Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Why I’m staying

My mom wrote me an email yesterday, describing how every time she tells people that I’m in Lebanon, that I’m staying in Lebanon, they get this “that’s really dumb” look on their faces.

Of course, I should mention that many Lebanese, when they see me still here, also get a “you must be really dumb” look on their faces. Almost everyone, especially those who lived through the civil war (1975-1990) here, and those who have families, are desperate to leave.

I’m staying because Lebanon has been my home for the past six years. I’m staying because my heart is here.

I’m staying because every boat that arrives without the food and medicine so desperately needed, and leaves full of foreigners, is another gesture of abandonment, further proof that the world doesn’t value Lebanese civilian lives, doesn’t care about their innocence, doesn’t want to make the bombings stop.

To leave Lebanon now, after all the love and joy and knowledge given to me by the Lebanese and Palestinians here, is unthinkable.

To leave Lebanon now – when 600,000 people were forced to leave their homes, when almost 400 civilians have been killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time – would be ungracious, and callous.

To leave Lebanon now, when refugees are flooding Beirut, sleeping in schools, parks and driveways, when the United States is actively sending more weapons to Israel with which to bombard Lebanon, would be the gravest of insults.

I’m staying because right and wrong have suddenly become crystal clear. It’s right to share our apartment with a family who just escaped yesterday from their village next to the border with Israel. It’s right that they get to sleep though the night, knowing they won’t be bombed in their sleep. It is right to spend all day helping distribute food to families suddenly homeless, to play with children who have left all their toys behind.

It’s wrong that Fatime, age 6, doesn’t know where her father is. It’s wrong that her mother had to shave her head so she doesn’t get lice from living with 24 other families in an elementary school. It’s wrong that hundreds of thousands of people are stuck in the Bekaa Valley and southern Lebanon, terrorized by Israeli jets bombing overhead, scared that if they leave, they’ll be bombed on the road. It’s wrong that families have lost their livelihoods, their homes, their futures.

I am staying because Lebanon needs help, and I can offer a little.

I am staying because staying feels right.

July 24, 2006


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