13 July 2007

A Zionist spy in Beirut?

I waited to write about my trip to Beirut because I found out a few days after returning to Tel Aviv that Channel 10 news wanted to send me back to do a report for them. Figuring I should try to keep a low profile until after it was broadcast, I left a few loyal readers hanging, without explanation, as I maintained radio silence - so to speak.

And so I went back to Beirut for a whirlwind 36 hours (Monday and Tuesday of this week), recorded a couple of interviews and some footage of various street scenes, flew back to Amman, spent the night at the airport before boarding the 6 a.m. flight, drove straight from the airport to the Channel 10 studio to drop off the raw footage, went home, showered, and returned to the studio to help edit the piece. And then voila, it was broadcast - two minutes after we finished editing.
To view, copy and paste the following URL into your browser: http://switch3.castup.net/cunet/gm.asp?ClipMediaID=1015892 (Thank you, Andrey!)

For non-Hebrew speakers, I will try to put in English subtitles and upload to YouTube in the next few days.

Anyway, one hour after my report was broadcast on Channel 10, Al Manar, the Hezbollah television station in Lebanon, broadcast its own interpretation of my trip to Beirut on its 9 p.m. news broadcast. And man, were they angry. Apparently, a Zionist agent penetrated security at Rafic Hariri Airport! God knows what I really did in Beirut, because there's no way I just went to do an innocent human-interest story about the mood on the streets of Beirut, one year after the war. Imagine! A possible Mossad agent walked around Beirut with a camera in her hands and no-one stopped her! (for heaven's sake).

I wrote a rather rushed report about my second trip for Pajamas Media, called Beirut, a year later. I'm going to write a series of more in-depth pieces that will be published over the coming days.

Meanwhile, the Sandmonkey summarized for Pajamas Media the outraged reactions amongst readers of Al Manar website and Tayyar, another news site that is allied with the Hezbollah against the current government.

For more anti-Lisa reactions (with a few tempering voices of reason) on a Lebanese message board in English, click here.

And just to counter all that paranoia and hate, I'd like to add the following:
a) Today I received several supportive and encouraging emails from Lebanese who read about or watched my report and liked it.
b) One of those emails came from a guy who thought I was still in Lebanon, and offered to help me leave the country.
c) Never forget that the extremists always have the loudest voice.

Oh, and for readers in Israel: I will be interviewed on London and Kirshenbaum tonight, at 7 o'clock on Channel 10. (On The Face)

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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.