UNICEF in emergencies

Teenage girls in Israel and Lebanon talk about living through war

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© UNICEF/HQ06-1164/Debbas
Child stands outside a bombed-out building in the southern Lebanese village of Aita Shaab two days after the ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah went onto effect.

By Blue Chevigny

NEW YORK, USA, 19 September 2006 – Two teenage girls, one from Israel and one from Lebanon, had an opportunity to speak on the phone recently and tell each other about themselves and their experiences in the war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Joy, 15, lives in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. Omer, also 15, lives in Haifa, Israel.

The girls had never met or spoken before but had a mutual interest in talking to another young person across the border. UNICEF Radio edited their conversation down into a two-part radio story. (Click the audio link at right to listen to Part 2.)

Living through the war

Both girls were taken aback during the summer, when war broke out in Lebanon and northern Israel.

“I knew there was tension between the two countries,” Joy said. “But I didn’t expect Israel to react in such a harsh way. I was just sitting at home and someone called me and told me what was happening, since I wasn’t watching the news. I just thought, oh my God, the war that my parents lived through is happening to me.”

Joy said her brother left to go to university in Canada during the war but she wouldn’t want to leave. “Lebanon is my life,” she asserted.

Omer agreed that she wouldn’t have wanted to leave her home in Haifa either, despite invitations from relatives in less war-torn sections of Israel.

“We kind of lived through it,” she said. “I felt like staying home. It felt so strange to think of ourselves as in a war, because what we know as regular life isn’t that normal, with buses and restaurants exploding every once in a while. That’s part of our daily life.”

Questioning violence

Joy was appalled by the level of violence inflicted in southern Lebanon. She also criticized the killing of civilians in northern Israel. “They’re innocent, they had nothing to do with the war,” she said. “They’re just people sitting around.”

In Israel, said Omer, “People were able to separate Hezbollah and the Lebanese people. I definitely got mad at the Israeli Government and army. Definitely.”

“At the beginning,” Joy asked Omer, “were you thinking, ‘I hope everything works out’? Or were you thinking, ‘I hope Israel gets them and destroys them’?”

“I don’t think the solution is to kill them off,” replied Omer. “Because if it’s not Hezbollah it will be some other extreme people who want to get their way through violence. For the long run, we have to do something deeper than that.”

“What do you mean by deeper?” Joy ventured.

“I don’t know, I mean, change the concept of using violence to get what you want, if it’s territories or anything else. Somehow, it should not be by killing more,” said Omer.

“Everybody wants that, but I don’t think it’s possible,” Joy responded. “I’m sure there will always be this hatred based on past experiences.”

Role of future leaders

Omer said she was still hopeful that there would be peace one day. Joy agreed that peace would be great but said she didn’t think there was anything the two of them, as young people, could do about it.

“I don’t know,” said Omer. “We are the ones who are going to be replacing the stupid people who are up there now, so….”

“Exactly!” exclaimed Joy. “But the young people who want to be in the parliament and things like that probably look up to these people and will be the same or even worse.”

“I hope not,” said Omer.

“I really, really hope not, too, of course,” said Joy. “I would love to see Israel. I hear it’s a nice country.”

“Yeah,” said Omer. “I would love to see Lebanon.”


 

 

Audio

For UNICEF Radio, two girls – Omer in Israel and Joy in Lebanon, both 15 – talk about life during the war and find similarities in their experiences.

13 September 2006
PART 1: listen

19 September 2006
PART 2: listen

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