From The Memory of The People: Flowers, Dancing and a Defeated “Israeli” Occupation Army
By Nour Rida
Lebanon – Many are the photos and videos that rerun the joy and emotions of people returning to their homes and villages in Lebanon, after long years of “Israeli” occupation to their land.
25 May, celebrated as a national holiday and considered as one of the most important days in Lebanon’s modern history is dubbed Resistance and Liberation Day. After two decades, people recall the day when they tasted the sweetness of returning back to their homes, lands and villages and reunited with their loved ones, and the day when the detainees saw the sun again after long years of torture and imprisonment in “Israeli” prisons set up inside the Lebanese territory; like the infamous Khiam prison.
Fatima, 65 years old, told al-Ahed news that she was on a vacation in Lebanon. She had been living abroad all her life, driven out of Lebanon due to the civil war and then the “Israeli” occupation of Lebanon.
“I remember that day so well. As soon as we heard the news, that the ‘Israeli’ army was withdrawing, we poured down to the streets in Beirut to celebrate, and to find out more about what was happening. I had not been to the South of Lebanon for many years because of the occupation. So we instantly rode our car and moved towards the South with the other thousands of cars to go back home. People were throwing rice and flowers, giving out sweets and candy, it was sort of a wedding or parade and you just could see the smiles and tears of joy everywhere.”
Mariam, 73 year old housewife who comes originally from Jizzine, a village in South Lebanon with a Christian majority, told al-Ahed news that on that day, rumors were spreading like fire at the beginning that the Hezbollah, or Lebanese resistance movement was killing people all across the South of Lebanon and that no one should even think of going to the South at the moment.
“My husband said this was definitely rubbish, he had been friends with many of the resistance fighters and he said he knew well that was not the case. We are Christians, but we lived a long life of friendship and love with our Muslim neighbors, who cared for us more than our own family members sometimes. Soon we joined the cars moving towards the South on that day, only to find out what my husband was saying: these are rumors of hatred and bigotry by ‘Israel’ and their allies inside Lebanon.”
On that day, many marched back to their homes and villages on foot. It was like waves of human beings were flocking back to their land of which they were deprived by the “Israeli” occupation.
“My aunt shows in one of the videos on that day,” Amal said.
Amal was a kid at the time, but she knows the stories by heart. She has been listening to these stories for 20 years now, and today she turns 30. She was born on this same day only 10 years before the “Israeli” so-called invincible army withdrew from Lebanon.
“Many took to the streets, dancing, chanting, embracing each other and tossing rice and flowers in the air in celebration. I was a kid but I still vaguely remember how we were standing at the doorsteps of our house and people were celebrating; my aunt shows in one of the videos dancing and throwing flowers right in front of our house.”
Sara, for her part, was the daughter of an agent who worked for the “Israeli” occupation in its Lahed Army, or what was known as the SLA [South Lebanon Army]. It was an army in which Lebanese people were hired to help the “Israeli” occupation, and hence it was an army of national traitors. Sara wanted to speak anonymously; it still bothers her that her father was a traitor and an agent who worked for the “Israeli” occupation.
“I cannot hide from the past, and I cannot forget that he is my father. We were so scared when the ‘Israelis’ fled and people said we will be killed and humiliated by Hezbollah, but until this day none of the Hezbollah people did us wrong. The only one humiliated was my father, when he fled to the Galilee camp and later told us how badly they were treated until he managed to leave to Canada after a few weeks of ill treatment and lack of any basic needs or respect,” Sara described.
She went on to say “He later came to Lebanon and was jailed for three years because of cooperating with the ‘Israeli’ occupation army.”
The 2000 liberation of Lebanon was a turning point in the history of Lebanon and the region, from which people and societies can draw lessons and inspiration. Western media attempts across the years are crystal clear, trying to misrepresent history or hide the told and untold stories. But facts cannot be concealed. The stories of the people, the marching of the people on foot all the way to the South, the videos and the photos and audio-visual history, the tears of joy and longing, the blood of the martyrs and the some 150 Khiam Lebanese detainees whose scars still speak of “Israeli” torture cannot be buried.
It was the resistance fighters and the people who hand in hand liberated their land. As Timor Goksel, former spokesman and senior advisor to UNIFIL had said once on the popular move: "Back in 2000, it was the march of the people before the Liberation which amazed me the most...The starting point was in the village of Kantara towards the village of Taybe. Hundreds of children, women, and men marched towards freedom."
In 1979, Goksel was assigned as Press Information Officer/Spokesman to UNIFIL at South Lebanon’s Nakoura and later became a Senior Adviser of UNIFIL in 1995.
Goksel said that historically, “Israel” never left a country without something in return, but this only time was a withdrawal for nothing in return; that's why this time it was a success.
Hence, what speaks stronger than all these memories is the fact that the once unbeatable “Israeli” army faces a deterrence power in the region imposed by the Lebanese resistance. And so, 2000 was not only a memory in the minds and hearts of the people with stories told and some others untold. May 25 2000 is a day when the political, military and strategic equations in the Lebanon, the region and the entire world changed.