Monday, July 17, 2006

Evacuation Season

From a distance the Israeli bombs sound like some illtempered brat slamming a door. When they hit nearby, you start to shake, unwittingly and against your best intentions. And when they are overhead, and they flatten your house or the car you are traveling in, you make the news for a second, if you are deemed innocent or are from the west.

The mood on the streets of Hamra (which I have been confined to in the past 48 hours) changed overnight. Walking to and from the office today, I was the only "westerner" and also the only woman in sight. People's expressions have changed, hardened; they look at me with suspicion, rather than curiosity or desire.

My roommates left today, both of them Lebanese, and they are not coming back. They didn't call to say they were leaving; they didn't leave a note. But they did leave a stereo, clothes, rollerskates, mounds of trash, dirty dishes, wet laundry, files, books, and an entirely furnished house behind. Our apartment building is inhabited now by dozens of displaced persons. From where they come I don't know; the list of villages and neighborhoods that have been attacked and destroyed grows longer and my memory hazier, but they don't respond to my courteous smile and "Assalamu alaikum". I don't blame them. They sleep on matresses on the floors of the two unfurnished apartments in the building; they look out of place in upscale Clemenceau. In five days, the Israeli bombers can change the entire demographics of a city.

I flagged down a car that said "PRESS" on it today and the al Jazeera correspondent hastily gave me a ride to my destination, although he was in a rush to pick up a tape of the massacre committed today in Sour (Tyre). I'll be relying on the kindness of strangers more often in the coming days and weeks and I hope I can extend the favor to others. I hope these anonymous acts of kindness will outweigh the moments of suspicion and hostility.

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