UNICEF in emergencies

Two girls in Lebanon and Israel discuss post-war concerns

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© UNICEF/HQ06-1514/Debbas
Two youth volunteers put on a puppet show at a UNICEF-sponsored fair for war-affected children in the city of Baalback, in Lebanon's northeastern Beqaa Valley region.

By Blue Chevigny

NEW YORK, 30 October, 2006 – During the war between Israel and Hezbollah that ended with a ceasefire in August, young people in both Lebanon and Israel suffered while watching parts of their homelands attacked and people there displaced or killed.

Now, in the post-war period, people of all ages are struggling to make sense of what happened, and to recover.

Two young people from opposite sides of the border – Shir, 16, of Israel, and Christine, 17, of Lebanon – were each curious to talk to a teenager in the other country. UNICEF Radio recently set up a telephone call between them and recorded it. The girls had never spoken to each other before. 

The real story

Shir told Christine that during the height of the war, when her city of Haifa was the target of rocket attacks and she went to bomb shelters every day, she became somewhat numb. “It’s not that I didn’t care,” she recalled, “but when I heard bombing and had to go to the shelter, I moved out of instinct. I didn’t think about homes being crushed and dreams being crushed.”

UNICEF Image
© Reuters/Zvulun
A young boy looks at damage to his family's house in Kiryat Shmona, northern Israel.

But suddenly after the war ended, she said, “It hit me that people died.”

Christine wasn’t sure what was happening in Israel during the war because the newspaper and television reports left out that part of the story. “Teenagers here like to know realities,” she said. “Because there’s definitely a big question mark around the media – here and in Israel and in the US and everywhere. They don’t always say the same thing.” She said she was glad to get the real story from a real Israeli.

In some ways, added Christine, the period after the war has been harder than the conflict itself. She noted that Lebanon had been recovering from its last war for 15 years when hostilities broke out unexpectedly.

“And the damage here is really, really big,” she said. “University’s starting late, and as a teenager who cares about education, this is my first concern. I don’t know how long it’s going to take to recover this time.”

Starting a dialogue

Shir told Christine she became interested in learning more about Lebanon, as well as other Middle Eastern countries, when she did a school report on her grandparents. Her grandmother was born on the border between Syria and Iraq. She realized that she cannot go to her grandmother’s birthplace or travel easily to most of the countries in the region.

“It’s like being trapped in a small piece of land, and it’s a little suffocating,” she said. “Everyone talks about the Middle East as one place, but it’s not – it’s divided. And it makes me feel a little lost. And Christine, you’re the first Lebanese person I ever spoke to. And I was very nervous.”

For Christine, talking with Shir helped her understand another point of view about the recent conflict. “This conversation can start a dialogue between the two countries,” she said.


 

 

Audio

30 October 2006:
Two young people, Shir in Israel and Christine in Lebanon, discuss their feelings and ideas in the aftermath of the war between Israel and Hezbollah.
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