Haze Of War: A Lebanese Story
My mother and her brother, Ali, went to see relatives in Southern Lebanon during a casual visit – it was a Friday in the 1980′s and it was the first time she was there on a weekday; as per her usual routine she typically visited relatives in South Lebanon on the weekends.
My mother’s cousin, and my aunt, Houda, who was 15 years-old at the time, was sitting next to a few of her companions, almongst the olive groves across from grandmother’s home; my mother and uncle Ali arrived in Southern Lebanon, in our village of Arab Saleem, to Houda’s surprise. Houda’s joy at seeing them was noticeable in the brightness of her eyes and in her face according to those around her. Houda left her friends and quickly ran to hug and kiss my mother and uncle, exclaiming: “Who is planning to die today? This is the second week you arrive while the atmosphere is not pleasant.”
After finishing this very statement, and without warning, the screams began, from everywhere. The Israeli bombs had struck the olive groves. Through the haze of war everyone was suddenly able to see Houda’s wounds; a piece of shrapnel had traveled from her back and exited through her heart. My uncle Ali began screaming; his screams, my mother tells me, were heard all over the village.
Houda died on her way to the hospital, as my relatives raced in their car through a war-zone.
During the Israeli air-strikes my grandfather was injured by shrapnel along with all of my aunt Houda’s companions, some of whom were injured seriously – one of the young girls becoming paralyzed from the waist down due to the Israeli air-strike.
Below is a photograph of the grave of Houda Hassan Chamseddine, which I visit during all of my visits home, i.e. South Lebanon.