Thursday, May 08, 2014

New Blog.

Hello dear friends,

I decided to stop blogging years ago when the war ended for many reasons...
Thank you to all who have continued to check in from time to time. I am alive and well :)

I have recently decided to start blogging again.
The blog is an extension of my website where you can see my artwork and keep up with my news.
Please find me here from now on: http://blog.zenaelkhalil.com

I am finally ready to say goodbye to this blog...
I want to thank you dear "beirut update" readers... I can never tell you how much you helped change my life for the better. I will always be so grateful for your love and support during what was one of the most difficult times of my life. I will never forget your kindness, warmth and generosity. And until today, I do believe that we helped end the war, together.

It's been a while, but I think I'm ready to start writing again.
And, I would love to carry on the conversations with you.

Below I have posted the first real entry from the new blog. Please go there from now on as I will no longer be posting here nor reading comments. Thank you... Thank you.

My deepest and warmest regards,
Zena


Hello World (Let’s Try This Again)

Posted on  by Zena

The humiliation of failing in front of the whole world is exquisite.
In the last year and a half, I tried so many times to start this blog. The pressure of writing for the public (again) was high. The last time I kept a blog, Beirut Update, my country was going through a war and my best friend was dying of cancer. In the summer of 2006, the Israeli army declared war on Lebanon, over night. Over night, my life changed forever. The first night the bombs started falling, I thought I was going to die. What they don't tell you about bombs is how loud they are. Louder than anything you can image. Your whole house shakes. Your soul is tested. I thought that if I was going to die that night, I wanted to make sure the whole world knew how and why. I didn't want to be another nameless war victim. I opened up my laptop and wrote throughout the night, describing what was happening around me, what I was feeling, what my friends and family felt. Around 5am, the bombing stopped and the sun came up and I found myself alive and well. I pasted my text into an email and copied everyone, and I mean everyone, in my address book. We had no idea then how long the war would go on for and the media were very slow to report.  I wanted to share my story with the world and I also asked for help. Exhausted, I collapsed next to Tapi, my other best friend, my darling Jack Russell Terrier. She curled up next to me and assured me we'd be ok for a few hours. How do you explain bombs to a dog?
I woke up to find my inbox full of responses. So many people had not heard about what was happening. How was this possible, I wondered? How could our airport and major parts of our city have been blown up and yet nothing had hit mainstream media yet. I wrote back to as many people as possible and for the next three days, I continued to write, report, respond, feel, cry, write, sleep, wake, shake, write. I couldn't keep up with all the emails. And then... ta daaaah! A friend in the States, Nader, asked me if I knew what a blog was. Oh! They're pretty cool, it's like an online diary. They're kind of new, but a lot of people are doing it now! He set it up for me and bam! I became a blogger. And thus began my first real adventure with writing for the public.
I truly believed that the more transparent I could be, the more honest... the better the blog. If there was a chance that I could help stop the war, I had to describe what real life was like under the bombs. It was so critical that you, dear readers, saw me as a person and not a number. I needed to make sense to you. I needed to be familiar and not war journalism jargon. I needed to be real... I was living in the middle of Beirut city and thankfully my part of town was not hit. This gave me the chance to write daily, telling my story as well as the story of my friends and of people who lost their homes, families and lives.
At first I was covering the environmental damages done-- it is rare that people think about what happens to the environment during a war. But our seas, earth, air and animal citizens were equal victims. Very early on into the invasion, the Israeli air force blew up our fuel reserves and 15,000 tons of oil spilled into our seas. From what I have come to understand, unless a spill is cleaned up within 48 hours, permanent damages are done. It took us 5 weeks before we were able to even start the clean up process. We had to wait until the bombing stopped. And then all the stuff one needs to clean up an oil spill had to arrive from abroad. People had to fly in and teach us. Experts. Scientists. Activists. However, the day ceasefire was agreed up, we hit the beaches to start clean up ourselves in the best way we knew how. Shoveling up sections, ever so delicately, and making sure we don't back track and step on the sand, sinking the oil further in. It was grueling work even for an OCDer like myself. It was hot, and the fumes from the black oil filled my lungs every day. I have this idea that I will probably die of cancer, hopefully not any time soon, but, I will die of cancer and it will have been from the clean up that took weeks under sweltering Mediterranean sun. Are Lebanese beaches clean today, you ask? Honestly, nothing survives an oil spill like the one we had.
Most important to me, however, was Maya. My best friend, soul mate... I was absolutely sure she was going to pull through her battle with cancer. Absolutely positively sure. The absolute you feel when you are young and invincible. She had been responding well to Chemo. We had wheatgrass parties. She bought new headscarves all the time. Teal was the new black. She was on top of this alien thing. We were planning parties to throw as soon as the war was done. But I was too busy blogging and too involved in my activism, that I didn't notice her slipping away. I was convinced the war would end. And I was convinced that Maya and I would be dancing again, very very soon. There was so much we had planned to do together. Impossible. Impossible for all that not to happen. World, you can't beat this friendship! Two months after the invasion ended, we lost Maya... and then I lost myself. Until today I say that she just wasn't given a fair chance to fight. Again, during war, the outside world hardly thinks about things like people who are fighting cancer. We literally used to dodge bombs in order to get Maya to hospital for her Chemo. We prayed every night that the hospital would not run out of fuel that was powering the generators that kept all the machines working. Maya, up against so much, was not given a fair chance to fight. I hold the Israeli government directly responsible for the loss of my best friend. In my blog, I was writing about peace. I declared that the blame game was not going to solve anything and that ceasefire had to be reached yesterday. However, this now isn't about "blame", this is about facts. We lost Maya and then I fell. I fell so hard.
And the whole world was watching.
My blog was being covered by all major news agencies. Parts of the blog were being reproduced in languages all around the world. CNN interviewed me. So did the BBC Radio. The Guardian dedicated their entire G2 supplement to my writing. I was doing interviews in Canada and Germany. Hong Kong shared my words. Denmark. Finland. India. All eyes were on me.
And then I fell.
The grief of going through a war, I could share with the world, but not that of losing Maya. I needed privacy. I needed to clean the beaches. I needed to mourn. I needed to lose myself in work. I needed to write for myself, not anyone else. And so I stopped blogging. I only went back a few times after ceasefire. Once to announce Maya's passing. And then another time when a dear friend, Annemarie, was almost killed in Palestine. I wanted to share her letter/her experience. Then I stopped. The whole world is at war and everyone has their story- I couldn't continue like this. I needed to stop with all the violence and try and find some peace. A small space to cry and release... and then in the right time, the chance to start believing again.
Blogging in 2006 was very interesting. It was still new! and (dare I say) the beginning of electronic "citizen war journalism." It was definitely the first time people took to social media and the internet to help stop a war. Little did we know then how much more was to happen, how much the Middle East would change and how social media would help shape all of that. Remember, this was before Tunisia and Egypt. This was before Facebook and Twitter. Looking back now, it is so incredible how these tools were so quickly harnessed by the Middle East and used to change the world we live in forever... First in Lebanon, then Iran, then Tunisia and Egypt. Then the whole world exploded from Tahrir to Maidan Squares. From Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Gezi. Everyone was opening up, everything was changing so quickly. There were new names to be reckoned with. Wikipedia. Wikileaks. Anonymous. Assange, Manning and Snowden. And this is only the beginning...
As the months went by, I often thought of all the incredible people who read my blog and sent me love and support. Without them, I would not have had the strength to write every day. I am so indebted to each and every one of you. So many, we eventually found each other on Facebook after that was invented. So many, I have had the privilege to meet face to face. So many, I now call my dear friends. Thank you. In many ways, you are once again the driving force behind me hoping that I hit the enter key when I'm done with this post. I want us to continue our conversations that were abruptly cut 8 years ago.
During my period of mourning, I started writing again. I had a dream one night. Maybe it wasn't a dream. Maya came to me and gave me the bigger hug ever. It was so real, so warm... She told me she was OK and that I had to stop crying. She showed me her new house, it was all white, like as if her new address was now: North Pole (make a left at Santa's). She looked great. Her hair had grown back and was long. She was calm. I told her I was going to start picking myself up, and indeed I did. I woke up and burst into tears (something I continue to do to this day... forgive me Maya) and I started writing. I wrote all night. I wrote some 30 pages and then in the morning, I hit the send button.
This time, the email went out to only one person. Lovely sweet strong Samar. Samar, based in London, had found my blog during the war and began writing to me. She pushed me to be strong and write, even the bad things. Even the humiliating things. And when the war ended, she flew to Beirut and planted a seed in my head. She wanted me to write a book. A book that had nothing to do with the blog. She believed in my spirit, my stories and my writing. I made no promises. I could barely keep myself together. I was in a deep depression, constantly missing Maya. I was drinking a lot. Anything to quell the pain. And a great division had formed between me and the man I was married to. No time for book dreaming then. Only mourning a best friend and then soon after, a sad and bitter divorce.
Samar read the first pages I sent her and pushed me to continue writing. And so I did. Sometimes, every day. Sometimes, once a month. It took two years, but then "Beirut, I Love You: a Memoir" was born. We hurried to publish in time for the Beirut International Book Fair in December 2008. I was proud, yes. Even with all the typos in the book. I was so incredibly proud. Somehow, all the pain and loss now began to have meaning. It had all counted for something. Or at least, I managed to find a way to make it all mean something.
I think of myself as an artist, not a writer, simply because that's what I have been practicing longer. That's what I'm trained to be. One thing I find in both art making and writing is that the more transparent and honest you are, the truer the work. My definition of beauty is simple; it has to be honest. The painting, sculpture, Instagram or poem has to be honest to the person who created it. That's it. Everything is so subjective now and so much art "appreciation" in the art world is based on financial value, and not always on content or product. And the more empty the work is, the more it seems to have value! This discussion, I would love to save for another time, but to be brief, what I want to say is that I want to always make sure that whatever it is that I'm painting or writing, it has to be honest.
So back to this entry, I have tried to start this blog so many times in the past few years. I wrote and deleted so many entries. I had fun deleting spam that was piling up. I changed the font and interface a few times. Changed my password a few times. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
The pressure hasn't been so much about being under the public eye again. I don't think that part of me ever stopped as I published my book and went on tour with that, and continued to exhibit my work and give talks, including at TED. The pressure has been more about wanting to keep a blog that had some kind of valuable contribution to the world. I wanted there to be quality to my writing-- #deepandmeaningfulideas!
What changed today?
I don't think my ideas are that different from what they were a few years ago. But my spirit has definitely changed. I am going through a deep and personal experience right now, and this time, I don't want to hide away the way I did with Maya. I feel like I am learning so much from my ups and downs and maybe, just maybe, I'm a little bit stronger to share this time around. I don't want to hide away again and lose years of my life. Sometimes, when people run into me in Beirut, I convince them that I've been living abroad, but really I was just at home or in the studio the whole time. Not comfortable to go out, not willing to mingle. Not always ready to smile.
I don't want to experience another depression, because that is a total waste of time. Nothing gets done. You burn people, you burn your friends. You lose your job. You lose credibility. Time, is something that I feel I have very little of these days. How quickly the years are passing. How quickly a decade can go by.
Simultaneous with this "experience" I'm going through, my work is changing. The art market is so good at categorizing you so that they can sell you. It's much easier to sell if you are a package that is easy to swallow. Well, what happens when you are no longer that package. What happens when you try new things. What happens when certain ideas and convictions take over from others? It's a very difficult position to be in if you are an artist represented by galleries, that sell you in a certain way. I thought that if I write about these new convictions then they will become real. They will be my honest representation to the world and not just the Pink Lady hiding behind a wonderfully designed website who loves glitter. Frankly, something to be very upfront about right now is to never doubt my love for glitter. Even with all these changes happening. I still love and use glitter, but it's just in a very different way. It's in the way that I need to be using it. Call it, honest glitter.
Call it light.
On a more positive note, a lot of incredible things have happened since 2006. I have traveled, been to festivals and discovered new dimensions-- no, not through drugs. I have a very strict no drug policy. I'm too crazy as it is already. Can't have chemicals messing with my perfectly balanced chaos. I have had the honor of meeting new and out of this world friends, artists and writers. I started a small publishing house in Maya's honor as her dream was to become a published writer. xanadu* Publishing supports young poets in the region and I have even taken to writing (wannabe) poetry myself. I became a TED Fellow. I seriously and regularly started yoga and meditation. I want to try and bring these new positive dimensions to my blog too. I want to share light, art, and love. I want to take off where I left off, but knowing what I know now.
Let's see where this adventure takes us. I have never been one to hold back. The internet is a democratic tool that can shed light when needed. A lot of times, the art world prefers to keep secrets, well, because it's just much easier to sell things that way. Oh, the bland fucking mystery of it all! Come on, don't tell me you don't get this painting?! A ha ha ha. Let's not hide, let's not hold back. This is not an anonymous blog. It's directly linked to my website. You know who I am. You can see the naivety and vulnerability in some of my older paintings. I don't want this to be polished.
Let's see where this adventure takes us. All I hope is that my next entry doesn't take another two years.
This post is dedicated to Samar.
Yours faithfully, Zena x

Maya & Zena. On a rooftop in Beirut. Circa 1995.
Zena & Maya Rooftop in Beirut 1995


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Annemarie and Emily

i have been absent for a while.

the war ended. maya's condition grew worse. she passed away and i have been left with a stain on my heart. what now? i have been living the past few weeks in total darkness, not know what lies ahead. not knowing if things could get any worse.. if i was going to lose anyone else... and today it almost happened in Palestine. i almost lost two more friends.

below i have posted an email i just received from Annemarie Jacir:


>Four hours ago my sister, her curator Carolyn and I were shot at by the Israeli army. My nerves are still shaky. We’ve been drinking every since. My legs are weak. I feel I can’t stand on them.

Today in downtown Ramallah at around 4:15 pm as we were driving down Ramallah’s main street….we had just bought kanafa to eat ….after spending the day at ‘amari camp.

I was driving down the main street. A taxi driver cut me off. I rolled down the window and cursed at him. We pulled over and Emily and Mohammed jumped out to buy kanafa. Then we continued, dropping off Mohammed at his car…which he had left in the center of town. We agreed to meet at Mohammed’s place down the street.

I was alone in the front seat. Emily and Carolyn in the back. Suddenly there was a van directly in front of our car. He veered a bit towards our car. I slowed down, wondering how I was going to pass him. And then he emerged from his window…pointing an m-16 across the street and spraying bullets.

The three of us hit the floor of the car. All around us…shooting, shooting, shooting. So close. So close.

And then on the other side of the street, another van – looking exactly like the first….men with guns spraying bullets everywhere.

Next to us a man with his 5-year old daughter… Like us, stuck between all the shooting. He opened his door and tossed his daughter to the ground with him.

I lifted my head…the man shooting was around 6 feet from me. Shooting away. Israeli secret service…dressed up like an Arab. They do this all the time…so they come into town and no one notices. Then I saw tens of Israeli soldiers crawling the streets all around us. Did they come out of the vans? They were in full uniform, unlike the two van ‘drivers’ who had dressed as plain clothes Arab men. “Mustarabeen”…Israeli agents who dress like Arabs.

Shooting shooting. I covered my head. All I could think about was Emily in the backseat and Carolyn. Emily…my precious sister…my beautiful sister… Kamran in Scotland… the man who escaped with his daughter. I braced myself at the shooting continued. Told myself calmly that if the windows of the car were hit. Which they surely were about to be. That it was nothing. To remember that all that meant was the window was broken and not necessarily that one of us had been hit.

Mohammed called…I picked up the phone…my voice broke. Crumbled. I hadn’t realized my fear until that moment. Why couldn’t I speak? Why? I didn’t recognize my own voice. I knew I sounded hysterical. I didn’t want to sound like that.

Took another peak. Army everywhere. The men shooting shooting shooting shooting….god, that sound.

Emily. Emily in the back. We made eye contact. What could we do. We were stuck in the middle of a shoot out ..right in the middle of it…with no where to go.

We couldn’t even get out of the car and make a run for it. We’d have been shot down.

I wondered if they’d kill us. I wondered if someone on the street might duck into our car for cover. But the streets were empty.

We stayed on the floor of the car for 20 minutes like that. I thought, really truly felt I was going to die this way. And I didn’t want to die like that. Totally helpless. In a trapped car.

The more the shooting went on, the more I felt my nerves turn to jelly. And then…

Bam. Our car was hit. I heard glass break. I covered my head. My head was covered anyway I think. For fear of the car windows being hit.

We were ok. Emily was ok. Carolyn was safe.

More time passed. How stupid to have my hands on my head. what would that do? Where is Emily? I think i will die today. I am going to die today.

I peaked out. I saw the Israelis grab a man off the street and shove him into the other van.

Then the undercover Israeli closest to us, in the van, …decided to leave. Operation over. He pulled towards us. The criminal. I stared at his face, my head on the passenger seat…he didn’t have enough room to get by us,…so he smashed into our car and scraped his way by. The whole time I couldn’t take my eyes off his face. He didn’t even notice us I think. Three women so close to him, stuck to the floor of the car…

We are all ok. Nothing happened. There’s a bullet in the car. It hit the back of the car. It didn’t hit the gas tank. It didn’t hit the gas tank. We are ok. But three young men tonight are not. And many, many more are not. This is nothing new, nothing out of the ordinary.

A man disappeared this afternoon. Two men were killed. It won’t even make the news.

------------

"Nothing much is happening in Beirut, we go on from day to day looking forward to that moment when we can come and go to our homeland without any restrictions or special permission. Regards to all in Bethlehem. Yours, Edward"

- June 12th, 1968 (letter from my uncle to his family)

Annemarie Jacir
www.philistine.org

Friday, October 27, 2006

goodbye maya.



1.26.1976 - 10.26.2006

i miss you so much already.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

i'm alive.

ceasefire does not happen overnight.

it's not like you wake up one morning and the birds are singing and the sun is shining and you go to work like nothing ever happened.


week of hell.
this past week has been slow and tough. it is almost as if last month was all played in fast forward and then since the ceasefire, we are moving in ultra slow motion. for the last month, i just wanted everything to end... now, i don't know where to begin. for the last month, i would purposefully try and numb myself because i was too afraid to feel everything... today i am begging for my feelings to return because without them, i can not live.

after a month of stress and living in fear, everything has caught up with me...my throat hurts a lot and my stomach is in a perpetual mess. the knots have not gone yet and its beginning to cause physical damage. i am down, down, down. i couldn't lift a finger to type. i couldn't answer my phone calls. it was so difficult to wake up in the morning... (and i'm usually mrs. super positive!)

i guess it has all hit us one way or another- things are never going to be the same again. we can not live the lives we had a few months ago.

we have to live better. somehow... if that makes any sense.

i have been having the worst of nightmares... i don't know why i'm getting them now. before, i would give anything for a good nights rest. for a quiet night... now that i am sleeping, finally, i have allowed myself to return to the dreamworld... but, it's not a very nice place at the moment. it is full of fears and worries... and so many dead people.

i don't know if i could handle war again. i don't know how it is that i am still alive... i don't know if i could do it all over again. please, i don't want to.


the aftermath.
there were mass burials held this past week. so many bodies had been left to rot because no one could access them before. now they are being buried.

families are wondering why...? why....?

many people are getting sick. there is a new virus going around. i heard it has something to do with the toxins coming out of the damaged buildings plus the dead bodies... it could be from the oil spill.. from the tanks that burned for three weeks covering Beirut in a black smog... the virus lasts for a few days... its effects are vomiting, diarrhea and very high temperature.

on the day of the ceasefire, many people began the return to their homes. they crossed the rivers by foot when needed....they were so determined to get home.. to see if they still had a home. Nasrallah announced that he was going to fix all the houses for free... and that he would provide money to pay for accommodations for people who had lost their homes, while he fixed their old homes.

there are cluster bombs everywhere. they dropped cluster bombs on us... there are so many that didn't explode... they are so so dangerous.

in dahiye the other day, people put up banners on top of the rubble of the buildings. the banner read: made in USA.


the oil spill.
we have spent this last week trying to clean up our beaches. we were shovelling poluted sand and setting up absorbant "boomers" to capture the oil that is still spilling in from the water onto the beach. it has been physically demanding work. we went down wearing masks, gloves and protective clothing under the summer heat... shoveling sand off the beach and putting it into a big pile that would be later moved/contained. the ministry of environment has been slow to act. so, we, the civilians, as always, are taking care of our beautiful country.

the oil has been in our waters and on our beach for 5 weeks now. it is the worst environmental disaster Lebanon has ever seen. in most oil spills, the spill is cleaned up within 72 hours. it has been 5 weeks in Lebanon and we have yet to see a proper clean up process. a lot of the oil is now so deep into the sand and rocks, it will take years and years to clean up. a lot of the oil sunk and has now settled on the sea bed.. this is almost impossible to clean. a lot of the oil in the water has now broken into small globs... like a mirror that has been smashed into shards... making it also almost impossible to clean.

i wonder... why. why did the Israelies target a power plant? there were no Hizuballah fighters hiding there. it was no where near Hizuballah territory. this power plant is located only 30km south of Beirut in an area called Jiye. Jiye is where all our great beach spots are. Jiye is a touristic spot. Jiye is where all the girls flaunt their new g string bikinis and all the boys flex their hard earned muscles. Jiye is where we take Tapi to on Sundays to play with her ball on the beach. Jiye is where we somehow run into the same people we were hanging out with the night before. Jiye is where we somehow continue the conversations from the night before over an ice cold beer. Jiye today, however, is black, dark and toxic.

did they do this on purpose? part of the plan to wreck economical damage on the country? ruin our tourist season... knowing that at this time of the year, the current moves North...away from Israel.

please, this is just too much. today, as i was on the beach, redistributing the boomers that are soaked in this heavy fuel oil... dragging them across the beach... i caught myself wondering how on Earth i was ever going to get pregnant now.


friends.
maya had her chemotherapy session and she did really well with it. she has been very positive and is determined to stay in Lebanon now more than ever.


not friends.
there has already been a breach of the ceasefire from the Israeli side... i wonder if it was reported, out there in the West? there was an air raid on Baalbeck a few days ago... this UN resolution is really fragile.

imagine it was the other way around... imagine the Lebanese army was occupying Israel, blowing up the country... conducting air raids as it sees fit, even after a ceasefire has been called.... imagine it was that way around... imagine what the world would be saying and doing.

why is it that Israel has a green light for everything?

why is it that Israel identifies itself through violence and terror?


after thought:
our generation is a beautiful one. we are all connected. somehow. online, at least. we have tools our father and mothers did not have. these tools should help us to understand each other better. i really believe that we have the power to change things. we are living in a beautiful era of telecommunications and global understanding.

a cold war can not exist anymore.


to all who have been posting comments.
i am sorry i have not been able to respond to you all ... i guess i'm not much of a "blogger", but rather see this as a sort of online diary. it is difficult for me to respond to most of your questions. i am not a politician. i don't understand how their minds work.

for those leaving beautiful messages, i thank you from the bottom of my heart. you have become part of my everyday being. i have come to recognize so many of you now... and often look forward to your comments. they give me strength. thank you.

i may not be posting as often as i was before because really, there is so much work to be done now. being online these days is a sort of luxury. i am sorry if any of you were worried by my absence. thank you so much for thinking of me.

with love, always,
.z

Sunday, August 13, 2006

on the eve of ceasefire

this morning, i woke up with a smile on my face. my husband had jumped on top of me, kissing me all over my face, saying that the war was going to end.. that the UN voted... that things were going to get better now. i had only fallen asleep two hours earlier, but jumped out of bed with a kind of energy i hadn't had in over a month. it was a good morning.

everything changes this weekend.

things are supposed to come to some kind of end. one way or another.

on the eve of ceasefire, i have mixed emotions.

i am grateful that things are coming to and end.

however, the real work now lies ahead of us. its not just about rebuilding.. lives, country and moral. but, it's also about moving forward positively on all sides.

war instils hatred in people. we as human beings have to make sure that we don't fall into the vicious cycle of hate.

we have to rise above the politics and speak as citizens of beautiful Mother Earth.

i don't believe that we are born to hate. i believe that it is conditioned through things like fear, violence, oppression and misunderstanding.

one should not have to live in fear. one should not have to be subjected to violence.

it seems these days that violence and fear govern our lives. it is all over the tv and in the news... but we should not let it. it is a disguise people use for their own selfish gains. the reality of life is love not fear. we have to remember that.

life is beautiful... it is like the never ending possibilities of youth... it is like the first kiss...

remember that scene in The Matrix (the 3rd one), right at the end, when Neo and Trinity enter the Machine World... they are flying their plane, holding hands... love is guiding them through the war zone. then they shoot up into the sky, cutting away from the darkness, into the electric clouds... fighting for their life... then suddenly they get through it and they see Earth for what it really is: beautiful clear skies... and then Trinity says "beautiful."

i wonder if we can do that too.

if there is one thing i have learned this past month, it is that life is so precious. in one second, your whole life could change. one day i was taking artwork down from a gallery about to send the paintings to their new respective owners... the next morning, our airport was bombed and we were at war. just like that.

my life had been so hectic at the start of the year... i was busy preparing for my first solo exhibit in Lebanon to take place in May. i was working hard in my studio every day. simultaneously, i was organizing an exhibit to take place in June. it was a big one. 21 artists and a whole month of events to go with it. i put so many things in my life on hold. i kept saying to myself and everyone else around me (including my husband) " in July, i will take a vacation. in July i will have my old life back. we will hang out in July. we will go to the beach in July. yeah, maybe i might even finally decide to get pregnant! i just can't do anything until July..."

and look what happened in July.... and i certainly don't think i will get to go to the beach again for a long long time. several years, at least.

life is so so precious.

Friday, August 11, 2006

thank you, patti

thank you for your music. thank you for your song about Qana. you can listen to it here.

http://www.pattismith.net/news.html

its raining bombs...

last night, i counted at least 12 explosions. it was a difficult night. they just wouldn't stop. i only heard 12, others say there were at least 18... they just kept going. the Israeli army announced yesterday that they were expanding their attacks into Beirut... and indeed they did, hitting areas in central Beirut!

today has been difficult getting online. electricity is less and less. we are down to about 2 hours a day. because there is a fuel and diesel shortage, it has become difficult to keep the generators going.

you know in Beirut, everyone lives in apartment buildings.. with the electricity shortage, it has become hard for the elderly to move in and out of their homes. no one wants to get stuck having to climb stairs to the 12th floor they live on.

my grandma lives on the 6th floor. she is currently bed ridden. i went to see her yesterday.. or was it the day before. she is doing well.. i told her to enjoy her stay in bed because there was nothing much going on for her to see outside, and that anyways it was waaaaaaay too hot. i am not sure if she really knows about what is going on. we don't let her watch the news and we tell her the bomb sounds are fireworks! she lived the civil war in Lebanon, and definitely knows what bombs sound like... so, i think she is just playing along with us to keep us happy. my grand ma was my first muse. i used to paint her a lot when i was younger.

today, i had some errands to run... along the way, i ran into some friends i hadn't seen in over a month! i drove though roads i haven't been on in weeks! wow. it felt so gooooooood. so funny how the simplest things can make you so happy now.

as the situation is getting worse, health and sanitation is deteriorating. the streets of Beirut smell bad. but her citizens are trying hard to stay on top of things. so many people have volunteered their time to help. even the garbage collectors have recruited some volunteers.

we have finally decided that we can no longer wait for a ceasefire to start the oil spill clean up. the oil has been sitting on our beaches for almost a month now. we have been working on putting together a team of civilian volunteers and NGOs to go down to the beach and at least start with what we can do. ie: shoveling the oil off the sand, finding machinery that can suck oil out of the bays and ports... we are all worried about safety though. the Israeli army has been targeting civilians, UN, Red Cross, etc... they have been blowing things up mercilessly. how do we know we won't be targeted? more to come on this soon.

i saw the news about the Heathrow bombing plot... don't know what to say... such devastating news... we don't have to live like this. things could be so much better. they could be so much simpler. seeing the passengers stranded...they reminded me of the displaced people here in Lebanon. i hope they are ok.

Call for Action

Call for Action
August 7th, 2006
‘Lebanon: An Open Country for Civil Resistance’
Civilian Resistance: Call For Action & Solidarity For Lebanon


Website for more info, official press release, media contacts, and language versions:
http://www.lebanonsolidarity.org/

Endorse this call for nonviolent action!

We, the people of Lebanon, call upon the local and international community to join a campaign of civil resistance to Israel’s war against our country and our people. We declare Lebanon an open country for civil resistance.

In the face of Israel’s systematic killing of our people, the indiscriminate bombing of our towns, the scorching of our villages, and the attempted destruction of our civil infrastructure, we say NO!

In the face of the forced expulsion of a quarter of our population from their homes throughout Lebanon, and the complicity of governments and international bodies, we re-affirm the acts of civil resistance that began from the first day of the Israeli assault, and we stress and add the urgent need TO ACT!

We urge you to join us in defying Israel’s aggression against our country and in defending the rights of the inhabitants throughout Lebanon, and particularly in the South, to live on their land. When the United Nations, created to preserve peace and security in the world, is paralyzed; when governments become complicit in war crimes, then people must show their strength and rise up. When justice and human rights are scorned, those who care must unite in their defense.

Building on our belief in our country, the efforts of the civil resistance, and on the arrival of the internationals coming to Lebanon for solidarity, we declare that Lebanon is an open country for civil resistance, starting from August 12.

On August 12 at 7 am, we will gather in Martyrs’ Square to form a civilian convoy to the south of Lebanon. Hundreds of Lebanese and international civilians will carry relief as an expression of solidarity for the inhabitants of the heavily destroyed south who have been bravely withstanding the assault of the Israeli military.

After August 12th, the campaign will continue with a series of civil actions for which your presence and participation is needed. Working together in solidarity we will overcome the complacency, inaction, and complicity of the international community and we will deny Israel its goal of removing Lebanese from their land and destroying the fabric of our country.

To sign up to join the convoy, send an email to one of the following addresses:

If you are in Lebanon
Email Rania Masri: rania.masri@balamand.edu.lb

If you are an international
Email Adam Shapiro: internationals@lebanonsolidarity.org

If you are Spanish speaking
Email Alberto Arce: nonviolenceproject@gmail.com

If you are outside Lebanon and want to sign up and join the convoy, you should know:

You need to obtain a visa for Lebanon and for Syria if your plan is to enter Lebanon from Syria.
We don’t have the funds to cover for the cost of your travel, however we can help with finding accomodations.
Please check the website of this campaign regularly: www.lebanonsolidarity.org

This campaign is thus far endorsed by more than 200 organizations, including:
The Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Cultural Center for Southern Lebanon, Norwegian People’s Aid, Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, Lebanese Association for Democratic Elections, Frontiers, Kafa, Nahwa al-Muwatiniya, Spring Hints, Hayya Bina, Lebanese Transparency Association, Amam05, Lebanese Center for Civic Education, Let’s Build Trust, CRTD-A, Solida, National Association for Vocational Training and Social Services, Lebanese Development Pioneers, Nadi Li Koul Alnas, Lecorvaw, Samidoun, and The Cultural Movement-Antelias.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

1 month anniversary

it has been one month now.

for one month, lebanon has had bombs drop on her.

in one month, i have aged 50 years.

for one month, i have cried everyday.

as the days unfold, the news is only getting worse. i find myself sinking... it has become so hard to write.

how many times can i keep repeating..."help, israel is targeting civilians... israel is blowing up the whole country... infrastructure has been hit...all the highways have been hit... roads and bridges, hit... food and wheat storages, gas and fuel supplies, communication towers, ports...all hit...hospitals shutting down because they have run out of fuel... the whole country is slowly being choked to death.

how many times can i keep repeating that the israeli army is hitting trucks carrying food and aid... they are hitting the red cross... the un...

how many times can i write that war crimes are being committed. that phosphorous bombs are being dropped on children...

how many times can i say that the oil spill has wrecked our coast and marine life... it has now spread to syria, by the way... even after the clean up, it will be 6 years before the environment can stabilize again.

how many times can i keep saying that the planes are getting louder.. the bombs are getting louder!

over 1 million displaced civilians now.
over 1,000 civilians killed.

how many times do i have to say that my country is being destroyed piece by piece. entire neighborhoods in my city no longer exist. entire families have disappeared. the south of lebanon is one fire.

for one month, i have seen lebanon brutalized. her citizens crushed under the rubble of their own homes.

you can not make peace through bombs.

in a week, if we do not get fuel into the country, the hospital that maya goes to will be shut down. she will not be able to get her chemotherapy. that is a few days from now.

a great friend sent me a song. it has become my mantra. every time i think i'm going to break down, panic, etc.. i put this song on full blast... and it somehow gets me to smile :) if there is no electricity, then i sing it out loud to myself.. and to my sister.. and brother.. and dogs.. and neighbors... hahaha...never thought i'd say this, but, long live happy music!!

here are some of the lyrics:

why must our children play in the streets,
broken hearts and faded dreams,
peace and love to everyone that you meet,
don't you worry, it could be so sweet,
just look to the rainbow, you will see
sun will shine till eternity,
i've got so much love in my heart,
no-one can tear it apart,
yeah,

feel the love generation,
yeah, yeah, yeah,
feel the love generation,
c'mon c'mon c'mon c'mon yeah,

(whistling.....)