Sunday, July 30, 2006

Letter from Lebanon: Update July 30, 2006 Sunday

Here's another one of Rosie's amazing dispatches from Lebanon. I would like to remind my readers that Rosie is an American woman, currently living in Lebanon.

Dear Family and Friends,

There is not one person in this country who has not been affected by this war in one manner or the other. While many of us in the mountain villages are fortunately safe physically, everyone is stressed, concerned, and worried.

As I do my errands in the village, many people cannot believe that I am still here. With protruding eyes, they exclaim in utter astonishment: “What! Why are you here?” Why do they say this with such amazement? Because I have the American passport. I have a passport to escape the nightmare. They have Lebanese passports. And Lebanese passports without visas is like having no passport at all. Furthermore, this is their home. How can they even afford to leave and live abroad for any significant length of time? Those who have other nationalities, especially those of Lebanese origin, find it difficult to just pick up and leave. So many issues to consider, analyze and finalize. Most say that they do not know what to do. “We go round and round the issues. Leave? Stay? Who knows what the future will hold?”

There are now close to a million displaced Lebanese. These families primarily lived in the south of Lebanon and in the southern suburb of Beirut, in the main line of fire of indiscriminate bombardments. Many now live in parks, in schools, and on sidewalks. Others have moved up into the mountains, in the mostly Christian areas where they took refuge once before when Israel invaded in 1982. Hotels in the mountains have lowered their rates considerably to accommodate these refugees. Empty homes will be prone to be legally forced open so that the displaced can live if the war continues unabated for a long time and if there is no alternative found for these refugees. So that means, if you leave your home, and a displaced family gets the government to break into your home, you cannot reclaim your home. Or, at least not easily. During the 1982 invasion, our house was not furnished. My husband had bought the house but it was left completely empty because we were living in Saudi Arabia. A family came in and started using the house. With much difficulty, we had the man evicted and only because it was proved that he was using the house for his mistress and not his family. If his family were there we might have been obligated to pay even up to $30,000 to try to get them evicted. We live facing a hotel that is full of refugees. Everyday, I see their laundry hung on the balcony. I worry that if we leave they will notice that there is no longer movement in a house that they can easily see. That they will know that a house is ready to be moved into with all its furnishings. It’s only been less than three weeks. But the sheer volume of homes destroyed is going to take months to rebuild and where will these people live in the meantime? Will they continue for months to accept to live on the streets? In schools? Paying for a hotel?

Also, since schools are occupied by the displaced Lebanese, it means that schools will be unlikely unable to reopen in September for the academic year. That means all Lebanese students will soon suffer with significant delays in their studies, not to mention the psychological anguish many are enduring and which will continue to manifest itself later.

My daughter like many of her friends are holed up in their homes. Some moved to their summer mountain home. But no one visits each other unless they are next door and even then most do not venture out much. All movements have to be carefully considered and calculated. I started taking my daughter to dance during a specific short period of the day. I only did this because she was going crazy at home. Just to give her some relief and release. But I don’t know for how long I will be able to continue taking her.

The government recently announced that there are enough fuel reserves to last another ten days, until about August 7. Some gas stations in our area have already been closing early because they are not re-supplied on a timely basis. (Truck drivers are scared because many trucks have been targeted by Israeli aircraft.) But the moment will arrive when they can no longer be re-supplied at all. From the initial announcement of the Israeli naval blockade, people began to significantly curtail their movement; however, others had no choice but go to work. They will continue to go to work until the gas runs out. And how long will the reserves last for electricity until there is a 24/24 blackout?

The war, of course, has caused considerable damage to an already fledging economy. If fuel is not allowed to pass through the ports, the economy will basically shut down. Banks already limit how many dollars you can withdraw per week. What would happen if the banking industry had to close? All the other industries? Food and pharmaceuticals shortages are a major crisis in the south, but even on the mountain we see the shelves emptying. I have only identified a small portion of the effects suffered by ALL Lebanese. I hope it is becoming clearer the snowball effect of Israel’s decisions in this war. A war, which they say they are trying their best to act in a most humane way.

Saturday night, the Israelis bombed the Lebanese/Syrian border through which many try to escape. We were planning to leave this week via Syria. Now I don’t know if we can get out as the border was forced to close for the first time during this conflict. We’ll have to see if it is able to reopen in time for us to catch our flight.

Saturday morning Israelis targeted a Cheeroke four-wheel drive in the southern suburb of Beirut. I heard the explosion but didn’t know what it was until my husband heard the news and explained it to me. Apparently, the Israelis were targeting two members of Hizbullah. I find this amazing that they can target from the air a Cheeroke (green I think) with supposedly two Hizbullah fighters, yet they can miss the clearly marked UN observation post in the south of Lebanon, not to mention that the UN peace keepers had repeatedly warned (more than a dozen times—I heard 17 times) the Israelis that they were getting too close. The Israelis hit the same observation post the other day! I think the Israelis know exactly what they are hitting. And I think they know that they can get away with it, which they did. They got the usual little slap on the hand with a watered down complaint from the United Nations. And that’s life with the Israelis.

Death toll: 400 Lebanese, mostly civilians: 52 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

You’ll pass this on please; we must try to let the world know what life is like here.

Rosie AKL



At 10:29 PM, Anonymous R. said...

Thnaks rosie for drawing this picture for us...


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