Monday, July 17, 2006

beautiful beirut

please spread this letter around...
and make sure to read it

Date: July 16, 2006 8:23:40 PM EDT
To: beautiful beirut
Subject: Another Beirut update

I have started coughing, but I don't know why. I am not sick. I don't have a
cold. I think it's a reaction I'm having to stress. My body feels weak. My
mouth is always dry, no matter how much water I drink. And I'm afraid to
drink too much water because I don't want it to run out!

Last night was probably the most frightful night I have ever experienced in
my whole entire life. I was so tired and exhausted... have not slept in
days. When there is finally a quiet moment, the tension in my stomach and
heart prevents me from falling asleep.

Last night we counted at least 15 bombs falling into Dahiyeh (Beirut
Suburbs).. and these were just the ones we heard. At some point during the
night, I said to myself that if I didn't at least try to get some sleep that
I was going to go crazy from fatigue; and that that was what was going to
kill me. Haven’t been able to eat either, so am losing physical strength.
It’s all psychological at this point. I know I have to be strong, and I will
be, but I can't deny what I’m going through. And I think it's important that
people hear about the downside as well as the bravery. So many of us are
already working hard to fix things, we are running around Beirut trying to
get food and water and medicine to people, we are doing things online, etc,
but it doesn't mean we are not scared, sick or tired.

So, last night amidst the worst shelling we've had so far, I realized that I
was not afraid of the noise anymore; how quickly you get used to it. I
realized what was hurting the most was the "UNKNOWN". What is going to
happen tomorrow? When will this all end? How are we going to start
re-building again? Are the refugees going to be ok? How are the people in
the south? And why punish a whole country? What is the real plan behind all
of this? How much worse is it going to get?

My husband and I have been housing foreign "refugees" helping them to find
their way out of the country. Two managed to leave this morning, a German
and Swiss. The other two are British and American. The craziest thing is
that out of all people, the American embassy has been the LEAST helpful to
its citizens here. The phone line to the embassy has been practically out of
service. My friend, Amanda, (whom I just met a few days ago, by the way) had
to hire a cab to take her to the embassy (which is a ride out of Beirut) and
all they could tell her was that they didn’t know what they were going to do
and to keep checking the website. Only thing she has gotten on the website
is that she now knows that there is going to be an evacuation (5 days
later), but when it happens, she is going to have to pay for it! Yes, they
are saying to their citizens that they are going to bill them for their ride
out! Can you believe that?!

Trying to evacuate people has put me under stress. The question is what am I
to do if I had the opportunity to leave? Would I leave? What do I do with my
friends? My family? My art studio? I have a British passport; I could be
evacuated with my husband. But what would happen to my best friend Maya? She
has a very rare and bad case of CANCER! I have been taking care of her since
she was diagnosed a few months ago and I know that my care for her is what
has helped her do so well. Her type of cancer is "untreatable", but
ironically, the day the shelling started, her doctor told us her tumors had
shrunk! Unbelievable- a true miracle. I can't leave Maya!

What about art work in my studio? What about all my brushes and paints and
glitter and books! All my books! Again- the crazy things that cross your

What about our photo albums? All our family pictures? The memories...

What about the doodles I drew on my balcony a few summers ago when I was
suffering from a bad break up?

What about all the love letters I have saved? Letters that document my youth
that I wanted to some day give to my daughter.

What about my other best friend? My dog, Tampopo? My beautiful Jack Russel
Terrier who has never let me down. Who has always been a source of purity
and compassion... Who has eyes of an angle... Dogs are not allowed to
evacuate. My American friend Christine is going to have to leave her dog
with me; a black pug named Baousi (means Kiss in Arabic). She is
heartbroken! She almost didn't want to evacuate. She went to so many
embassies to try and register with them and see if they would take her dog.
Don't worry Christine, I will take great care of Baousi.

My sister has been volunteering to help the refugees who are being sheltered
in public schools. Right now they are calling on Lebanese citizens to help
out with money, medicine, food, water, blankets and mattresses. She has been
going to people and asking for money and then going out to buy medicines for
refugees- her own initiative! My mom has joined in too. a friend has put
together a website for accepting donations:

Biggest cynical statement of the day:
Israel has told people to evacuate from the south because they are going to
annihilate the south of Lebanon. However, the people can not leave because
all the roads have been destroyed/blocked. And yesterday when people did try
and leave, the Israelis opened fire on them! A massacre is happening!

Update on the attacks, as of yesterday:
- Israelis have been bombing the south of Lebanon with phosphorus and other
chemical bombs.
- Israelis have bombed all ports along the coastline of Lebanon.
- Israelis have bombed all our local army radars and some outposts
- Israelis have bombed/attacked the fire fighting brigade and the Search and
Rescue Brigade in the South. Innocent civilian lives were lost. It was a
massacre- the buildings were also housing refugees.
- Israelis have continued to bomb the suburb of Beirut, Dahiyeh & Haret
- Israelis have now killed over 100 civilians and there are several hundreds
- … and they continue to bomb the south
- Israelis have started hitting roads that lead to the mountains. They hit a
main one leading to the Shouf.
-Israelis have hit a gas plant in the mountains

... I can't keep up with what they have hit.

*** Israel has begun to target Lebanese army outposts. They have killed
Lebanese soldiers. They are no longer just targeting Hizuballah. They mean
to kill all of Lebanon.

The reality:

Israel is trying to bring Lebanon to its knees. Israel is trying to destroy
Lebanon and the Lebanese spirit. Israel is trying to turn Lebanese against
each other. Israel is trying to turn us into animals scrounging for food,
water and shelter. Israel and the United States of America are trying to
drag Syria and Iran into this too. They are using Lebanon as bait. Lebanon
is stuck in the middle. The Americans and Israelis are trying to launch a
regional war!!

Please help in any way you can. Please pass on the message, this email-
reprint if you wish. Please tell people what is going on. Please put
pressure on your respective governments to step in and do something.

Lebanon is a peaceful country. We are the only country in the region in
which people of all religions co-exist peacefully.

It is unbelievable how biased the news is. They are not reporting the real
damage being caused. They don’t report that the Israelis are killing
innocent civilians. It seems from this end that all they are focusing on is

Are the Israeli & US government really just trying to wipe us all out??
Well, you can tell them that I’m not leaving. And there are many of us who
are not leaving. We love Lebanon. We love what we have spent our lives

Tell them about people like me.. who build culture and tolerance. Who work
for peace and understanding. Who work to educate. Who work to promote love
and compassion. There are thousands like me here. What about us?

Tell them about people like me, that despite all of this, I have still not
learnt to hate. They can take everything from me, but not my dignity. Not my
morals and beliefs. They will never never break my spirit.

Tell the Israeli citizens what their government is doing to us. Tell them
that violence begets violence. Remind them that Lebanon is their neighbor
and that co-existence is possible. How are we going to ever reach an
understanding through violence? We were so close... We were so close...

Please stop this brutality!

Still with love,
Zena el-Khalil

By the way, did I mention Maya's tumors are getting smaller?
Did I mention there was a wedding across the street yesterday?

Don't know how much longer this email will still be up for, but in case of
an emergency, there is always

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