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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Israeli blogger in Beirut

Tel Aviv blogger Lisa Goldman has been to Beirut twice this month and today begins a series of reports on her experience. It's worth reading the whole thing, but I just want to highlight something for you at the outset:
The journey downtown only took 15 minutes but I learned a lot from Ahmed about what’s going on in Lebanon during that short trip.

“Many of our boys and girls just want to get passports and leave the country. There’s no work here,” said Ahmed, who just happened to live in Dahiyeh, Nasrallah’s neighborhood and Hezbollah headquarters. His mother refused to leave the family’s apartment in the Dahiyeh during the war, and he stayed with her. I asked him whether any damage was cause to his home by the Israeli bombardment, and he said no. This was a pretty surprising response: according to most of the reports in the Western media, the Dahiyeh was basically a parking lot after the Israeli Air Force finished with it. I particularly remember the BBC’s hourly reports during the war, each one beginning with the following (paraphrased) sentence: “As Israel continues its relentless pounding of southern Beirut…” But according to Ahmed, and also to several other residents of the Dahiyeh with whom I spoke during my two visits to Beirut over the last month, the Israeli air strikes were actually very much pinpointed on an area in the center of the Dahiyeh that is called the “security square” – the area where the senior Hezbollah leaders lived. Of course many of those destroyed apartment blocks were also occupied by people who were not connected to the Hezbollah; unfortunately, there is no technology that allows a single apartment building in a multi-dwelling building to be destroyed, while leaving the rest intact. And so, as in all wars, innocent bystanders saw their property destroyed and their loved ones killed in a conflict that they did not start – and quite possibly did not support.


At a café called Torino Express in Gemmayzeh, Beirut’s trendiest neighbourhood, I met Majed, a 28 year-old Shi’a who grew up in Dahiyeh. He moved to Gemmayzeh a few years ago, and has managed the café for years. He told me proudly that Torino’s was the only café that stayed open during the war.

“When I opened the place, millions of people came “Yay, Torino is open!”

He knows his old neighborhood of Dahiyeh well – describing the area hit hardest by Israel during the war.

“In Dahiyeh, there is a square. There is a security square for Hezbollah. Israel was just pointing in this area. Besides that, they didn’t hit the rest of the Dahiyeh. But those 500 buildings in the security zone, they look as though they were hit by an earthquake that registered 9 on the Richter scale.

Majed, who studied architecture, explained his theory to me as to why Hezbollah hasn’t rehabilitated the neighborhood and it still stands in ruins.

“Now they are waiting.”

For what? “Maybe because they already know there will be another war.”

Like other Beirut residents, he remains convinced that war will return this summer.

“It’s already planned in their book, the holy book for the Jewish,” he explained to me solemnly. “They said 2000 years ago there is a plan to make the big country of Israel starting from the Nile River to the Euphrates River in Iraq.”

And you think that Israel is going to attack again?

“I think so because in the last war they failed in their plans.”
Those Israelis and their indiscriminate bombing....


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