Sunday the 23th...
Today’s message is huge, and probably boring. But here it is :
Daily routine : I wake up on the sound of a close one (shell). The radio is on all night long. So is the TV. I listen to, and look at what I missed in my sleep. Last night they bombed Saida, where my aunt and her family live, they bombed Akkar in the north, they bombed the Southern Suburb of Beirut (the usual), they bombed a factory in West Bekaa and they bombed, for the first time in its history, my village, Chmestar in Eastern Bekaa.
I get up , fix breakfast for “my own personal” refugees, and start my “daily phone marathon”. (don’t tell them land lines are still working). I start with Saida; my aunt pretends to be strong. She tells me the bombing was far from their house. She did not “synchronize” with her son. When I spoke to him , he told me a mall, very close to their house, was hit.
I call my friend in the north : all is fine. My other friend in west Bekaa: they brought a factory down, a big one it seems that used to build pre-fabricated houses and hangars and export them to Iraq. But that wasn’t all : some miracle happened early this morning it seems, when the shelling spared AL Hanane Institution where ten of orphans live : the whole area was bombed like hell.
I need to mention that Hezbollah does not exist neither in the North nor in West Bekaa , these are Sunni areas (that do not like Hezbollah anyway). I call the family house in my village ; they tell me there are over 40 people living in the house, because we have a basement. It seems that Israeli fighters flew over the village all day yesterday, took pictures and then bombed at dawn. They bombed the graveyard, where my grandfather, my uncle and my cousin are buried. My cousin tells that my ailing grandmother is not well, she’s ninety and she’s sick, and it seems that for 3 days now , she’s not recognizing anyone or anything. If she dies now , we won’t even be able to take part in the funeral : the are no roads. But if she dies now , maybe it will be less heart braking because every one lese is dying: younger people, children (the estimations say 170 children were killed by Saturday July 22nd) Then I call my sister who found refuge in Alley in the mountain. All fine. The last phone call was to my sister in law , my brother’s wife who fled to Syria (her mom is Syrian). They’re staying in Bloudan , a town closer to the Lebanese border than Damascus. She told me they could hear the bombing on Baalback and the rest of the Bekaa all night long.
Kinda’s diary : before I left to the office, Kinda, my two year old daughter (actually she’s 28 months old) was looking at the pictures in the newspaper. It’s a habit she took when all this started since we’re publishing lots of pictures of the displaced children. Of course , every morning I hide the pages that contain hideous pictures and give her the rest of the newspaper: she loves to see the pictures of other children. "
So, she saw this picture of a wounded 10 year old girl (god she’s pretty) who’s being treated at a hospital in Beirut. She came to me and said : mama , baby wawa ( ie sick in Arabic baby language) . I said yes, very wawa. And here’s what happened then : she wanted to go see her. She said : (in Arabic of course) I want to go there (with her finger pointing at the picture ) with cadeau ( present in French) . she kept insisting and wouldn’t let me go to work before I promised I’ll take her tomorrow .THIS IS A TRUE STORY, I still can’t believe it myself. I never took Kinda to a hospital before, and she doesn’t know it is customary to take presents to patients. But I promise you this : tomorrow I’ll take her there.
Hanady the weirdo :Here are some more of my sick thoughts. I need to tell you that ever since this started, I’ve been keeping myself busy 24\7 because I don’t want to have time to think about anything. But sometimes, I can’t help it : you know, when I’m taking a shower or trying to fall asleep. I get these weird thoughts. I try to get rid of them , but they keep coming back . sick thoughts. Yesterday , I thought I was completely mad because I found out that somewhere deep down inside of me , I fear the moment when all this will be over . What would happen then? We’ll be left with the dead, the injured, the ruins, the rubbles, the refugees, the diseases, the misery of those who lost everything, all this destruction , no roads, no phones, no electricity ( you know how long it takes to repair this sector?) no water, ..and a corrupt , impotent government. "
We’ll be left without the attention we might be getting now : crimes should be really bad to be able to draw the world’s attention : look at how indifferent we all get to be towards other conflicts and sufferings, with time. It took something as big as the massacres in Rwanda to shake us, for a while. Who remembers Africa now? Back to earth : the thing is that all this destruction happened so fast (congratulations to all the scientists working on “improving” arms and their ability to be effective, they’re really doing a great job that nobody seem to appreciate). I can’t believe, for instance, that when this will end, if we’re still alive, I won’t be able to reach my own village. It’s fast and it’s reported live : so it makes somehow unreal , as if you were watching a movie. I just can’t seem to be able to grasp the idea that this is actually happening. What do you call this ? Denial? Extracts from the story of my life: and then , there’s something else that explains my sick feelings and thoughts: my history. I’m 38 years old. I was seven when I witnessed my first war. I was 14 during the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Seeing all these rubbles, all these villages completely wiped out , the fires, the injured, the dead , all of it .. brings me way back in time, and I stick to the idea that these images are not of what’s happening now , they’re pictures of old houses that were never rebuilt after the last war was over. That’s what I tell myself. I need to, because I fear that the moment I get to realize that this is actually happening here and now, I’d explode …literaly..
I can’t believe the kind of articles we were working on in the newspaper 12 days ago, I still have the minutes of the last meeting : two people covering a mini campaign to change the family laws that grant the kids to their dads after divorce, two other people following the lobbying efforts for granting women the right to give the Lebanese nationality to their kids if they’re married to foreigners, one person (this is the funniest) working on air pollution and the ill performance of the ministry of environmental issues , the economic departement working on revenues of tourism this summer and the transportation sector (we were trying to ban trucks from circulation on week-ends because they cause 10 of accidents weekly), and the education departement preparing articles about children summer camps , and the recent waves of immigration of the elite due to unemployment ..
Saturday the 22th
Good morning , So it’s Saturday. The day we fear. It seems the Israelis will have to postpone some of whatever plans they might have: the evacuations are not done yet. The French still have people leaving tomorrow, the Canadians too. There are growing reports about the segregation of the US evacuations : they have priorities .. white ones. I’m sorry I can’t confirm , but my friends holding US passports keep telling me about it. I don’t have time to investigate it, I’m rather working with the people fleeing their villages and homes. Hamra (neighborhood in West Beirut, not targeted yet) was almost booming this morning. There were even traffic jams in the streets were some of the embassies asked their citizens to go to to be evacuated. There are also people who are shopping : food, bread, necessities that is. Hamra is hosting loads of displaced people from both the South and the Southern Suburb. There are also people who just need to go out for a walk… I even spotted two lovers walking hand in hand in one of the streets. All this is happening today because last night , Beirut and its suburb were spared air strikes. It’s weird, the ability of human beings to cope and go on no matter what. One “clam” evening and it somehow feels like we’re back to normal again. We, here in Beirut, can afford it. Some of my friends who live in the Southern Suburb went there yesterday to check on their houses and bring some of their stuff : they weren’t able to find their homes. Whole neighborhoods are completely destroyed, they weren’t even able to recognize in which streets they were. Some people were able to reach Beirut from the South over the past couple of days. Their tell hideous stories , about what they witnessed there, about how they fled and what they encountered on the roads, about the people they left behind : some alive and some buried under the rubbles. I feel you should read their stories, but I really don’t have time to translate the articles we publish in As-Safir . But for those of you who read Arabic they’re all on our website : http://www.assafir.com/. If any of you wants to use them , translate them , please feel free to do so , but I only need you the mention As-Safir as the source. When I started writing this message, the Israeli air fighters had just bombed 3 aerials in the Tourboul in the North , In Sanine in the East and in Fatqa east of Beirut. These are TV and mobile phones aerials. They might want to cut off the rest of the world. They might not … but just in case , I’m trying to find a way to keep you posted , at least with pictures. I need you then to spread them as much as possible. And if I don’t succeed in doing that , keep checking the wires. I’m sure the reporters on this list have free access to the news agencies, PLEASE CIRCULATE ANY PICTURES YOU GET. And if all this fails , then keep talking about us. Don’t leave us alone in Beirut. Now , in case this conspiracy theory of mine proves to be wrong , and I’d still be able to reach you people , then we’ll all laugh together and I’ll manage to accept criticism about how naïve I am.
July 22 , 2006
Here’s a translation of my article in today’s As-Safir. It goes with the pictures attached . Excuse my English , literally. Die, deeply Die. Die the way They want you to die. No one will weep. Die by gunshots, by missiles, by sea shelling, or air strikes. Die out of starvation. Die under the open sky. Don’t run, they’ll get you on the roads. Stay where you are and die, stand still, don’t even attempt to move, just die. By forbidden arms, by “allowed” arms, die. And die together, whole family members, so no one will cry when you go. And down here, we won’t even be able to look at the pictures of your corps. Silently die, don’t scream. And stay right where you die, none of us is able to reach you, or to collect your remains from under the rubbles. None of us is able to know how many you are. None of us can protect you from the kind of death that they choose for you.
Baby , picture number one : go to sleep my darling , and don’t move. I’ll caress your hair through the night and hum your favorite tones, I’ll keep the wolves away .and in the morning , I’ll fix your ripped pants and wash your white shirt. Sleep my baby, I’ll hold you in my arms, bring your face close to my heart , and whisper to the angels , ask them to tell you fairy tales. Sing for him Fayrouz (the most famous Lebanese singer who lost a son when he was a toddler). Sing for him as you sang for your son. And sing loud, he’s afraid of the dark. “ya maymti, you’re still so young, you , like the roses , didn’t reach you first year yet…”
To Her , picture number two : why are your eyes open like this? What are you looking for? Here, there are the remains right in front of you. Your parents’ remains . Is this your mother’s arm? Take it , hug it , smell to find out whether it’s your mom’s or your dad’s … They’re not exactly open, your eyes. They’re half closed, as if you were getting ready to fall asleep. You seem to enjoy your nap. Doesn’t that piece of cement on your left foot bother you? Don’t you fear colic pains with your tummy uncovered like this? I’ll cover you before the night falls, and I’ll undo your pony tail so you don’t get a headache. Did you ever sleep in the open sky before, your body lying on thorns and rocks? Where do the poor sleep then? Your face is still white, and your cheek feels like silk. I know. I passed my fingers on it secretly , fearing I’d wake you up. You’re far from the rest of your family. Who threw you so far away? Who left you alone, in the middle of nowhere?
To Him , picture number three : Did you know , when you joined the small truck, and stretched your right arm comfortably behind the back of the person sitting next to you , that that hand was to remain there for ever ? And that feeling of relief that appears in the way your eyes are closed and your mouth is half opened, did you get it the minute you left your burning town? Did you know when you move your head backwards, that it will land on the remains of your loved ones ? And in your current sleep, and in the wildest dreams you might be having, does it occur to you that some of us would rather not have your pictures published , nor your story told, not to heart their “feelings”. Die, die deeply. Go as far away as you can from the poison their air fighters are dropping , and that contained in the words of some of your own people. And up there , when you meet your god, ask for victory for those who are working so this never happens to you again.