Friday, July 21, 2006
Call to prayer, silence, then 'boom'
There was a moment last night, as we were preparing for the program, when it was so peaceful and quiet that I could have been convinced the war had ended. We were on a balcony overlooking downtown Beirut; the first call to prayer was sounding.

We had been in Beirut for 20 hours and this was the first time I remember hearing the call. I am sure that's because it was the first time I was able to focus on it.

We flew in yesterday morning on a Marine chopper, landing on the embassy grounds. Within minutes, before we had even moved away from the landing pad, the helicopter lifted off with a group of evacuees inside. Many of the Americans on board were far too young to really understand what was happening. Little boys seemed torn between fear and the excitement of getting to dress up in a military helmet and life vest.

As we drove south from the embassy towards the center of the city, the cars in the northbound lane were bumper-to-bumper. Our driver explained that people were literally heading for the hills, the mountains in northern Lebanon, to wait out the war. It was the first time I'd heard someone wish the war would end soon and not sound like they believed it would.

Beirut really is lovely, quite possibly the most beautiful city in the Middle East, even with very apparent and still open scars from this conflict, and the conflicts that have come before. People here always seem to be whispering conspiracy theories; some think that once all the foreigners leave, the real shelling will begin. It's a frightening thought if you've seen pictures of what has already been done to the Hezbollah stronghold in the southern suburbs.

On the balcony last night, the illusion of peace ended a few minutes after the call to prayer, as the silence was smashed by a massive explosion to the south.
Posted By Thomas Evans, CNN Producer: 4:08 PM ET
  28 Comments
"Beirut really is lovely, quite possibly the most beautiful city in the Middle East."

I think we all share the same sinking feeling, that we'll soon be saying, 'Beirut was beautiful.'

I do have this to offer, although it may be a bit premature--Life will find a way. It always does.
Posted By Anonymous Lily, Vancouver, BC : 4:31 PM ET
I'm not surprised. Israel doesn't care if there is a call to prayer or not. It's the perfect opportunity to strike. I don't think Hezbullah will care if anybody is praying at the Wall of Wails either.

I want to visit Beirut someday, but I don't think it's going to be any time soon. The movie "Naked Gun" with Leslie Nielson was funny when he was vacationing in Beirut. I wish life was a movie, but at the end most of us would get bad reviews!
Posted By Anonymous A.A Portland, Oregon : 4:34 PM ET
A few seconds of peace and prayer. Kinda makes you wonder if we really know what peace is anymore. Even if this conflict gets settled diplomatically there will always be that thought in the back of the people's minds - will it last.

I can't imagine having to be on your guard 24/7 and wondering if the next sound you hear will be a missle/bomb/rocket; a sound that could be your last. Not being able to relax or let your guard down is no way to live. However the Call to Prayer seems to be a small reminder that someone is looking out for you.

Peace.
Posted By Anonymous Marcia Warren, MI : 4:38 PM ET
"..the most beautiful city in the middle east.." and what do we want to do to it... Destroy it offcourse, just like the rest of world or bette, turn a blind eye to whoever is destroying it ...

Just rediculous that even in the 21st century we are acting no better than savages.. all of us.
Posted By Anonymous Ghazan Khan, Madison, WI : 4:38 PM ET
I cannot belive the lack of respect Israel is showing towards the people of Lebanon. Its seems to me as if the israelie government views all Shi'ite Lebanese as terrorists and are therefore conducting a genocide against the Shi'ite muslims of Lebanon. America being the "big brother" of israel needs to convince israel to lower the power of aggresion against there enemies. Fight ak-47's with ak-47's. When will the world superpowers learn that wiping out a whole people is not the way to win wars no a days. The outcome of this war may favor israel on paper, but in the back of everyone's mind will always be the sight of the young lebanese children killed in the bus bombingconducted by the "defenders" israel.
Posted By Anonymous Alidaher, Dearborn, MI : 4:40 PM ET
War goes on for what seems like forever, and I have a feeling this war is just getting started.

The conspiracy theory example written here is actually quite logical. Once foreigners are out, no one will be there to interrupt the slaughtering. Truely, it's something most people can't possibley stomach.

A lot more prayer is needed and I offer mine to the people of Beirut.
Posted By Anonymous Kennifer, New York, NY : 4:41 PM ET
Thank you for writing this blog. I have been hearing many things about Israel and nothing of Lebanon or even of how the people must feel there. This blog gave insight into the feelings of the Lebanese people. My local newspapers have taken to reporting Israel's side of the story and the destruction of Lebanon is almost unheard of. Many thanks.
Posted By Anonymous Nisha, Margate, FL : 4:46 PM ET
Thomas,

Thank you for sharing your personal and surely unforgettable impressions; very well expressed.
It makes me want to cry seeing what Israel is doing to this city and the entire country of Lebanon. Why is nobody able to put a stop to that senseless and by now very disrespectful behavior of the Israeli government? I think they have overstepped their boundaries!

I hope that the diplomatic corps steps out very soon! It is a shame to see how a country is destroyed and innocent people are forces to leave, for fear of their live, and the only thing the international community seems to do is just standing by and watching and bully around with words.
If Lebanon would be rich in oil supplies and the US one of their customers, I bet it would be a whole different story. It's really sad how far the world has come and how less we values people�s lives.
Posted By Anonymous Elke, New York/NY : 5:15 PM ET
Our visits to Lebanon in the past few years made us feel as if there was a future for Lebanon. This April i was able to visit South Lebanon and take my children there. It really seemed that Beirut was getting another chance and that the people of Lebanon had a future. Overnight, all the efforts to rebuild this country have been shattered. How can one deal with the loss of hope, after having lived decades of civil war and finally seeing a better future for the Lebanese people and their children? How can one deal with seeing it all shattered overnight after believing that perhaps Lebanon had a future?
Thank you for all you are doing and for telling the world about the tragedy going on in Lebanon.
Posted By Anonymous Carole, Penfield, New York : 5:28 PM ET
hello everybody.
This times are hard times. Here, in Israel we suffer a lot from the brutality of Hizballah, which shoots on the northern part of Israel constantly. You all must Understand, that the ones that you need to blame on this situation, is Hizballah, a Terrorist organization, which works without any problems right next to Israel, although the UN, declared that Israel went out of Lebanon like it should have done, and although UN decision 1559, which urges taking the weapon out of hizballah, and getting them away of southern Lebanon.
And let me remind you, Lebanon Is being populated by many religions but the SHI'Is with their organization does whatever they want. Instead of blaming Israel, just remember that a terroristic organization has kidnapped 2 of our soldiers from our side of the border!
Just think of that, a terrorist organization would take one of your soldiars from your side of your border, and shoots constantly on your cities. wouldn't you fight back? I really wish we could have done something else but fighting, but it shows that this action, would only have been an invitation to kidnapping and shooting at us again. NO COUNTRY WOULD ALLOW THAT.
And as for the distruction in Lebanon: I'm sorry for any citizen that gets killed, but the thing is, that Hizballah is hiding inside cevilian structures and is making a cinical usemant of this places. we spread notes that say where we're going to bomb in order to save civilians, but the hizballah refuses to let them out of their villages.
So who'se to blame on the war and on the people's suffer?
Just remember that Israel fights Hizballah, not Lebanon.
Posted By Anonymous Tamir, Israel : 5:32 PM ET
Seems that since Hezbollah territory is inside the border of Lebanon, the Lebanese army would want to turn their attention to that area. Everyone knows that Hezbollah does not and is not representative of the Lebanese people, so they should rid Hezbollah themselves, rather than let them raid Israel and then expect Israel not to respond.
Posted By Anonymous Al, Seattle, WA : 5:53 PM ET
That's so, so sad. A call to prayer happens, what, five times a day? And with all the fighting you could never hear one of them. Finally a moment of peace and the sound of the call only to be broken up by yet another explosion. It was like the calm before the storm.
Posted By Anonymous Ann, Millbury, Ma. : 5:55 PM ET
To Tamir,
Although I have never been the to middle east and will not try to say that I know what its like, but I totally agree with you. Israel is fighting the terrorists, not the country as a whole.
Posted By Anonymous A.T., Italy : 6:03 PM ET
My heart breaks for all of the "good" people in Lebonan. Unfortunatley they live with terrorists who have to be stopped. And, yes, the sight of children dead on a bus is very disturbing & will stay in ones mind for a long while. But...the Israelies have had MANY buses, coffee shops, and buildings blown up and children killed by these terrorists for years. We CANNOT forget that either !
Posted By Anonymous Wanda, Anchorage,AK : 6:15 PM ET
Thomas: Loved your blog entry! I was amazed and really enjoyed the piece on the show regarding the Marine chopper flight and how quickly they got people to put on their helmets and get on the chopper for their flight to safety. It is also sad to see the destruction in Beirut and to think that only a year ago, people were in the streets singing!
Posted By Anonymous Jolene, St. Joseph, MI : 7:05 PM ET
It is frustrating to read the ignorance of people, who pretend to know the geography of Lebanon, and who is living with who and where. Hezbollah lives in the South of Lebanon, not in Jounieh, Ashrafieh, the north of Lebanon, at the Airport, in the ports... Does anyone even realize that, at one point, any Muslim, Shi'a or Sunni was scared to step foot in the East? And you claim that all Lebanese are living among Hezbollah? Ignorants need to be quiet, or research before they dare to speak. As to Al, who talks about "raid"ing Israel... where do you get your news. Maybe you have fallen asleep in from of the tv, and thought that your dreams were reality.
And Wanda, I grew up in Lebanon. I was four when the war started and eighteen when we were finally able to flee. We have seen more building blown up and children killed than I hope Israel, or anyone in the world would ever see. Do not speak to what you do not know.
Posted By Anonymous M.A., Toronto, Ontario, Canada : 8:02 PM ET
There are no winners in a war,
A life that's lost, you can't restore.
When you snuff out the human breath,
The only one who wins, is death....
It's not a case of wrong or right
Or who's the strongest in the fight.
What point is there to set a goal
That costs destruction of the soul?
Posted By Anonymous Suzy Furtah, Port St. Lucie, Florida : 1:45 PM ET
As an American living in France, I am happy to hear news that would not be broadcast in the US. My guess is that perhaps 2% of the Americans know the history of Israel and Palestine. Most Americans think that Israel was always there, and that the Palestinians are "outsiders and terrorists" whose only focus is to kill innocent Israelis.
I cry while I watch the murder of the Lebanese and the wholesale destruction of their country by Israel and, by proxy, the United States, who stands by to allow the Israels to continue their slaughter of innocents.
Posted By Anonymous E.V,, Blaye, France : 2:23 PM ET
CNN's reporting , as well as other Networks constantly show destruction in souther Lebanon. What about the North? How much of Lebanon is "destroyed"? How much of the non-terrorist infested south actually is damaged? We could use some honest assesment of conditions in the north of Lebanon.
Posted By Anonymous Irwin Balaban Woodbury NY : 2:54 PM ET
Just wanted to add that as of today..those MOUNTAIN areas mentioned above were all targetted by Israeli strikes today...about 5 different locations...all over LEBANON...none of which are HEZBOLLAH positions - strongholds...or nothing - actually alomost all of them were pure CHRISTIAN areas (one of which was 7 kilosmeters away fr my house). Mostly residential areas with CIVILIANs hiding away from the DESTRUCTION and HELL that Lebanon has become over the last 10 days...and even there no one was safe !!!

Today Israel, although promising NOT to hit any more infastructure - or Non-Hezbollah places...once again DID what they wanted to do....without a care in the world for doing so...or the innocent civilian loves they CLEARLY out at risk (they gave no warning whatsoever about these strikes - KNOWING there are THOUSANDS of civilians residing in the areas.

all of Lebanon shook TODAY - with millions in FEAR....GOD HELP US TONITE & TOMORROW....we have only 2 more days b4 Condi arrives.....then it should let up a little...to welcome her only.

Otherwise.....as we see from the world....simply no one cares about this BEAUTIFUL country and it's EXTRAORDINARY people....

God Bless US..........
Posted By Anonymous Pamela, Adma - Lebanon : 4:52 PM ET
The two years I lived in Beirut were the best two years of my life. It is a beautiful city next to the deep blue Mediterranian Sea where a multitude of cultures live together. The Lebanese are descendents of the Phoenicians, and Beirut is one of the longest continually habitated cities in the world. Lebanon is the oldest country name in the world (4000 years).
Lebanon has been occupied by more than 16 countries.
Beirut has been destroyed and rebuilt 7 times. This is hard to watch, but because of the Lebanese ability to survive the conquerers and return to trading, and because so many of us love Beirut, it will always be.
Posted By Anonymous Martha VanGeem, Mount Prospect, IL : 5:13 PM ET
Just a couple of things. One of them is that, I see some great points and conversations in this room. But for some strange and disturbing reason...I never hear anyone talking about it on the streets. Nor at my job. Only the older people know something about it.
Very strange...
Also. I was thinking the other day of some angles of this big mess. What if Hezbolla actually have an ace up their sleeve?
>hmmmmmm...?<
Posted By Anonymous S.Wells-Philly-PA : 5:28 PM ET
I wonder if the same peacefull time was in Naharia or Haifa ( that are very beatiful as well) on Saturday morning when rockets started to fell.
Posted By Anonymous G. Traiberman , St. louis, Mo : 5:56 PM ET
If people there say that they fear from "the real shelling" then they admit that there is no disaster yet, and the destruction is limited, and can be handled later..
Israel has no intention to destroy Lebanon, and only targets the Hizballah strongholds and civilian infrastructure that Hizballah use. International law allow attacking military-used civilian infrastructure, even if the attacker know that civilians will get hurt, and remember - Israel warns civilians to leave the places it attacks, hours before the attacks.
Posted By Anonymous Asi, Haifa, Israel : 6:04 PM ET
To M A,
Tamir speaks the truth, but as usual the Muslim terrorists don't want to hear it. Therefore, the conflict will go on until the terrorists are eliminated once and for all, only then will there be peace. Islam is not the only world religion and must allow other views instead of having only the goal of wiping Israeli's off the map. Terrorists don't even accept the Jewish slaughter by the Nazis in WWII. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Posted By Anonymous Native American, Dallas, Texas : 6:06 PM ET
Why are we even talking about taking sides here? Hezbollah is nothing more than the bloody fingers on the long arm of Iran and Syria who are openly hostile towards the Israelies.

Hezbollah are in southern Lebanon using the Lebanes as human shields.It would be like a well funded, heavily armed anti-american terror group living just south of the Arizona border, would that be allowed?

If there really is a "war on terror",why has Hezbollah been allowed to exist at all?
Posted By Anonymous Linden, Tucson Az : 12:59 PM ET
To Linden,
Thing are more complicated than that. It is not about terrorizm, it is about who did what to whom. Why would they hate US so much? It has to be something...
Posted By Anonymous Dino N., Chicago, IL : 2:51 PM ET
I find your blog quite refreshing comparede to the usual pro-israel news you have on cnn. You have plenty of detailed reporting of dead israelies including pictures. Hardly the same for lebanese civilians and not for a lack of news or pictures but just because your editors surely know what is their interest to pick.
Posted By Anonymous Thomas, Chur, Switzerland : 3:12 PM ET
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