Friday, August 25, 2006

Tomdispatch: Rasha Salti on Life under the Bombs

With a truce in Lebanon shakily in place but challenged by small incidents almost every day, it's just another tenuous week in the Middle East. The 33-day war may be provisionally over, but it probably has not ended -- and the scale of the destruction in Lebanon should not be forgotten. With that in mind, Tomdispatch offers 11 excerpts from an on-line diary of those 33 days of war as experienced by Rasha Salti -- one skilled writer's eloquent instant-portrait of what it feels like to be on the ground in the Middle East right now.

A 37-year-old freelance Lebanese writer and independent curator, Salti has shuttled back and forth between Beirut and New York City over the past several years. Her April 2005 diary of the 30th anniversary of Lebanon's bitter civil war, written against the backdrop of the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Harari, was published by Middle East Report Online. Later that year, she served as the director of the Cinemaeast Film Festival before returning to the U.S. She moved back to Beirut on July 11, the day before the Hezbollah capture of two Israeli soldiers triggered an all-out war that devastated much of her country. She wrote these daily digests to her friends in the U.S.

"The media look for the breaking news obviously. They look for the stories, but when they find a story, they don't find an ordinary story, one that appeals. I write about the mundane, the everyday," Salti told Reuters in the midst of the war. "People see a human being, not a reporter doing the job, or an ideologue defending an idea. I get positive responses, people that become sympathetic to our plight as Lebanese." The following then are excerpts from her online diary of the siege, edited by Sandy Tolan, the author of the recently published The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East. Tom.

Siege Notes

By Rasha Salti (from Beirut)


I am writing now from a cafe, in West Beirut's Hamra district. It is filled with people who are trying to escape the pull of 24-hour news reporting. Like me. The electricity has been cut off for a while now, and the city has been surviving on generators. The old system that was so familiar at the time of the war, where generators were allowed a lull to rest, is back. The cafe is dark, hot, and humid. Espresso machines and blenders are silenced. Conversations, rumors, frustrations waft through the room.

I am better off here than at home, following the news, live, on-the-spot documentation of our plight in sound bites.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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