The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Pictures from Bint Jbeil, Qana

It looks like the war will be lasting for another two weeks from what Israeli officials are saying, and the Bush administration's line has not fundamentally changed since, since they are unwilling to impose a ceasefire. And this current trend seems to be leading nowhere, with even the Brookings people now critical.

Meanwhile, the pictures of carnage continue to stream in from Lebanon. Here is a set from Bint Jbail, and one from Qana and the south. Editor of as-Safir Hanady Salman, who collected the pictures, writes:

So July is over. Now it's Beirut, August 2006.

I don't know if any of you are reporters who covered wars in their homeland. But it's really weird, somehow "funny".

Editors crying while reading their reporters' stories, photographers breaking down, colleagues calling their kids in the middle of the night after seeing pictures from the south, weird sounds during editorial meetings ( you know how men like to hide their tears and emotions) , women wearing black as a "natural reflex", men growing the beards, even our publisher doesn't wear suits anymore.

People are sleeping here, somewhere in the basement. Women sleep in the nearby furnished apartment building.

In the morning, we don't greet each other anymore; we just look deep into each other's eyes. Some turn their faces away, some lecture about the necessity of being strong. We touch each other a lot. Hugs here, holding hands there, a mere tap on the shoulder.. you name it.

People stay around each other. No one likes to stay alone in an office. We order food and eat together. But we never talk about anything concerning what's happening.

We watch the news together, we weep, we smile, but we don't say anything and then we get back to work. Someone goes out , the only question I ask them when they get back is : how many words , and when will you be done. No details, no one wants to tell what they see, no one wants to hear it. We write while crying, we read it and cry, but we never talk about it.

Saada had tears in her eyes yesterday in her office. I came in and spoke to her and she answered back and her tears kept coming but we both behaved as if nothing was happening. I didn't see her tears, and she wasn't crying.

Zeinab called me from Tyre yesterday. She was in the hospital. She was telling me something about her story and then suddenly she started yelling "you can't believe what's happening here, you won't believe what's happening here, oh Hanady please khalas , please I can't take it anymore." And then, suddenly also, she stopped, went back to her normal tone of voice and finished our "professional conversation".

Yesterday Wajdi and Ali decided to take me out to the sea side. They almost dragged me out of the office, put me in the car and drove through Hamra to the Corniche. I was looking at the streets, the houses, the cars, the shops as if I see them for the first time.

I hadn't been to Hamra ever since this had started. I go out to the southern suburb to check out the damages, I go to schools and parks where refugees stay, but otherwise I stay in the office and go home.

So, we went to the Manara Corniche, they got me coffee, we sat on a bench and they started making plans for when this will be over. They agreed they should take their families to Sharm El Sheikh, in Sinai, Egypt. There, the kids will swim, and they will get to rest. I told them that the whole newspaper should take a week off, when this is over, to rest. So they suggested we all go together to Sharm el Sheikh. I said I'm renting a whole floor in the hospital for psychiatric patients "assfouriyeh". They suggested I make reservations now, because at the end of the war, room prices in Assfouriyeh will rise. They spoke as if they were certain this will end before the summer is over, as if they were certain Sharm el Sheikh still exists, as if they were certain that outside this country , life is still going on.

I always thought that I had a limited mind. For me life happens only here and now.