Israeli Missiles Still Crash into the Memory of What Once Was


Five hours after the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah. In a village just north of the Litani River I walk over houses, houses that have become ruins of what once was. Here are prayerbeads still in their box, there a single shoe, a little farther-a babywalker. Lift up this foam mattress and there is the blood of the child who slept there when the missile hit.

Walking through the rubble I come across something more lying there, something somehow familiar. They are two photographs — moments frozen in time, something that once was, suspended in my shaking hand. A woman with black eyes like arrows piercing space, lips set and her hand motionless holding a piece of fruit. The next photograph is a group of people, men, women, girls and boys, posed with hands on each others’ backs in the foyer of a home.

A man walks through the rubble, he picks up pieces here and there and drops them again. Suddenly he walks towards a bulldozer with a Hezbollah flag waving from the top and directs the driver towards one end of the wreckage before walking back in my direction. His mother, sister, nephew and cousin were asleep where this home once stood when the Israeli missile struck fierce a few nights ago. The ceasefire has permitted him to come back to the site to silently sift through the remains of his family.

I stumble over the ruins to him and gently hand him the photographs. He shuffles slowly through the pictures of his family, one over another, three times, and puts them in his pocket. He looks at me, looks through me, eyes empty.

There is a ceasfire, but how to put the pieces back together?

Twenty minutes before seven am, when the ceasefire was scheduled to take effect, Israeli bombing could be heard in all directions, near and far, and the missiles seemed to race against the last seconds of war. Fifteen minutes before ceasefire, one of these missiles hit a home outside of Nabitiye and killed a forty year old disabled man who lived alone. His neighbors did not rejoice in the ceasefire-they were busy collecting the man’s body parts. His head was found severed with a single finger in the mouth. Today many Lebanese people, displaced by the four week war, left the schools, centers, and parks housing refugees in the north to return to their homes. Many of them did not know if their houses were still standing, and what had become of family members and friends left behind in the villages. Some, whose homes had been destroyed, remained in the centers, or arranged to stay with relatives.

Because Israel bombed virtually all of the roads and bridges in the south of Lebanon and over the Litani River, those returning spent hours on the road as a makeshift bridge was hastily constructed.

There was some joy, though not entirely celebratory, visible on the roads and entrances to towns. Hezbollah flags were held in passenger’s hands and the portrait of Nasrallah a common sight in rear windows. As the Israeli soldiers retreated from southern Lebanon with occasional glances over their soldiers, and missile-launching planes vanished from the sky, people felt at ease on their land again. After the destruction of two Israeli warships, fourteen tanks, and the deaths of over 70 soldiers, all culminating in a somber Israeli retreat, Hezbollah claimed the ground war victory. For many Lebanese this was predictable. If during its 23-year occupation here Israel was unable to defeat Hezbollah and the Lebanese resistance (finally being pushed out by Hezbollah in 2000), then how could Israel expect to disarm and crush Hezbollah in one month? Yet amongst the relief of the Israeli retreat, there is an utter sadness of returning to places in the south where there were once parks, stores, homes, schools and entire villages, where now only a few houses remain and the rest is flattened, where histories have become totaled beneath cement. Some villages stink with the decomposition of bodies, and as the cleanup continues, the Lebanese civilian death count will surely multiply. And from within the anguish of the rubble and lives lost there is danger: undetonated grenades, cluster ammunitions, and fragmentations illegally used by the Israelis. In the first day of the ceasefire a few people returning to their homes and a red cross worker have triggered these weapons.

As a United Nations MAC worker (part of a mine cleaning team) put it: “We just finished cleaning these things up in the south from the last time the Israelis used them. They (Israelis) even gave us maps of where they were. Now they scattered them everywhere all over again. It’s like going right back to zero.”

The families must start all over again as well. A group of sisters and their small children, who have been living in a refugee center in Saida, plan to stay with relatives in Beirut. They survived the bombing in their village on the Israeli border for twenty days. When the house they were in got hit the women called out the names of their children and where able to find the ones that survived.

One woman with her children was unaware that her sister was only meters away for an entire week obstructed by the rubble that had fallen between them. Another, who was seven months pregnant with twins, gave premature birth into the toilet while the village burned and bombs fell continuously. Among the sounds of bombs were her cries and those of the first baby she birthed,a girl who came out feet first and died instantly. A boy was birthed afterwards and died 24 hours later. She had been trying to concieve for four years before the war. The sisters were able to walk with their children to another village, and then another, under impossible circumstances of air bombardment and artillery fire of soldiers crossing over from Israel, and were eventually evacuated by the Red Cross to Saida.

In refugee centers in Saida survivors of the first Qana massacre in 1996 await return to Qana once again, where this month an Israeli missile killed 41 people, mostly children. A family with eight children from a village outside of Nabatiye will stay with relatives — their house was destroyed by a missile and they hid out for a week, as two of the children fell very sick from having no water or food, until escaping the bombardment to arrive to relative safety in Saida.

There is a ceasefire, but how to put the pieces back together?

Families shattered, scattered from graveyards to the long highway home. Eyes tatooed with scenes of horror. Bodies waiting beneath wreckage to be named and buried. Homes gone. Yes, there is a ceasefire. A ceasefire that cannot stop the pain.

Dahiye, the southern suburbs of Beirut, is a city of rubble. People appear miniscule walking amongst the skyscraping ruins. Even in the chaos of wreckage- clothes and toys strewn about, rebar twisting towards the sky, mountains of concrete and remains-there is a certain absoluteness to destruction, somehow everything that is still remaining becomes the same — gone.

The walls of homes that once protected families and cradled their lives are now in pieces, shreds, fine dust. Sift through the rubble. Kick the rubble. Stand still, silent, alone with the absoluteness of destruction and accompanied by the millions of shattered pieces of everything that was here before. Leave the rubble. Try to forget. Walk away from the terrible sight. But your mind is in pieces, lives in pieces, people who never again will stand in the doorway with greetings. You can walk away. There is a ceasefire. But missiles fall, they fall, not from the skies, but behind Lebanese eyes, they fall forever in memory, they are still crashing into what once was.



More articles by:
August 06, 2020
H. Bruce Franklin
How the Fascists Won World War II
Robert Jacobs – Ran Zwigenberg
The American Narrative of Hiroshima is a Statue that Must be Toppled
Howie Hawkins - Madelyn Hoffman
Reverse the New Nuclear Arms Race
Brian Kelly
Ireland and Slavery: Debating the ‘Irish Slaves Myth’
Talli Nauman
Native Americans Win Historic Victories in U.S. High Court Rulings
David Mattson
“Man Attacks Grizzly” and Other Leading Bleeding Stories
John Kendall Hawkins
Suffrage: The Myth of Sisterphus
George Ochenski
An Unbelievably Disastrous State of Affairs
George Wuerthner
Trouble in Paradise Valley
Binoy Kampmark
State of Pandemic Disaster: Melbourne Moves to Stage Four
Howard Lisnoff
The ACLU Has Never Done a Damn Thing for Me
Priyanka Singh – Sujeet Singh
Time to Empower the Invisibles: India Awaits a Mental Health Revolution
CounterPunch News Service
Conservationists to Federal Agencies: Restore Protections for Imperiled Wildlife in the Flathead National Forest
August 05, 2020
Roy Eidelson
Black Lives Matter: Resisting the Propaganda of Status Quo Defenders
Melvin Goodman
The Department of Homeland Security: the Ideal Authoritarian Tool
Paul Street
Misleaders at a Funeral: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama Eulogizing Racial Justice in the Name of John Lewis
Seiji Yamada
Hiroshima, Technique, and Bioweapons
Vijay Prashad
How Trump Managed to Lead the World with the Worst Response to the COVID Pandemic
Richard C. Gross
Trump’s Alternative
Jonas Ecke
The Worst Hunger Season Yet to Come: Global Moral Failure in the Time of Covid-19
Rafiq Kathwari
The Battle for Kashmir
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Arch-Kleptocrat is Found Guilty
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
U.S. Cold War China Policy Will Isolate the U.S, Not China
Lee Camp
Why Housing Is a Human Right
Sam Pizzigati
For Egalitarians, a Sudden Sense of Possibility
Jonathan Cook
Can Israelis Broaden Their Protests Beyond Netanyahu?
Thomas Knapp
Ten Years After Lieberman’s “Internet Kill Switch,” the War on Freedom Rages On
Binoy Kampmark
Staying on Message: Australia, the US and the AUSMIN Talks
Elliot Sperber
The View From Saturn 
August 04, 2020
John Pilger
Another Hiroshima is Coming…Unless We Stop It Now
Dave Lindorff
Unsung Heroes of Los Alamos: Rethinking Manhattan Project Spies and the Cold War
Kenneth Good
Escalating State Repression and Covid-19: Their Impact on the Poor in Kenya
Dean Baker
We Need an Economic Survival Package Not Another Stimulus
David Rosen
Globalization and the End of the American Dream
John Feffer
The Pandemic Reveals a Europe More United Than the United States
Patrick Cockburn
The Government’s Failed Track-and-Trace System is a Disaster for England
Ramzy Baroud
‘Optimism of the Will’: Palestinian Freedom is Possible Now
CounterPunch News Service
Statement From Yale Faculty on Hydroxychloroquine and Its Use in COVID-19
Manuel García, Jr.
Ocean Heat: From the Tropics to the Poles
Sonali Kolhatkar
Why the Idea of Jobless Benefits Scares the Conservative Mind
Greta Anderson
Framing Wolves in New Mexico?
Binoy Kampmark
Pulling Out of Germany: Trump Adjusts the Military Furniture
Shawn Fremstad – Nicole Rodgers
COVID Stimulus Checks Shouldn’t Penalize One-Parent Households
Adam Shah
The 1 Percent’s Attack on Unemployment Benefits is a Sign of Our Broken Democracy
Evaggelos Vallianatos
On the Beauty of Life