There are mixed emotions in the capital today. People are optimistic but also highly doubtful that the ceasefire will last. “There will only be peace when it is an equal peace,” said Sami, a baker from Saida temporarily living in Beirut. “I will head south tomorrow to check out the area, I know my house is still standing.”
My friend Hassan, from the southern suburbs, sounded happy on the phone. The bombs have stopped falling on the area and people are returning to the neighbourhood. “Israel will not try this again, they have paid a high price for trying to stop Hizbullah.”
The manager of the office I was working in today (no electricity at home) was whistling a tune. “I hope it lasts,” he said.
But other people I talked to today were not so optimistic. “The ceasefire will not last, how can it with so many Israelis down in the south? They will do anything to keep us down, and only need the smallest provocation to start the fight again,” said Rami.
Local shopkeeper George was also not too hopeful. “It will not last, and who knows, maybe fighting will start between the Sunnis and the Shia. The Israelis know this and will try it. This will not be good for us Christians.”
There are definitely more cars on the roads and people out and about. One of the few ‘benefits’ of the past month is that I have been able to cycle around the city without the risk of being hit by a car – drivers here do not know how to handle cyclists, and anyone who has been here knows what the traffic scene is like, chaotic to say the least – so cycling may be out later on in the week. I hope so.
But the power cuts are still with us, and the sky is strangely overcast. At this time of year one hardly ever sees clouds, yet alone what look like storm clouds, but I think this is to do with the environmental damage caused by Israel’s broad arsenal and the bombing of oil plants.
Sundays are usually quiet in Beirut, but the emptiness of the city is accentuated on this particular Sunday, a day after, to the month, that the war began.
Tomorrow at 8am the ceasfire is supposed to begin, but this afternoon the otherwise eerie silence – I can hear backgammon dice being thrown on the balconies opposite my apartment – has been shattered four times so far by heavy aerial bombardments on the southern suburbs. The glass wobbles on the building opposite and my heart does the rumba.
Looking from my desk through the window, the 'Hariri' mosque in Martyrs' Square in the distance, there is a red sky. "Red sky at night, shepherds delight." Will it be tomorrow?
I feel like one
Who treads alone
Some banquet hall deserted
Whose lights are fled
And garlands dead
And all but he departed
Thomas Moore (1779-1832), Oft in the Stilly Night