S currency.

Over three weeks, 828 people were killed, 3 200 people were injured and about 750,000 persons were displaced, according to reliable press reports.

July 31: Wakened by a Text Message Alarm

Yesterday, I was awakened by my cell phone's message tone. I was still sleepy when I read the message from my friend living in the center of Beirut. She studied psychology at my university in Beirut and earned money as a clown for birthday parties. She wrote: "This is unbelievable what is happening: children, children, children. . . What did they do wrong?"

I knew that something was wrong but I couldn't guess what! Although I wanted to sleep, I turned on my computer to see what is going on. I went to Naharnet.com. I was shocked to read that an Israeli air strike on Qana killed as many as 57 civilians including 37 children, although some put the numbers much lower. I could not believe that happened again.

Ten years ago, when I was 11, the Israelis fired artillery rounds into Qana, killing about 100, again civilians, including women and children. My parents did not let me watch the news that night. They shuttled me and my sister into another room so we could not see. But the other kids in school had seen the news and told me the gruesome details.

Now, this terrible history is repeating itself. I couldn't believe that this is happening in the 21st century in a world fighting for "Democracy," "Freedom" and "Human Rights!"

For a while, I felt as if time had stopped and went back to the barbarism of thousands of years ago.

I couldn't get up from my chair. I sat for about 30 minutes thinking about a news analysis published on Thursday in Maareef, an Israeli newspaper, written by Amon Dencker, the paper's editor, and Dan Marglet, a military analyst.

"It is time to have a tough heart and to not show any sensitivity toward the Lebanese villages," they wrote. "It is time to profit from our military power and to destroy every street and every house so buildings remain ruins and cemeteries."

I began wondering what would be the feeling of the pilot who dropped the bomb. Was he happy? Satisfied? I wonder if he can sleep at night, if he sees these innocent dead children in his dreams, if he thought of his children when he lobbed the bomb. What did these kids do to Israel? Did they shoot rockets across the borders? I don't think so. They don't even know what is going on.

Later, I felt like exploding. I called my friend who text-messaged me. I said: "Hey how are you? How is everything?" She answered: "Oh, I am alive!" and she laughed. "Everything else is so bad. There is no fuel any more. The electricity will be cut soon. The food will expire."

We were both silent. I asked her if she is trying to flee the country. She told me: "We tried to go to the United States where my grandparents live but the U.S. Embassy is closed and they are not giving visas. The Canadian Embassy is giving visas to those who have cousins there, as well as the French Embassy. We might try to go to Denmark to my other cousin there." We lost cell phone contact.

It is inhuman what is happening in my country Lebanon. It is so sad the reaction of the international community. It rejects this war but it doesn't do anything to stop it.

 

 

July 28: Listening to Evacuees, Remembering the Past

 

 

The Network of Arab American Professionals in New York invited recent evacuees from Lebanon to talk Wednesday at St. Bartholomew's Church about their experiences.

 

 

I attended, although I had an idea about what the evacuees would say because I already heard it from my friends living in Beirut. The looks on the faces of the four speakers, three women (two Lebanese and one Iranian who went to Lebanon for a summer vacation) and one man (an American studying at American University of Beirut) reflected the reality that they faced there. One of the women was crying silently throughout the evening.

 

 

One of the speakers was living near the center of Beirut where my friend, the unemployed clown, lives. She also spoke about her experience and her terror. She described her feelings when the warplanes were near her apartment and when her building shook with every bomb.

 

 

During her speech, I thought about my friend living in the same situation. My friend's situation may be more critical because she has already lived through a great part of the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990). With bombs dropping again, she would have relived all the horrible events she experienced during her childhood. I wished I could prevent her from remembering those horrible moments that she couldn't speak about in detail.

 

 

Also, I recalled the 1,000-ton explosion on Feb. 14, 2004. On that day, I was in class in my college, which was 15 kilometers (about 18 miles) away. At the moment of the explosion, my desk, 5 centimeters from the wall, skidded across the floor and hit the wall. I was terrified and said to myself: "What is wrong? Is Israel attacking Lebanon?"

 

 

I found out an hour later that it was not Israeli attacks but an explosion which killed the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the former Secretary of Economy Bassel Flayhan and 18 other people.

 

 

I believe that what I experienced at that moment is nothing to what Lebanese people are living through now. Some experts said that the value of bombs dropped on Lebanon since July 12 is nearly the same as an atomic bomb.

 

 

It is hard for me to imagine that the blue Lebanese beaches turned to black from the petrol spilled over there; that Lebanon's smell is bullets and that death is in the Lebanese streets where I used to enjoy walking.

 

July 24: Despair and Anxiety Far from Home

From Friday until Sunday evening, I lost contact with my family and my friends living in the North of Lebanon. I didn't know the reason why my parents and my friends are not responding to my phone calls or my e-mails until Saturday evening. That was when I received an e-mail from a friend living in Beirut that said, "I want to tell you something, but don't be worried. Everything is fine but the radio station antenna, the mobiles' antennas and the Internet satellite were bombarded." All these communication facilities are located four miles away from my family's home in the mountains.

It is hard to describe the feeling when you are far away from your family and where war is reaching all regions and all people. The waiting.

Saturday noon, I signed on the MSN Messenger hoping to have news from my parents and my friends. After two hours, a friend of mine living in New Jersey came and picked me up to go for lunch in a Japanese restaurant in Somerset, N.J. The sushi's taste was so different from usual. I felt like I was eating nothing. I believed that my parents were safe because I had seen no reports of killed or injured people from there. Yet, still I worried. Calling them and talking to them was the only thing that would calm me down. Then my friend took me to a park in Princeton because I love parks. We sat near the lake talking about my situation when I get back to Lebanon if I am able to return. All I could think about was the contradiction of life: On one hand, I was with people smiling, enjoying their time together and on the other hand, the images in my mind of friends in Beirut, crying, wishing that time could stop.

On Sunday, I went with the same friend to Connecticut to see an IMAX movie. I kept thinking of my family although I knew that they were fine, as my friend, who is living in Beirut and e-mails me often, told me.

Today, in the morning, I received an e-mail from my youngest sister, 17 years old, telling me that the mobile's network and the Internet connection are back, but that they are very slow.

However, I believe that what I have been through this weekend is nothing according to what other Lebanese without shelter, without food, without water, without security are living.

My country is still burning, the bodies of its children are under the ruins, the citizens are prisoners in their country, the foreign people are running from it and the world is watching how a whole country becomes deserted and desolated.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice traveled to the region Tuesday trying to find a solution for this war. She might succeed in her mission. But, does she have the solution to take out hate that this war has created deep in the hearts of civilians on both sides? Does she have the solution to the terrified children who lost their parents or to the parents who hold their dead children in their hands? Does she have solutions for those innocent children badly injured and who will bear the marks of their ordeal for some time to come? Is she able to bring back peace to the Lebanese people who were rebuilding their country?

July 22: A College Pal Reaches Me

Today, my friends' e-mails to me are filled with despair.

My friend who worked as a birthday party clown now spends her days in her Beirut apartment, terrified.

"The dark situation in Lebanon looks like it will stay for longer time," she wrote in her morning e-mail. "Death is walking in the streets of our country. Do you imagine that? Some people are stuck in their homes and they are waiting for their death. What can be crueler than knowing that at any moment you can die?" she added.

Referring to the widespread death toll, she mentioned that members of the Lebanese military are dying, even though they are not participating on the attacks on Israel.

"Christian and Muslim regions, civilians and Lebanese soldiers, churches and mosques, men, women and children are attacked," she wrote.

She continued: "I wish that I can wake the next morning and find out that all of this is nothing but a nightmare. I wish can I stop thinking; it is making me so tired and depressed." She said at the end of her e-mail where sadness could be sensed: "I don't know if we are able to live in this area in peace with dignity. I don't know if we have the right to smile once again."

Also this morning, I received an e-mail from a woman who is in all my classes at Lebanese University. "I don't know if we're going to live the lovely university days again. I don't know if we're ever supposed to build a future in this country. I don't know if we are meant to live in peace in Lebanon."

I believe she is right. We may not come back to school; we may not be able to meet again. It is very sad to be deprived from the right of eating, drinking water and learning. Do these fundamental rights represent danger for peace?

I wonder if all of the international and the local parts of this conflict know that nothing in on this earth would last forever but the human soul. Do they remember that the Pharaoh's Civilization, the Maya Civilization, the Roman, the Greek, Phoenicians, Ottomans and many other civilizations are part of history now?

Have mercy for those innocents, all the children in Lebanon terrified or killed or injured or forced to leave their houses! Don't let history repeat itself like in 1982 when 20,000 people lost their lives during the Israeli invasion in Beirut. I ask you to think about your violent acts that will defiantly increase the hate in the Middle East area with non-stop wars. I express an urgent call of peace and I hope that some of the concerned persons in this crisis would hear it.

July 19: Another Disturbing E-Mail

(WOMENSENEWS)--When I got into the office this morning, received an e-mail from friend of mine living in the north of Lebanon describing the situation there. I will repeat much of what he wrote.

He started by telling me about 23 women and children killed in "Merwaheen," a southern village in Lebanon, a couple of days ago. "They flee the bombarding to seek refuge at the United Nations Center. But the Center refused to accept them because they were afraid that April 1996 Qana genocide. The poor villagers were left in open air in the pick-up car. While the family was trying to get back to its home, they meet an Israeli missile . . . all dead."

My friend was referring to the Israeli offensive operation called the "Grapes of Wrath" on April 12, 1996. Six days later, 140 civilians who took shelter at the U.N. base in Qana were killed by a missile. A headless baby was found after the attack. No one has been held to account.

He also wrote: "Phosphorus bombs, internationally banned weapons, are used in this war where none of the human rights conventions is respected. Children are terrified, lost without parents, dying from hunger. Lebanese people are also deprived from their right of health treatment. Today, an emirate truck filled of medicines sent to rescue Lebanese people was bombarded on its road in Bekaa. Moreover, a hospital in Hadath (in northern Beirut) was target last night. Civilians are hurt in all ways."

His e-mail ended with: "I am out of words now because of the pictures of injured and killed children shown in the local and some international newspapers and on TV. I wonder why we should pay the price of a decision that we didn't take."

Really, words are out when you see those pictures. It is so hard for a person who left her country progressing and improving after a long occupation to return and see it burned and destroyed.

BBC photo collection: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/5194624.stm

Le Figaro photo collection: http://www.lefigaro.fr/sites/default/files/archive/images/20060713.WWW000000258_israel_se_bat_sur_deux_fronts.html

 

 

July 18: Connecting Amid Chaos

Today in the morning while I was going to work, I reached one of my closest friends. She told me that on Saturday, she moved away from her home in Beirut to her summer house in the mountains overlooking the city. From the first word she said, her