In the Hezbollah territory

01.06.2019

                I am coming back to Lebanon after three years. The new challenge                              is coming. Visiting territory that is under control of Hezbollah.

Many states consider this Shi´a Islamist political party as terrorist organization. It was created as a reaction to Israeli invasion from 1982 as group of few Shia Muslim parties. I am interested in a life of locals there. Because it is clear that Israel and Lebanon are rivals. Even in 2006, Israel was controlling whole south Lebanon. My next goal is to avoid famous sights, even though I will visit one or two of them. It is easy to forget about this feelings when you are not meeting any tourists.

Uncertain permission

Main goal is clear - southern and north-Eastern Lebanon, where Hezbollah operates and also cares about safety and other services. Surprisingly, you can find a large Christian community there and they are living very well as I will find out later. You will need a special permission for visiting south territory and I have no idea if I will be able to get it. First day in Lebanon, I am meeting the French tourist that didn't get permission for visiting the south. It doesn't please me, but at least I will get drunk with him and I will try my own luck. Next day, in the city of Saida, I am trying to get this permission. The general is entering the military building and he is asking me what I need. I am telling him about my desire to visit that territory. He does not really get it and I am showing him photos of the places that I want to visit. The general looks very stubborn, but very soon, the miracle happens. He is talking about giving me a permission for one day. Just a day, that is not very much, I said to myself. I will try to make a deal with him about two days. He does not want to agree with that. But suddenly, one quite silly idea came to mi mind. But it might help, who knows.

"Mr. General, if you will give me a permission for two days, I will pray for the health of you and your family tonight. "

The general is smiling. That is a good signal. He gave me a permission for three days.

Check in the Batmobile

Few years ago, I have visited the Palestine territory on the north and I have seen the south Lebanon. Now I am standing in the south Lebanon and I am watching the Palestine - Israel. Border wall is few meters further and beyond it is a controversial Jewish state. The wall called Fatima Gate is stretching along the border for few kilometers. Apart from the all present secret police, you can also find there beautiful drawings of Jerusalem, the dove of peace with C4s and many sayings about returning the Palestine to Palestinians. It is also a very popular place where Lebanese people shout on Israeli soldiers that are watching the wall. The secret police is checking me there for a second time (first time it was in the city of Nabatieh) and later they are checking me twice more. The check is roughly the same every time. I am walking and the vehicle stops near me. They are asking me where I am going. I will show them the direction or I am telling them the closest city. The guys are getting out of the car (they do not have uniforms), they are checking my passport, they are taking a picture of the places that I want to visit, they are checking my luggage and they are constantly calling with somebody. Most of the time, I will smoke a cigarette to show them that I am not afraid. It ends up with my release - sometimes it takes a little bit longer, sometimes it is very fast. But not in Tebnine. This is the fourth check. The black car with dark windows is stopping near the church and it takes me to the police station. It is more than one person now. I am quite tired of the checks, so I am making fun of the guy.

"Dude, your car looks like the Batmobile. " I tried to start a conversation.

The guy does not lack a sense of humor and he laughs. But he does not answer me.

The fear of the enemy

It is a little bit worse than other checks on the police station. It takes long and they are checking absolutely everything I have. They are finding my second (backup) passport and I have to explain where else have I been and why I have it. They are asking me about the Palestine. I do not have this country in my passport but I am a bad liar. Because of that, I am telling that I have been there and I am always emphasizing that I was in the Palestine, not Israel. Everything seems to be ok, one of the policemen offers me a coffee, but eventually, the decision from higher ranked officer arrives. I have to leave south Lebanon now and my permission expires. I am sad about that and the policemen are aware of that. They are also human and they see that I do not have bad intentions. But some higher ranked officer made a decision and I have to respect it. On that day I am going to the town where I do not need permission. I am meditating in my hotel room and I am thinking about leaving this place. I have so many questions. Why are they so scared? Why they have not leave me to sleep with the Christians? Do they think that I am a spy? Where had the human trust disappeared? This feelings got away and I am coming to the south Lebanon next day without permission. This time, nobody is requiring it.

In the steps of the Christ?

Do you believe in miracles? I must confess that I do not really believe in them. I have visited many sacred places and I seldom felt something sacred. If so, it was because of nature, meditation or because of temples where these miracles usually happen. I remember the visit of one place in Bosnia. There was a metal statue of the cross and the Christ. People believed that the drops of blood are present there and they came there with tissues and they were wiping this blood through their bodies. I was there too and I have seen people doing it. But I have not seen any blood. Despite this, I am always visiting this places and still expecting miracle. In the city of Qana in the south Lebanon, Jesus transformed water to wine, according to the legend. Places where this was supposed to happen are four in the Middle East. Qana is one of them. I am coming there to explain a few things that happened in my life. I am also hoping to kind of talk to myself without expecting that somebody will hear me out. I am doing it quite regularly, but usually not on these special places.

Visiting Armenians

I am leaving the secret police of Hezbollah and I am moving to the north-east where this party is also holding control but I do not need a permission anymore and I hope that I will not have to deal with secret police. After the journey, I am stopping in the village called Anjar where I befriended a family of Armenians. I have spent a night there and I felt like I was a part of the family too. Except of approximately 15 people living in the house where I lived, there are also four dogs. One of them is afraid and he is constantly barking, the other one love me and he is licking me. Armenians offer me good wine, water pipe and comfortable bed. They are very friendly and funny. On the next day, they are showing met he places that are known only by locals. I am asking them how I have deserved their trust and hospitality. I am assuming that the questions are not important in that moment. The human met human and this is important.

A few lines of love to conclude

In the Hermel, near the ruins of the city Baalbek I am travelling to a pyramid that was built for Syrian princess that loved to hunt there according to the legend. Hermel is not a popular place among the tourists. I have not met any foreign tourists there. Lovely couple started a conversation with me. He is a young teacher, she is a student. Nobody know about their relationship in the class, they are keeping it in the secret. The teacher wants to know how to say "I love you" in Slovak. I am telling it to him. After saying that phrase, the students looks quite nervous. She is blushing out of happiness. The couple is grateful that I came there and they gave me water and some sweet sticks. This is the reason why I came here - this meeting. Nothing more, nothing less.

INFO BLOCK:

The south and north-eastern Lebanon is controlled by party of Hezbollah that is the only one that did not give up after the end of the war (1978 - 1990). Party managed to achieve retreat of Israeli forces from the territory of southern Lebanon. To remember this event, in the 2010, the museum of Hezbollah was created. This museum also welcomes foreign visitors. Museum is located near the village Jarjouaa and it keeps great amount of guns and armed vehicles which were used during the war with Israel. There is a large community of Christians there, but the largest community is the group of Shi´a Muslims (that are most common mainly in Iran for example), but you will also find a population of Armenian people that moved there after the genocide in Turkey.

Date of trip: april 2019

Author: Peter Gregor