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Israel's latest attack on the poor
It was one in the morning in New York when I was finally able to speak to my cousin in Dahiyeh today. On the phone from California, my mother's voice permeated with exhaustion and anxiety as she connected us. My family throughout the U.S. has been trying to get through to my cousin since Friday, only to find that the phone lines were out as we watched footage of her Beirut neighborhood ablaze.
It has been difficult not hearing her voice over the pass few days when all I see on the news is that Dahiyeh has been bombed repeatedly since Israel's attack began on Wednesday. Yesterday I read that eighteen civilians were killed while trying to escape the Beirut suburb and became even more frantic and worried. I spent the entire day recalling the bombings I had witnessed while living in the occupied South.
I was relieved to learn that she was unharmed, but saddened to hear that she was still in the lower level of her apartment building. There had been reports that her neighborhood had been evacuated, as residents sought refuge in the North, but she hadn't been able to escape. She, her family and neighbors are experiencing the heaviest bombings in Lebanon. Unable to sleep or eat, they are fatigued and traumatized.
Today she will try to leave with her one year old son to a city south of Beirut. She will join my grandmother and aunt in a village just north of Sidon (that's if the bombings cease for a short period of time). She is scared to travel on the road between Beirut and Sidon, as it has already been bombed in several places. My voice shook as I spoke to her; petrol stations, pharmacies, shops, banks, apartment buildings and roads all around her have been hit by Israeli bombs. At a loss for words, I told her that I had written a piece about her and posted it on the Web. She asked if I thought she would be famous. We laughed then fell silent. We've always joked at the worst times; it's the Lebanese way of coping.
With much difficulty, my grandmother and aunt were able to leave the South yesterday. It pains me to think of how many wars my grandmother has seen and escaped in her lifetime. During the occupation, her southern village was leveled to the ground and used as a base for the Israeli Defense Forces. Israeli soldiers have now crossed the Lebanese border.
Here, we all feel like the boxer Roberto Duran, who was known as "The Hands of Stone." In a rematch fight with Sugar Ray Leonard in New Orleans in 1980, after having defeated the American gold medalist during the 'Brawl of Montreal', he turned his back to the ring in the eighth round, let his hands fall and uttered the immortal words, "No Mas, No Mas."
No More. No More.
People were hiding in bomb shelters or trying to find a way out of town yesterday as Hezbollah rockets rained down on Haifa. I couldn't sleep all night; every noise sounded like a rocket landing. They came in like pop flies and you could hear the thwapping as they landed in the distance. As I jumped in to the shower at 9:00, something hit hard in Haifa near the water. The sirens went off and the streets became deserted. Thursday nights hit had only engendered a kind of black comedy amongst the residents - this time it was real.
Eight dead in a rail maintenance yard.
By Monday, more rockets were landing in northern Israel. The rules of the game had instantly changed. For most Israelis, Gaza was far away and they could go
about their summer as per usual. But this time, daily life was disrupted for the first time in a major Israeli city since tensions had escalated.
At least 140 Lebanese civilians have also died since the violence broke out last week and public infrastructure like the airport and roads has been mercilessly demolished.
The weekend is over, and now it is time to get back to the work-a-day routine - but wait, normal time and routine will not return this Monday like it did a week ago. The day started with some loud bombs, and during the last 10 minutes, we have heard another series of earth-shaking explosions. It has been a tense day in Beirut.
Timor Gocksel, the Turkish man who directed the UN mission in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL) for almost 30 years, gave a talk on the American University of Beirut (AUB) campus to try to put the current war into the larger context. Some of you might have seen part of this - CBS taped the whole thing. Like many people here, he is angry with both Hezbollah and the Israelis. He thinks there is a good chance this will be over in a few days because world opinion will not put up with this brutality.
There is so much that is not being reported. Israeli leaders are saying that the reason they are bombing the port of Beirut and the Damascus highway is to stop the delivery of weapons from Syria. Gocksel found this amusing: "Do you think they are going to come via the Damascus road or the ports where they will have to pay import duty when there are hundreds of unguarded roads between Syria and Lebanon?" The practical problem is that Hezbollah has fired only a tiny fraction of their available rockets; they have spread the others out all over the mountains of southern Lebanon. Hezbollah (like Hamas) has developed like a resistant bacteria - the more Israel has pounded them with their superior weaponry, they more they have begun to resemble a swarm of bees, impossible to shoot down. Israeli leaders are well aware of this, so they actually are punishing the innocent Lebanese to coerce - terrorize - them into confronting Hezbollah. It seems that we have terrorists on both sides.
Today I drove through downtown on my way to visit my parents. I was driving
alone and was a bit nervous. First time in a car alone since this whole thing started ... But I had to see my parents.
I came across a red light and stopped. The streets were empty, and I caught
myself wondering why I stopped and didn't just go through. Streets were
totally empty - no other cars, no traffic police. Then I remembered my latest
policy that is helping to keep me sane; that even under attack, we should
not lose our manners. That even under attack, there are still some regulations we should abide by. Somehow, by not crossing the red light, I was able to maintain some dignity.
Then I looked into my rearview mirror and saw other cars approaching. I
closed my eyes and in a fit of prayer wished that they would stop too. That
somehow, if they didn't cross the light, it would indicate that somehow we
are all thinking the same. I know most of you have heard about Lebanese
drivers ... They never stop at red lights! Ladies and gentlemen, today, they
I opened my eyes and and then burst into tears. All the cars had stopped.
Everyone was behaving. It was a ray of hope today. It's the little things that make you happy. I turned and smiled and nodded my head to the other drivers. Maybe they thought this bleached blond was flirting with them.
I don't want to write about all the miserable moments I had today. They were
too many. And how can I find the words to really express my despair?
I don't want to write about the tears that fell when I heard about how the
Israeli army bombed food storages today. They bombed wheat silos and
vegetable storages. Now they want to starve us to death? About how they are
now targeting Lebanese army outposts. Lebanese army who are not even
fighting them. About the planes that are flying so low. About how my house
starts to shake every time a bomb drops. About my worries now about food and water shortages. About the refugees who have lost so much, who are now living on the streets.