A few days after 11/9 2001 all employees at Reuters received an email telling them that from now on the use of words like terrorist and terrorist attacks were forbidden. The idea behind it is that one mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter. Seeing that I did an internship at Reuters I too have adopted this philosophy. While it for many can seem strange to have such a principal when it comes to a group like al Qaeda, I believe that once you start using it you’re headed down a track with many grey areas. One of them being the Lebanese group Hizballah.
I won’t get into the entire history of Hizballah. You can read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hizballah. And I won’t get into my views on the Hizballah either. No matter how one may feel about them one thing is for sure though: Hizballah has become an institution on Lebanon! That becomes clear to everyone who has visited the “Resistance Tourist Landmark”, also known as the Hizballah museum.
The museum opened earlier this year on a mountaintop near the village Mlita that used to be an outpost for Hizballah fighters, while Israeli troops were spread out on many of the surrounding mountains until 2000. The museum shows some of the weapons left behind by the Israelis, detailed information on some of the Israeli soldiers in Lebanon and a map of potential Israeli targets should Israel start bombing Lebanon. But the main attraction is a walkway through the forest, where life-size replicas of Hizballah fighters are places here and there and with missiles and other weapons (that were actually used) around them. The walkway also shows where the former Secretary General of Hizballah Abbas Moussawi used to pray. And it takes you through a 200 meter long tunnel system, which was used to hide fighters and equipment and where there were rooms made for prayer and rest. Even a complete command room with phone, computer and radio transmitters can be found underground.
According to a tour guide 130,000 people visited the museum within the 10 days. And there is no doubt in my mind that this place will quickly end on the must-see list of people visiting Lebanon. I went on an average Tuesday around noon and couldn’t help noticing how many people there were – everyone from your big group of American tourists to your small Lebanese family.
If you don’t know much about Hizballah a visit to the museum won’t make you much wiser. It doesn’t give a lot of background information about Hizballah. But it is fascinating to see the place where thousands and thousands of young men slept, ate, prayed, fought and died. And now that it’s over (maybe not officially, but the fighting seems to be done for now), I can’t help wondering what kind of void there’s left inside the men who survived through it all.
Oh, and if the picture of the family posing with the baby isn’t enough to convince you of how big and established Hizballah has become maybe this will: They’re planning on building a cable car and hotel to go with the museum!