A tale of two families

The Lebanese family in Tyre

Cowering from the bombs in the Tyre Rest House Resort, the coastal city’s smartest hotel, along with 450 others, the Ahmad family had long since run out of food. Even if they made it to Beirut, the family of nine had no idea how they would pay for their flights to Denmark, where they have family and citizenship.

They had heard about the British warship waiting in Beirut to escort the refugees from the south to Cyprus, but still had no safe way of getting out of Tyre.

The father, Abdel, was nervous, smoking heavily and shouting into his phone. Hanging up, he barked: “Why isn’t anyone helping us?’’ His son Mahmoud (12) was subdued.
Fourteen-year-old Sarah was exhausted, her eyes puffy and cheeks marked with tears. Their grandmother, Zahour, was calmly tending to six-year-old Diana, who cut her knee when she fell running from the sound of bombing earlier that day.

Ali, Diana’s 16-year-old cousin, had come from Germany on his first visit to his native Lebanon. He planned to spend the summer meeting his cousins. He had been in Lebanon for two weeks when the bombing started.

Abdel’s wife, Hala, sat in the crowded restaurant with their two smallest children, Ibrahim and Hussein, her eyes glassy. Tears began to stream down her face as she spoke about her family. “We’re scared, I’m so scared. They haven’t eaten right for three days now. The hotel has run out of food and it is not safe enough to go out and get supplies.”

As she talked, the sound of shelling in the distance shook the windows, flicking up the blinds.

Abdel tried to cheer up his daughter, but found it hard to contain his own distress. “We have been trying to leave since the first day we got here. The United Nations won’t help us; when you try to talk to them they put their hands up and say they can’t help.’‘

Two blasts, much nearer than the others, resonated through the building. The family leapt up and rushed to the centre of the building, where many families had huddled away from the windows.

It was too much for the Ahmad family and, as the light started to fade, they loaded up their car. They were going to attempt the drive to Beirut on their own.

The Israeli family in Nahariya

The first time the rocket warning sounded, Lorrie and Sion Levy rushed to the small room in their apartment that serves as their bomb shelter.

Lorrie, who has difficulty walking, fell as a rocket landed 50m from their home. Sion (60) was distraught. “I was so panicked, not for me but for him. If he falls it is difficult for me to pick him up,’’ she said.

The Levys joined the 30% of Nahariya’s population who have left their homes and moved south to relatives or hotels. The town has been hit by scores of rockets, leaving several people injured and killing one woman.

The couple drove 24km south to their son’s home in Kiryat Ata. The town is out of range of most of Hizbullah’s rockets, but still vulnerable to the few powerful ones of the type that killed eight people in Haifa last Sunday.

Nahariya is so close to the border that it is hard to distinguish the blasts of the incoming Hizbullah rocket blasts from explosions coming from Lebanon and outgoing artillery.

Sion said her son and daughter-in-law could help her husband in and out of the bomb shelter. “My son has a much bigger bomb shelter, which is connected to the Internet and television so we can watch what is going on,’’ she said. “Even if Kiryat Ata is hit we will stay here because it is safer.’‘

Now the family can watch televised images of the large numbers of wounded and dead across the border as Israeli missiles hit Lebanese targets.

“It is much worse for them,’’ Sion said. “We have shelters and help from the government while they have no one. It is not the fault of the Lebanese people, it is the fault of people from outside who have used Hizbullah to cause problems with Israel.’’—Â

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