Sunday, July 16, 2006

Israel-Hizbollah's Confrontation, Episode 987654

In his excellent movie "Munich," Steven Spielberg reflected on the root of the Israeli-Arab conflict. His message is:   an eye-for-eye system generates violence, which generates more violence. His message rings loud in my head while we watch the new episode of violence in the Middle East unfolding on our TV screens. As always, the civilians from both sides are paying the highest price for this dialogue of the deaf. The following two pictures summarize it all:

© Reuters / Haidar Hawila

Medics treat a woman and her daughter, the only two to be rescued after an Israeli missile hit a van carrying passengers on a road, in southern Lebanon, July 15, 2006.

© AFP / Menahem Kahana

An Israeli girl is being comforted by a medic after her father was wounded by a Katyusha-style rocket fired from neighboring southern Lebanon which fell in the northern Israeli city of Safed.

The two young girls are the faces of victims. Hopefully both sides of the conflict and their cheerleaders are satisfied with these achievements.

Anyway, I considered not commenting on the conflict. I was angry watching Beirut being destroyed again and seeing Israeli and Lebanese civilians dying for no freaking reason other than a piece of land that each party claims God has given to them. I think God miscalculated the result of sending the three prophets to the Middle East. I hope everyone gets over it.

Then on Thursday, I read Esra'a's post, "Coexistence City" bombed, on Mideast Youth blog and thought I'd do something in my hometown to bring a local feeling to the conflict. So I suggested to Mark that we locate Beaumonters who are originally from Lebanon and Israel. We could ask them their opinion of the madness happening in their birth countries to learn more about the current situation. AND, we found more than we bargained for:

Mark M. Hancock
© The Beaumont Enterprise

Dr. Raja H. Ataya, a Beaumont-based pediatrician, holds a family portrait. The Lebanese immigrant is concerned about the safety of his wife and daughter, who were vacationing in Beirut when violence broke out in Lebanon.

And here's his heartbreaking story:

On Tuesday morning, Beaumont residents Soussan Ataya and her daughter Ramona, 21, were vacationing with family in Beirut, Lebanon. With soaring mountains, cedar trees and memorable golden beaches along the Mediterranean Sea, the city is known as the Paris of the Middle East.

By Friday, they had evacuated to their mountain home, were scared, unsure what action to take and were surviving in a house with 50 other evacuees. Scores of civilians had died, many more were injured, the airport was hit and closed, roads were bombed, power plants had been destroyed and communications throughout the country were cut.

Dr. Raja H. Ataya, a Beaumont pediatrician, gave the vacation to his daughter as a gift before she begins medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch this year. He's concerned about the safety of his wife and daughter.

"We've been in Beaumont for 22 years. Beaumont is now my hometown, but I came from Lebanon," Ataya said. "I haven't been to Lebanon for eight years. My daughter told me, 'Dad, I want to see Lebanon. Every year you delay that.'"

"So I told her, 'This is the best year to go to Lebanon.' Unluckily, we selected the wrong time," he said. "Five days later the war began, and they're stuck there."


Dr. Ataya is confident his beloved wife and daughter will return safely to Beaumont. The U.S. evacuation team has arrived in Beirut today. Hopefully, this puts a happy ending on their interrupted holiday. This was a holiday his daughter Ramona will never forget :-)

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