It should be joyful. The sun should shine and the traffic flow in happy caravans and the families, all united, all healthy, all carrying extra supplies, ought to set off for Beirut’s suburbs, the South and the Bekaa Valley like rosy-faced pioneers reclaiming what is their’s, yet again.
But the sun can’t really shine, because the sky is full of the dust from collapsed buildings. The traffic can’t flow (it never does, anyways), and Israel has refused to lift its air and sea blockade. So there’s increasingly very little gasoline in the market, making transport home difficult and expensive.
Most families still aren’t united – the ICRC did another tour yesterday through Beirut’s schools looking for families from the Bekaa. They’re not healthy – although epidemics have not broken out in the schools – as 33 days of living with 200 other people, with very little fresh fruit or vegetables or meat, wears down the immune system. There are no extra supplies, because aid is delivered daily, and, again, Israel’s blockade has prevented most aid from being delivered at all.
And they’re certainly not rosy-faced. Not when Israel, despite accepting the UN Resolution, has issued warnings against civilians returning to their homes below the Litani River. Not when yet another civilian car was bombed last night, killing a family of five. Not when Israel bombed Beirut’s southern suburbs 30 minutes before the ceasefire took place. Not with over 1,000 Lebanese civilians dead, and entire villages in the South flattened. Not when most families don’t know if they have a house to return to. Not when their only guarantee of safety is a poorly-worded, loop-hole infested UN resolution that seems to have been designed to fail.
But they’re going home, to what remains of home, defiantly.
Meanwhile, like some historian in a Marquez novel, I spent the day entering two-week old data from doctors’ visits to the refugee families in the schools.
Fatimeh, 26. Panic attacks.
Samir, 78. Arthritis and diabetes.
Ali, 14. Asthma.
Mariam, 5. Conjunctivitis.
Sawsan, 21. Respiratory difficulties.
Yasser, 33. Panic attacks.
Maya, 4 months. Skin rash
Ahmed, 45. Upper back pain and tension headaches.
Mahmoud, 9. Screaming nightmares.
Khadija, 47. Diabetes, hypertension and foot pain.
Hayat, 16. Panic attacks.
Rami, 13. Skin rash.
Souad, 69. Lower back pain and panic attacks.
The families are going home, to what remains. The other remnants, they will carry with them.
August 15, 2006