Sunday, July 30, 2006

beirut update

dear citizens of earth,

please do not post political comments or comments of hate or blame on my blog. though i appreciate that everyone is entitled to their opinions, i do not want my blog to be a platform for political debate.

i am an artist, not a politician.

our beautiful world is in such a fragile state right now. let us rise above hate.

remember love.
remember love.

chasing oil

yesterday, a few of us got into a car and drove up the Lebanese coast line, order to document the oil spill. we took pictures, video, and prepared a map that traced the movement of the oil slick.

though i was on the edge of having a panic attack the whole time, being afraid that at any time, the road, bridge or tunnel we were on could be bombed... it felt good to finally get out of beirut for a few hours... first time in a long time.

what we saw was horrendous. our glorious beaches... all covered in black. bays, rocks, crevices, hidden under a blanket of oil. i can not tell you how big this spill is. we went as far up as Anfe (which is about 10 minutes before Tripoli) before we had to turn back to Beirut in oder to make it to our evening interviews on time. the oil slick continues to travel north, eating up everything in its path. we heard it was reached Syria now.

Byblos (Jbeil) bay is completely smothered. this once picturesque and touristic town, also the oldest port city on Earth, is in ruins. we could smell the oil before we were anywhere close to the bay. this summer, the town was planning to celebrate its 7,000th birthday! there were huge festivities planned... so much went into it... now... nothing but this black plague.

we stopped to speak with a few fishermen. they are completely devastated. they have no means of income anymore. so many of them had fixed up their boats for this summer i hopes of giving tourists small boat trips around the coast. now, that is gone too.

i had a really bad headache all day... we were driving on the coastal road, stopped every few minutes to document.... the smell was so strong. when i got home, i blew my nose and the tissue was all black. i made sure to take a really good shower.

we were going to send out the press release, pics and video today, but we got even worse news...

there had been a massacre in Qana early this morning. history repeats itself. the Israelis dropped a bomb on a building that was sheltering refugees. the news at this point is that 55 were killed. mostly women and children... but the numbers are growing. the news is still fresh. it was only a few years ago that the Israelis did the same thing, except last time, it was a UN building that they hit. and over 100 people were killed. mostly women and children killed... why?? how can anyone be so inhumane?

i think Israel is the only country in the world that is allowed to hit UN posts and get away with it. only a few days ago, an UN post was hit in the South. UN peacekeepers died. to their families, i beg forgiveness. Lebanon is a beautiful country.. full of beautiful people. we all mourn your loss.

this whole attack has been one massacre after another. and still they persist. and still, it continues...

Saturday, July 29, 2006

while i was building dreams, they were preparing my destruction

the latest in my inbox today... i have now heard from more than one source that these attacked have been planned all along.

"Of all of Israel's wars since 1948, this was the one for which Israel
was most prepared," Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at
Israel's Bar-Ilan University, told the San Francisco Chronicle
(7/21/05). "By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about
three weeks that we're seeing now had already been blocked out and, in
the last year or two, it's been simulated and rehearsed across the
board." The Chronicle reported that a "senior Israeli army officer"
has been giving PowerPoint presentations for more than a year to "U.S.
and other diplomats, journalists and think tanks" outlining the coming
war with Lebanon, explaining that a combination of air and ground
forces would target Hezbollah and "transportation and communication

can someone tell me why i wasn't notified? they tell the press, but they don't tell me? boy do i feel stupid.

today i feel so stupid.

for the last six years, i have been making plans. i have been building dreams. i got married. i bought a home. i painted. i exhibited. i made plans with people... for them to come here. i invested time, emotions, money, ideas, love... into lebanon.

for the last six years, i have been building bridges. from beirut to new york. from beirut to everywhere.

for the last six years, i have made new friends. i have met with people. i have made contacts. i have made committments.

for the last six years, i promised people things. at work, at home, with friends...

for the last six years, i have been encouraging others to paint, sculpt, draw, film, photographs, make, stick, sew, create... i promised them that their work would get somewhere... that is was so important to make work... that lebanon was embracing the arts.. and we just had to direct it.

for the last six years, i promised my parents a family. i promised them grandchildren.

for the last six years, i promised my best friends a beirut that our kids would love. a beirut that would be healthy for ourselves and our friends. a beirut that would be unlike any other city in the world.

i just wish i got to see the power point presentation.. then i wouldn't have wasted my time on so much hope. while i was building dreams... they were preparing my destruction. why???????????

yes, dear reader, i am becoming angry and cynical. this is what happens when you stop sleeping. this is what happens when you stop eating. this is what happens when your dreams are shattered. this is what happens when your country is violated.

but, i will not hate. i will never hate. i am just really really disappointed by these people who feel they have the right to govern my life.

only thing left to do now is to resist. resist with love. my most powerful weapon that no one can touch.

i still love. i will always love. i love beirut.

tax dollars

it's almost 5 am and i can't sleep. that noisy propeller sounding plane is flying over my house again. i think it's a spy plane. the noise is pretty constant. as if it is hovering just above my roof.

we heard today that Israeli troops are pulling out a little in the South. Does this mean that their new shipment of bombs have arrived? the expedited delivery from America? they don't have to sacrifice soldiers on the ground anymore... now they can just blow us up from the skies.

here we go, ladies and gentlemen, a new round of bombings... what is there left to bomb anyway? the South of Lebanon is on fire. Saida is on fire. Beirut is on fire. i can't keep track of things.

biggest joke of the week: Condi went to Rome to try and make peace, but in the meantime America is sending Israel new bombs.

can someone tell me what they were thinking?

and worst news of all... with all this attention on Lebanon, the world is not paying attention to the new attacks on Gaza. for the last 2 days there has been constant shelling on Gaza. the sick joke here is that the Israelis were upset about having to pull out of the South, so they are taking it out on the Palestinians now.

when will we all learn that violence begets violence.

my dear american friends, your tax dollars are really starting to annoy me. no matter how much you protest the idea, you are all involved in this as much as i am. i know so many of you are protesting this, but it seems like your congress is not. if you really want to help me here, please speak to your congress. ask them to stop this madness.

thank you

so, i have not been able to draw or paint since the attacks started, but a dear friend and wonderful artist, Emily Jacir, saw to it that somehow, art could be made out of all of this.

Emily who is currently in NYC asked some of her students to make street art/ community activism art out of some of her emails, she printed out for them, from the last two weeks. she asked them to "go out into the streets and do something in the public sphere based on their interaction, (or reaction) or whatever with the emails." a few students got some of my emails..and have been able to make the art i haven't been able to make.

thank you, Emily. and thank your students.

the media can say all they want, but art always tells the truth.

you can read more about this on electronic intifada:

the pic above was taken by Emily.

Friday, July 28, 2006

a crab eulogy

by the way, we tried to wash the crab. tried to save it. but the oil wouldn't come off. it was so thick. we had to leave him on the beach. i want to take this moment to mourn all our sea life and animals that succumbed or will succumb to this senseless and unjust war. i apologize on behalf of mankind who can be really stupid sometimes. we invade your space, your habitats... we impose our way of life on you... we drag you into our mess... for this, i am so sorry. dearest Mother Nature, i hope you can find a way to forgive us. we still have so much to learn.

environment pr - more damage

wael and i have been down to the beach again and again.. taking pictures.. writing..

today, a fisherman named Youssef told me about how his life is totally ruined now. his father is from the same village mine is from! and we have the same last name! what a coincidence. but, i don't think we are related. our village is in the south of Lebanon. we were both distressed talking about how we couldn't reach family. he told me that he heard the village was hit.

"but, we have no Hizuballah", i told him. he said "the Israelis don't care. they just want to blow everything and everyone up until Lebanon does not exist anymore.. then they will occupy us again. then they will take the South all for themselves.. they want our river. they want our water. the other day UN peacekeepers were blown up, then our village, who knows what is next?"

he told me that earlier this morning, he tried to save turtles that were trying to make it to the shore. he was not able to save a single one.

we spotted a crab and he made a dash for it. it was covered in black oil. totally smothered ..the poor thing. what does he have to do with any of this?!

i took some pics too. will post in a bit. right now my eyes can't focus on the screen anymore.. please read the press release Wael wrote... please pass it on.

War in Lebanon Brings About the Biggest Environmental Catastrophe in the History of the Country:
15,000 ton Oil Spill from Jiyyeh Power Plant Hits Most of the Lebanese Coast

By Wael Hmaidan

Beirut, July 27, 2006 - The escalating Israeli attack on Lebanon did not only kill its civilians and destroy its infrastructure, but it is also annihilating its environment. Last week a 15,000 ton oil spill resulted from the Israeli air raid on the Jiyyeh power plant South of Lebanon. The power plant has 6 fuel tanks. Four of them have burned completely, while the fifth one, which is also the main cause of the spill, is still burning. The Lebanese ministry of environment is worried that the sixth tank, which is underground and so far intact, is going to explode and increase the magnitude of the problem.

The oil slick appeared for the first time last week on the once beautiful beach of Ramlet El-Beida in Beirut, which is (or now used to be) the only public beach that Beiruties can enjoy in the Lebanese capital. Upon this finding, several environmental activists alerted the media on the spill, which in turn has mobilized the municipality of Beirut and the Ministry of Environment. After a few days of investigation it became obvious that more than 100km of the Lebanese coast, from Jiyyeh in the South to Chekka in the North has been hit by this oil spill.

Lebanese environmental NGOs have labeled the spill as the worst environmental crisis in Lebanon’s history. Just for the sake of comparison, in 2003 a 50 ton oil spill in the North by a cement company was a huge blow to the Lebanese coastal environment, and required a years clean up effort. The current spill is 300 times bigger, and there is a big possibility that more oil will go into the sea.

This spill will have a huge negative impact on the Mediterranean marine environment. The Lebanese coast is a very important site for fish spawning and sea turtle nesting, including the green turtle, which is an endangered species in the Mediterranean.

During the month of July, turtle eggs start to hatch and all baby turtles will need to reach deep waters as fast as possible. With the oil slick in their way baby turtles will have no chance of making it. Also, Blue Fin Tuna, which is a very important commercial species in the Mediterranean and which has been under severe stress from over-fishing, are present in the Eastern Mediterranean coastal water in this period of the year. The oil spill, of which part of it has settled on the sea floor, will threaten the blue fin tuna and other fish species spawning areas.

Another important impact of the spill is the effect on tourism in the future. The Lebanese coast is an important tourist destination, and after the war ends, Lebanon will need every source of income to rebuild its infrastructure. Now the beautiful Lebanese white beaches are covered with a black layer and the smell of fuel can be smelled a good distance in land, rendering them toxic and useless.

According to media and the Ministry of Environment said that this oil spill is bigger than what the local authority can handle and urgent help is needed from outside. The Ministry of Environment has organized a team to follow on this issue, and have requested help from the United Nations Environmental Program and the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Center for the Mediterranean (REMPEC). The Kuwaiti Environment Authority has responded to the Lebanese government call and promised to send equipment and expertise to help in the clean up. Nevertheless, the constant Israeli air raids will make the clean up operation very difficult. Last week Israel targeted ambulances and aid trucks coming into the country. There is no guarantee that Israel will not target any equipment that approaches the beach, and clean up efforts might not be in place until a cease fire has been reached.

This spill will not be the only environmental impact of the attack on Lebanon. Other impacts include air pollution and chemical spills due to the targeting of industrial factories, fuel bunkers, and other flammable structures; the use of depleted uranium in Israeli bombs, and the huge waste and sanitary crisis resulting from the 750,000 refugees in Lebanon, which can lead to water pollution and the spread of diseases. A full assessment of the environmental impact of this war can only happen after the conflict is over and Lebanon should work with the international community on this issue.

Wael Hmaidan was the Greenpeace Campaigner for the Arab World for the past three years. Currently he is an environmental activist and environmental policy advisor for Lebanese and regional NGOs.
Contact information: Wael Hmaidan, mobile: +961-3-506313, email:

Thursday, July 27, 2006

two week notice

war is exhausting.

it's been two weeks now, and we are finding ourselves very tired. very drained.

i do not understand what the bigger picture is. i am done trying to analyze why this is all happening. i am giving in to fatigue.

i have spoken with so much press, but it doesn't seem to be working. in fact, i feel that i have become just another war victim. just another story on your radiowaves. just another blog entry online. the media lives off of stories like mine. i help get their ratings up. i help people tune in to their channel. i help them sell ad spots to make money.

i also manage to get my voice heard. i also manage to touch a few people. i am grateful for that.

but, i do not want to be just another war victim... that perhaps next week you will forget all about me. i don't want to live a life of war. i did not ask for this. i do not want this. i had another life. one that was directed by me. one that i was in charge of. decisions that i made by myself. responsibilities that i set for myself. i don't want to be a war story. do you understand what i am trying to say? i just want to be me. live the life that i spent shaping and moulding for myself. follow my dreams. carry out my projects. paint what i feel like painting, and not what is imposed on me.

this war is imposed on me. like all wars are, on all civilians. i don't want to be another depressing story in your inbox.


already, so many people are becoming too used to this. people have stopped going to work-- what's they point? there is war! people have let go of certain commitments and responsibilities-- what's the point? there is war! cafes and restaurants have shut down. people have let go of projects, proposals, plans... people have stopped communicating. telephones don't work!

i saw maya today. maya lived in lebanon during the civil war. we had a strange conversation.

maya: what's wrong with you today? you look so down... so depressed.... zena, what's wrong? did someone die?? what's wrong???

zena (saying this out loud to maya): oh, it's nothing.. it's just this war. don't worry, i'll be fine. (insert fake smile here).

zena (saying this in her head): i have anxiety all the time. my tummy is always in a knot. i can't sleep. i can't eat. i am afraid all the time. i am angry too. it's hot. my food in my fridge keeps going bad, because electricity is on and off. i'm freaking out because my internet has been going on and off.... i'm so afraid that one day it just won't come back on again.

maya: don't worry. you'll get used to this. we all did back in the 80s. you have to. you have no choice. you will see, soon you will be so used to this, you won't even realize that there is a war going on.

zena (out lout to maya): i don't think i want to get used to this.

zena (to herself): it doesn't have to be like this. we don't have to accept this. maya, i'm so sorry you once had to "get used to it". i don't want you or i to have to "get used to it" again. it doesn't have to be this way. this is not a way of life. don't we still have choices as human beings? don't we still have a chance to prove that in the end humanity prevails?

maya: come on, let's make some pancakes. it will get your mind off things... by the way, did i tell you how much weight you've lost? you look good!!

zena: yeah, let's make pancakes... i have been meaning to shed a few pounds.. but i didn't think it would happen like this and so quickly. now, i want to gain weight ... so i can lose it the right way.

we had pancakes for lunch. we invited our friend Hiba and my brother Nidal. my husband kept feeding scraps to Tampopo and Bawsee. of course i yelled at him, telling him that pancakes were bad for doggies. he of course replied... "no they are not. and's war."

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

israeli flyer

a few days ago, flyers were dropped down on us from the sky. this is one of them. we have deciphered it as a pic of nasrallah coming out of a vase saying "any services?" around him are the president of syria, the leader of hamas, and the iranian president. on the bottom of the vase it says "beirut". oh, and they are all sitting on a map of lebanon. i found this near the Phoenicia Hotel.


i finally went to the supermarket.

i have been dreading it... didn't want to see empty shelves. didn't want to see people queuing.

what i did see... shelves beginning to empty. a priest buying a lot of beer. long lines..

i have never been so self conscious buying food before. my pride would not let me overstock. i saw long life milk... my hand reached out for a bottle, and then another, and then a third. as soon as i saw them in my trolly, i took one out and put it back on the shelf, and then the second, and finally the third. i did not buy milk. i was so self conscious about it. i thought to myself, better leave it for a mother who has kids to buy it.

i ended up buying strange things. things i was worried i may not find in the country again. i bought a bottle of triple sec. so that i can make cosmopolitans for my friends when they eventually do start coming over to visit again.

i bought pesto in a jar. i know it will soon become a luxury item. i bought two small jars.

i bought sanitary napkins. the ones i like. i never want to get stuck with those really thick 1980s bulky ones. i always used to see them in my cousin's bathroom when we used to visit Beirut in the 80s. they remind me of war.

i bought the shampoo i like. i don't want to end up using that crappy generic kind that comes in huge plastic bottles and is either fluorescent pink or green. looks radioactive. it reminds me of Beirut in the 80s.

i bought smoked almonds. two cans.

i bought more pasta. yuck.


i have been getting some beautiful emails... about love and compassion. thank you so much... people i have never met before... new friends... so, i got to wondering... if there are so many beautiful people out there, why is there war?

how can this equation be possible? that there are so many beautiful people out there, but yet, there is so much war.


it is so hot. now that our "refugees" have gone, my husband keeps walking around the house in his boxers. i tell him to put some clothes on and his reply is, "what for? we don't have any neighbors anymore. they are all gone. who is going to see me??"

hehe. he's right. so, i let him off the hook.


beirut in the 80s. i feel like i am 10 and 30 all at the same time.


we are almost up to 1 million refugees now.
israel invaded the south of lebanon. they are on lebanese soil now. they are attacking villages, one after the other.
hizuballah continues to fire into israel.
israel continues to fire into lebanon.
civilian targets are still being hit. today a hospital was hit. so were ambulances.
what is this war? why is this war?

Monday, July 24, 2006

from the woman who loves beirut more than me

another art blog

another great art blog by a good friend:

other blogs

a few friends have set up their own blogs, i wanted to help spread the word. they all specialize in different things. but are all about this crisis.


art & literature:

keep writing beirut, our voices are getting out there!!
there is a very strong smell in the air tonight. i have smelled it before.

i was in NYC during the 9-11 attacks. For two months after the attacks, NYC smelled like Beirut smells like tonight.

it is a mixture of burnt buildings, electric fires, and charred bodies.

it is a putrid and nauseating smell.

i closed all the windows in the apartment, but now we are choking from this sweltering heat.

i went to see Maya today and she commented on how everyday in Beirut these days is like a Sunday... no one on the streets... all the shops closed... but really, it is a lot worse than that. tonight the electricity was out... beirut was so dark and silent.

today i thought about my students in the Burj Al Barajni Palestinian Refugee Camp. They are caught in the middle of it all. Located right between the airport and Dahiye, i cannot imagine what they are going through. they already had water, medical and electrical shortages.. it must be so bad right now. my heart is breaking...

my sister, Lana, and I had started a class to economically empower young women of the camp. Lana organized it so that each month an artist would come in and teach the women of the camp a craft or artisan skill, so they could make crafts they could sell in order to help support their families. at the end of the classes we were going to have an exhibition of the works made. my month was july. i was only able to give two classes until this madness erupted. we were making objects out of paper mache. the last time i saw them, we were making mini people that represented different people of the camps. we used balloons to make the head, and chicken wire for the bodies... then we covered them with newspaper and glue.

today i also thought about world domination. about how a few people control so much of what goes on today. it was too scary to continue the thought. so, i stopped.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

pics of environmental damage; oil slick on beirut publich beach

i know you have been seeing pics of destruction, so i thought i'd post the pics i took by the beach... the oil spill!

thank you

wow, looks like i lost it yesterday. i was so upset and stressed out.

i will never lose my faith in humanity. to everyone who has been writing me letters of support, i salute you! you give me faith and hope. and courage to keep on believing. i am sorry i can not write back to each and everyone of you, but i have saved your letters... and re-read when i need to.

to my neighbors... it is actually illegal for me to communicate with you directly. that is why i have not written back. but i want to take this risk now to thank you for your letters of support. you have no idea how much it means to me. you are human, i am human. we are both suffering. i know there are many of you who don't approve this. thank you so much for speaking out.

it is sunday morning and my husband and i are going to try and do somethings we used to do, back in our previous life of two weeks ago. we just made breakfast... fried halloum cheese. it is so good! and we are going to leave the house for a few hours to visit family and friends. i am going to see maya!

last night, after i went to sleep, we heard three bombs dropped on Dahiye, our bed shook, but i looked into my husband eyes and felt safe. i hugged him so tight and thought to myself. "if this is my time to die, i wouldn't want to have it any other way."


sitting on my balcony now.

beirut is so quiet. so quiet on a saturday night.

beirut is so so quiet.

we participated in two demonstrations today.

the first was for mothers/women against the war. we demanded that the Israeli army stop killing our children by calling for a ceasefire immediately. that took place in front of the UN building. there were about 25 people. that is a lot considering how people are so scared today. we wore white

the second was in martyr's square. it was a silent vigil to mourn all the children who killed the last 11 days. we held cards up with their names and ages. it was silent, we wore black.

i am getting tired of eating pasta every day. it's the only thing i know how to cook. so today my husband and i made popcorn for lunch.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

no more cell phones

just heard the news and i feel sick to my stomach. the telecommunications towers in the north have been hit. i can't get through to any of my friends up there! liz, if you read this... hope you're ok. thinking about you and your family and friends... zeina, tried calling you in tripoli yesterday... i hope you're ok. i can't get through to anyone.

this is insane!

people are so afraid!! this is psychological warfare!!

this is unjust and inhumane!


everyone in Lebanon is a direct target. we are all sitting ducks.

also heard today that the US is sending a new batch of weapons over to Israel. and that it's expedited delivery!

so, let me ask this question: if israel gets its weapons from the USA then by default doesn't that mean that the USA is at war with Lebanon? isn't that what they are saying about iran and the hizuballah? What did we ever do to the USA to get this? how can something like this be possible? how can mankind be so corrupt, greedy and inhuman?

i am so angry. i am so let down.

WORLD, where are you??? how can something like this be allowed to happen!

why isn't this being stopped?


people are going crazy from stress, anxiety and depression. my head is constantly buzzing. i feel like i'm going to faint and vomit at the same time.

the Israeli army today blew up the satellite link for major tv news stations. ie: LBC International and Future International. most of the Arab world keeps in touch with what is going on here through those stations. now no more. how are they to know the truth? is Israel slowly trying to choke us?

i spoke with an Irish photojournalist today. she said that she took some pictures yesterday of civilians who were injured from the bombing. but she said that they would never get printed back home. why? because the newspaper would not want to disturb their viewers.

What kind of garbage is that????

i just got back from walking the dogs. the streets were pitch black. no electricity on the roads. i was so scared. the dogs were unhappy because i didn't let them off the lead. i was so afraid they would run off into the darkness and never come back.

i fear that one day i am going to wake up and everything around me will be black. it has already happened to more than half the population of Lebanon. why should it not happen to me.

please, who ever is reading this, please pass on the word. please do what ever you can to help. tonight, so far, it has been very quiet. too quiet. we all fear that this is the calm before the storm. they have been dropping chemical bombs in the south. are they going to do the same with the rest of the country. i also heard they are using depleted uranium. does this mean that after this is all over with, we are going to be looking at a generation of cancer victims?

God, where are you?

Friday, July 21, 2006

i just got back from dropping off my last "foreign refugee". it was a very very sad experience. we were both crying so hard. she didn't want to leave. i didn't want to let go of her hand.

the security at the bus which was to transport her on to the ship gave her a hard time because her handbag was too big. she yelled at him and said this was her home and that she was going to take her bag. that she didn't want to leave. i pulled her aside and helped her re-pack some stuff from one bag to another. she was only allowed to take a small carry on and a purse. while re-packing, i noticed that the reason her handbag was so big was because she was taking one of my paintings with her. we both cracked up when she said little did she know how much emotional value this painting would have when she bought it last month!

i cried all the way home. and even more upon entering my apartment to be greeted by her dog. i lifted her up, looked into her beautiful black eyes and promised her i was going to be a good mommy. this black pug is now asleep next to me, curled up next to a pink feather boa her real mommy left behind. i miss you already, Christine.

earlier this morning, my husband and i went down to the beirut public beach. the rumor was true. there is an oil spill. the black crude oil has blanketed our beach, covering rocks and smothering all sea life. there were dead fish on the beach who had been suffocated by this black plague. we were trying to figure out where the oil is from. was it done on purpose by the Israelis? was it from all the ships that are here carrying people away? most probably it is from all the fuel tank reserves along the beach town of Jiye that were hit a few days ago. this black death swam up 40 kilometers to rest its weary bones on our one and only public beach. so we took pics and now he's writing up a press release. mankind is so arrogant. in our wars and selfishness, we always disregard the one thing that cares about us the most; Mother Earth.

i still can not believe all this. it was only 2 weeks ago that i was in Sour (Tyr) enjoying a cold Almaza (local beer), watching jelly fish wash up on the public beach down there. i was there with Amanda, who is now safely out of the country. i was showing her how close by Israel was... little did we know. it was a good day. we drank beer, ate a whole plate of greasy french fries and laughed a lot.

today Sour is one fire. today Sour is hell on earth. there are still so many people trapped in the city. no way to leave or enter. to way to call loved ones. people in the southern region received calls from a pre-recorded tapping from Israel demanding that they leave the south . but, when they did try and leave, an F 16 flew over and blew up a convoy of cars. 20 civilians killed in one blow; mostly women and children. because they were doing what the Israeli army said they should do.

tomorrow. tomorrow another demonstration. it is for women. we are going to sit peacefully in front of the UN building. we will wear white. we will call for a cease fire. we will demand that they stop killing our children.

i wonder what the plan is? it seems that there is some kind of plan that has been agreed on by so many powerful nations of the world.. otherwise how do you explain how the international community is ignoring this crisis. meanwhile, the people of Lebanon are doing their best to stick this thing out together.... so many people are volunteering to help with the relief shelters for the refugees, so many are helping the red cross, so many are working with children in the shelters to keep them happy, so many people donating money. beautiful beirut and her beautiful people... i love you.

i just want to be able to sleep again.

can not think of a title

today i saw so many familiar faces at the demonstration. it filled me with so much hope. many people have left, but there are still so many of the beautiful and strong. it was so good to see them. gave me strength... beautiful beirut.

i noticed today that none of us here at home can speak properly any more. we are so tired and drained that is has affected our communication. i am slurring words. i have to repeat my sentence a few times to get it right. my husband sometimes stops in the middle of his sentence and zones out. is it related to stress? fatigue? ... perhaps despair.

even tapi, my dog, is stressed out. she has been barking at the wall for no reason over and over again. i think the noise of the bombs have gotten to her somehow.

the news on tv was bad as usual. again, i want to ask.. who are all these people making decisions on my behalf?

i got to see my family today. we sat on the balcony and talked. it was so dark. so many empty apartments. very few street lights. so so quiet. there is a heavy smog that is covering beirut from all the bombings. we spoke politics for a while. everyone trying to guess what was going to happen tomorrow and next week. trying to piece things together. like a game. it was good to see them. and the beautiful thing was that today there was no talk of evacuation amongst us. what a relief.

a friend told me to stock up. that i had to buy more food for my kitchen. that what i had would not last more than a few days and that by the time i went to the supermarket again it would be empty.

i refuse. i refuse to stock up. i refuse. i refuse to accept this!

i believe in us. i believe in you. i believe in me. i believe in beirut.

with love,
beirut 3:02am

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Today's Demonstration

please circulate widely

Lebanese NGOs and citizens gather under the threat of the Israeli bombs to say stop the bloodshed now

Beirut, July 20, 2006 – This morning more than 300 Lebanese civil society and citizens organized a rally in downtown Beirut to strongly demand an immediate ceasefire. This rally took place while Israel continues its collective punishment of the Lebanese people by bombing civilians and infrastructure (1), and holding the whole country under siege.

The rally started in front of the UN building in downtown Beirut, and ended at the European Union (EU) house on Port Avenue. During which, various signs where held up that condemned the Israeli attacks and the US support for such atrocities. Some of these signs read “4 Million Lebanese Hostages”, “End the Siege Now“, and “300 civilians dead “. The group of civil society organizations, which organized the rally and call themselves “For Life”, submitted a memo to the UN secretary General and the EU in which they demanded for ceasefire in sympathy with the innocent civilians and what is left of lives in the country.

Gilbert Doumit, a “For Life” spokesperson declared, “by killing civilians, Israel is violating international regulations and the UN Human Rights Declaration with its attack.” Up till now more than 300 civilians have been killed, 1000 injured, and half a million have been forced to leave their homes and are living in tragic conditions.

Wael Hmaidan, another “For Life” spokesperson said, “We are not taking a political stand. We are acting purely on humanitarian basis, and what is happening is a crime against humanity.”

As of nine days ago, Lebanon has been held under siege by Israel, who have blocked all movements by land, air and sea, threatening to strangulate the whole country. “Things are going from bad to worse, and the world is hardly aware of the extent of the atrocities that are being committed against the Lebanese people.” Hmaidan added, “Attacks should stop now.”

For more information: Gilbert Doumit (+961-3-227673) and
Wael Hmaidan (+961-3-506313), email:

Notes to editor:
(1)The systematic destruction of the Lebanese infrastructure and economy has included our airport, all major bridges, roads and highways, water tanks, fuel and gas depots, wheat and grain silos, food storage facilities, ports, communication posts, electrical power plants, civil service centers, and army posts and barracks (despite the fact that the Lebanese army has not been engaged in this conflict).

today i cried a lot

Evacuation is not the solution. Just stop the bombing and then no one has to go.

I would say that the biggest issues on my mind today is what is going to happen to Beirut after all the foreigners are shipped out? On tv and online, I'm seeing thousands of people fleeing the country. Where are you all going?

Ladies and Gentlemen, I can finally say that I had a total breakdown today. It really hit me hard. I was crying all day... And I'm not ashamed to share this with you.

I have been helping foreigners leave. Two already gone. One tomorrow. And one that keeps postponing her departure... She doesn't want to leave. Her parents have pleaded for her to leave, but she loves Beirut as much as I do...

What happens when they are gone?

When the US and Europe evacuate all their citizens will they then give Israel another "green light week" or even month of bombing. Will they then finally go for the all out Beirut attack?

Beirut is nothing without her foreigners. Please don't leave.

So, I cried and cried... Because I felt an incredible wave of fear and sadness take over my mind. I have not been sleeping. Combine fear and lack of sleep and you get one big breakdown.

Church bells are ringing now telling me it's 3am. In about an hour I will hear the mosques singing to me. Only in Beirut. I love Beirut.

I got a lot of emails today from people in England. They said it was really really hot. My husband said that if this war doesn't kill us, global warming will. Hehe.. I did manage to laugh today.

Spent the whole day working to bring international media to our peaceful demonstration tomorrow. I hope they show up and I hope it remains peaceful. It is so important that the world sees what is really going on. I can not thank you all enough for the media contacts you have been sending my way. It is proving to be a small miracle. Thank you. Thank you so much.

I feel like I'm in a WWII movie right now. there is a loud propeller sounding plane flying around. It is so loud. What is it doing? I wonder if this noise is similar to what the Jews were hearing back then.. How frightened they must have felt. Hearing these loud sounds, and not knowing if this was going to be their last breath. ... So, what I don't understand is why they are doing it to us now? My Israeli neighbors... Violence can only bring violence... Please ask your government to stop. How can a people who have already had this, do it to someone else?

Though this Israeli aggression right now is of the most brutal kind, I think that it is so important that we retain our dignity tomorrow at the demonstration. The last thing the world should see is Arabs burning flags.

My eyes are stinging and the computer screen is blurry.... If only I could sleep.. I would sleep...

I also cried so much today when I found the catalog of the art exhibit I curated that took place last month. Last month lies in a different universe now. The show targeted young Lebanese women artists. it was all about providing a platform for a new generation of artists... What is to become of them now? Some of their work is still in the gallery..

I called so many different friends today, crying to them over the phone.. Apologizing for crying so much... But I guess I had to let it out. Just wanted to speak with people incase this was the last day I could actually do so. Phone lines in the south have been cut, people are stranded.. No way to hear from them. No way to know if they are alive. No way to get to them.

One friend was trying to instruct me on how to find a shelter near my house since we don't have one in our house. I almost threw up. I don't want to have to go around my neighborhood asking people if they have a shelter. Apparently you then get your own blankets, candles, mosquito coils, etc and store them there... For when it happens. I almost threw up from fear. Then I called my other friend and he told me he was sitting in his room listening to Enya. He is stuck in the suburbs/mountains. Yesterday the Israelis blew up a huge gas reserve near his house. Glad to see they are hitting Hizuballah so well. In areas they don't exist. And my friend, so close to the burning site, has only the option to sit back and drown out the sounds of taunting flames with elevator music., just realized I have no idea what day it is today. Did the gas blow up yesterday or was it the day before?

What does it matter... Everything is blowing up.

My friend told me about a bartender today who has not been able to speak with his family since this whole thing started. They were in the south. He has no idea if they are alive. His parents have a house in Dahiye (Beirut suburb where they bombed)... He made a run over today to see if he could grab his passport. It is such a huge risk to go anywhere near Dahiye! When he got to his home he realized that he would never be able to see his passport again, his building no longer existed. This bartender is stuck in Beirut for eternity.

What is this madness... Tell me why I shouldn't cry.

And I watch the people leave.

Lebanese and foreigners..

All going...

What is going to happen when they all leave?

What is going to happen to Beirut?

What is going to happen to me?

I am now going to stuff some cotton in my ears and try and get some sleep. Big day tomorrow, wish us luck.

...and I have still not learnt to hate.

With love,
Beirut, 4:13 am

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

demonstrations in beirut

Dearest Friends and Supporters and Loved Ones,

I am afraid I am too exhausted to write up a diary for today.. Been working so hard all day on so many things. Everything from solving the half a million refugee problem we now have to keeping my parents calm, to trying to contact international media to tell them about what is going on.

So many of you have asked me how you can help; I can tell you now, what we need so much of is media coverage that highlights the reality of the situation in Lebanon. I watched a bit of CNN today and I was shocked.

I am working with several NGOs, volunteers, activists, etc to reach the international media. To reach the world...


1. contact the media and let them know about what is going on 2. contact your local politicians and ask them to step in 3. send me reliable media contacts that I can either send my stories to or inform them about events, medical needs, etc.

In the meantime, you can also help by passing around the below message to any good/effective/reliable media sources you may have. We really need to get the international press there so the world can see us!

An invitation for a demonstration against the Israeli Attacks on Lebanon

A group of civil society organizations "Lil Hayat" (For Life) invites all Lebanese to gather in front of the UN House (ESCWA) in Riad El Solh Square in Beirut at 11 am on Thursday July 20, 2006 to march to the European Union Headquarters in Saifi. The gathering will be submitting a statement in protest of the Israeli attacks and calling on the mobilization of the world to stop the Israeli attacks on Lebanon.

Be many so we can be one.

Thank you to all for your wonderful support... So many of you I have never met.. Hopefully one day I will be able to invite you to my home in Beirut... It will be a sunny day. The breeze will be blowing just right... Maybe we will drink matee, maybe arak? We will joke and laugh. And my children will be running around with flowers in their hair.

With love,

beirut update 3

Today I drove through downtown on my way to visit my parents. I was driving alone and was a bit nervous. First time in a car alone since this whole thing started... But I had to see my parents.

I came across a red light and stopped. The streets were empty, and I caught myself wondering why I stopped and didn't just go through. Streets were totally empty; no other cars, no traffic police. Then I remembered my latest policy that is helping to keep me sane; that even under attack, we should not lose our manners. That even under attack, there are still some regulations we should abide by. Somehow, by not crossing the red light, I was able to maintain some dignity.

Then I looked into my rearview mirror and saw other cars approaching. I closed my eyes and in a fit of prayer wished that they would stop too. That somehow, if they didn't cross the light, it would indicate that somehow we are all thinking the same. I know most of you have heard about Lebanese drivers.. They never stop at red lights! Ladies and Gentlemen, today, they stopped.

I opened my eyes and and then burst into tears. All the cars had stopped. Everyone was behaving. It was a ray of hope today. Haha, the little things that make you happy. I turned and smiled and nodded my head to the other drivers. Maybe they thought this bleached blond was flirting with them.

I don't want to write about all the miserable moments I had today. They were too many. And how can I find the words to really express my despair?

I don't want to write about the tears that fell when I heard about how the Israeli army bombed food storages today. They bombed wheat silos and vegetable storages. Now they want to starve us to death? About how they are now targeting Lebanese army outposts. Lebanese army who are not even fighting them. About the planes that are flying so low. About how my house starts to shake every time a bomb drops. About my worries now about food and water shortages. About the refugees who have lost so much, who are now living on the streets.

The biggest threat today has been to bomb our main electrical plant. The very same one they blew up a few years ago. If that one goes, we are without electricity. I remember that summer... It was long and hot. I don't know what I would do without internet. Dear friends, if you don't hear from me after this email it is only because I no longer have access.

I don't want to write about the cramp in my heart every time I hear the death toll rising. So many children!! I don't want to write about how everything I have spent my whole life working for has disappeared in a matter of days. A matter of whole life has changed.

My whole life has changed and I did not ask for it. My whole life has changed without my consent. My whole life has changed because someone, not me, decided they were going to change it. Who said they could? Why didn't they ask me? I was supposed to be camping in the mountains (Chouf) this week. I was supposed to be working on a proposal to bring a New York artist out here next summer. It was supposed to be a surprise; I was going to set the whole thing up, get the funding and surprise him with it. People bought artwork from me, I am supposed to cash my checks. I am supposed to deliver art to people.

Two bombs just went off. My windows are shaking. Stupid me, I closed them to stop the mosquitoes from coming in. thank God they didn't just shatter. My heart, my heart is another story.

We are doing the best we can to help those in need. We are all playing our respective roles... Finding roles to play. My sister has been working with the Zicco House/ Helem rescue point. They have gotten a bank account open to accept donations so they can buy food, medicine, water, blankets, and mattresses. The ministries of heath and social affairs have proven to be ineffective. It is up to the civil society now to help out.

Two temporary bank accounts are now dedicated for donations:

Credit Libanais S.A.L Beyrouth
Agence Sassine
Client Name: Al Azzi Georges
Account number:

SGBL Hamra Branch
Client Name: CHIT Bassem
Account: 007.004.367.092.875.014

I can not thank you all enough for all your wonderful emails. They are filling me with life. Please forward the news... I am so tired. But as long as I have electricity and internet, I will continue to write. Until I lose my mind... Maybe by then I can get back into my studio again and paint.

To any Israelis who may read this. I have not learned to hate. I still believe in humanity. Violence begets violence. I know there are some of you protesting this. Thank you.

With love,

beirut update 2

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. Haven¹t been able to eat either, so am losing physical strength. It¹s all psychological at this point. I know I have to be strong, and I will be, but I can't deny what I¹m 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 didn¹t 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 mind.

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 Hreik
- Israelis have now killed over 100 civilians and there are several hundreds wounded
- Š 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 don¹t report that the Israelis are killing innocent civilians. It seems from this end that all they are focusing on is G8!

Are the Israeli & US government really just trying to wipe us all out?? Well, you can tell them that I¹m not leaving. And there are many of us who are not leaving. We love Lebanon. We love what we have spent our lives building.

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,

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

beirut update 1

For the last half hour or so, I have been watching the skyline outside my balcony. It is on fire. It's 4:14am.

At 3:28am this morning, I woke up to the sound of Israeli jets flying low over our skies in Beirut. I was just beginning to finally fall asleep, had racing thoughts in my mind all night, cramps in my stomach, fear... Just as I thought I was going to fall asleep, I heard the sound of jets, followed by one explosion after another.

It has calmed down now. I hear morning prayers in the distance.

I am at home with some friends who have taken refugee with us. A lot of them foreigners. We are trying to explain... Who, what, why.. But, we're also trying to be normal. Because being normal is what got Lebanese through 20 some years of war. We are joking about how the airport is on fire because of all the alcohol in the duty free. We are trying to be normal.

Up until now, Israel has done the following:

-blown up our international airport, run ways, gas reserves for planes (no one can leave or enter the country.) -blown up small military domestic airports (both in the north and south) -blown up all bridges and roads linking beirut to the south -blown up areas/villages of the south, everything from the deep south to saida -blown up ... As I type this now, another jet is flying by, it is so loud -... Continue... Blown up the suburbs (Dahiye).. Three missiles -blown up the beirut-damascus road at several points -we are surrounded at sea as well, there are military ships launching attacks ... Not watching tv anymore, but I know there is so much more going on.

Thousands evacuated their homes from the south today. They had to walk for miles because their cars could not cross the highway.

Another jet and another explosion. This is all going into Dahiyeh. I can see the red anti aircraft "bullets" being shot in retaliation. Pointless. The weapons Hizbullah have are so old and out dated (World War II left overs from Russia).. No match for Israeli technology.

Newest update, it's 4:26am, Israelis are attacking the city, "Saida" from sea. They are targeting the bridge that connects to Saida.

Another really loud bomb. My heart is racing. I can only pretend to be brave.

Everything that is happening now is because Israel is trying to wipe out any trace of Hizuballah in Lebanon. In the process of doing all this, they have wiped out our infrastructures. Our roads, bridges, etc. civilian homes, innocent lives.

It's 4:32am and I have a knot in my stomach. I am praying they don't hit the electricity. I want my internet. I think it's the only thing that will help me stay normal.

Latest update; 9 missile raids into Dahiyeh in the last hour. There are now several parts of Beirut without electricity. The sky is glowing red.

I am praying for the people in Dahiyeh .. Another really really loud bomb. I guess that makes it 10 now.

I am angry now. the things that cross your mind... I just set up a new installation last week, now, no one will get to see it. I was just about ready to launch an international residency program here.. Not going to happen now. was just planning to start a family, who wants to get pregnant now?

Ladies and gentlemen, I did not want to burden you with the troubles of war, but I think it is really important that the world knows what is going on. We are under attack by israel. It is unjust and unfair. I wonder what the media coverage is like out there. All this must end. Israel must be stopped. This is so unjust and unfair. Everything we've worked on for the past 10 years is gone now. so, so so, unjust and unfair. We had so many cultural events planned for the summer... Exhibits... Concerts... Plays.. Etc. all gone.

Israel can not keep going into where ever they choose to go to and blow it up!

Lebanon can not be occupied again by Israel.

Dear friends, pray for us. For this madness to end. Pray for the Lebanese people to stick through this together and not lose their cool.

With love,
Zena 5:02am

Believe it or not, the sun is beginning to rise and I actually hear birds chirping.