By:  Andrea Becker
Bourj el-Barajneh

Morning coffee and the full beat of the buena vista social club….far from cuba here in southern lebanon. the air has cooled, and the sea sparkles. we used to sit up at night, and in the distance, watch the puffs of smoke rise from the katushas launched, the echoes of small fire, the gunship that would ominously light the night sea…having found their target, the boat would disappear into the blackness. time would hold still, then red sparks would fly…like fireworks, those small sparks would rise. then fall, no brilliant greens and golds and pretty sky designs, but the sound of smaller boats being rocked, ripped….the splooooosh of water….and silence. sleep would return. no fear…we were always, of course, a few kilometres away from the charade that ended so many civilian lives. The Israelis have withdrawn, the bright yellow flags have been flown. the blue berets have deployed. families have returned to their homes, some after over twenty years, some of the young seeing their southern lebanese villages for the first time. rebuilding homes. Nights are calm. This week i left Beirut, and my home of Bourj el-Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp. Now in the south, i step into Rashadiyyeh camp. There are some trees here. the sea is at the edge of the camp. the pathways are not as narrow, and the air is fresh. Rashadiyyeh is a welcome respite from Beirut. The air is fresher, the problems are the same. no rights to work. no security. checkpoints at the entrance of the camp. the humiliation, daily, slow and subtle, of having your car and your crumpled ID examined as you leave or enter the camp. pride, past, and no future. The old man still sits up on his roof, on his concrete ‘home’, and stares off into the distance, looking towards Palestine. The land that he was forced to leave at age 16, his three year old sister is his arms as they fled. his sister did not cry, keeping her head silently buried into his shoulder. not crying. not understanding, quiet with the fear that radiated from her brother. He sips his Arabic coffee, stares into the still night. That was over fifty years ago. The debates loom, the conferences begin and end, talks resume-fail-are suspended-break down. compromises are made. concessions. words, not people. No justice, and no peace. The lines on the old man’s face have deepened.

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