My trip to Beirut gave me a chance to think about Syria again and remind myself just exactly what it is that I find so fascinating about the place, a chance to stand back and peer in from its more glamorous neighbour Lebanon, where the Paris-like prices nearly killed me, but god I loved the sea!
I missed my appointment on Sunday with dentist Rima and couldn’t call to tell her from Beirut because I’d left her number at the hotel By the time I called on Tuesday she was in a panic, ‘”Where are you? What has happened! are you OK?” In one of my loneliest moments in this arid desert land it seemed that the brave ‘McAllister of Arabia’ had found himself an Arabic mother in his veiled dentist Rima.
I was back in her chair the following morning. “No needles today Sean, it all seems to be healing up well. Did you enjoy Lebanon?” She asked. “Yes I did” I replied, and, with dentist Rima poking around in my mouth I continued “It was great to begin to understand how people see the conflict in the region, I met many who loved Hezbollah and others that didn’t, some who felt that Syria was having a proxy war with Israel on Lebanon’s land by funding Hezbollah, and others who believed that if Israel really wanted peace they could have it tomorrow, but for some reason they don’t want it.”
Loyal and fierce in her patriotism dentist Rima sighs as if she’s heard this a thousand times, “It is all connected to Israel Sean, until the issue surrounding Israel is resolved there will never be peace in the Middle East.”
In the countryside of Syria I have spoken to many of the older generation who refuse point blank to accept the land of Israel. “The Jews can live there but the land has to be called Palestine” said one, another says “No Jews, only Arabs in our Palestine”. I suggest that realistically speaking Israel with the backing of America is going nowhere so isn’t it better to do a deal for peace, maybe get the Golan Heights back and divide Israel in 2 parts?
No compromise I am constantly told by the older generation; the ones that lived through the creation of Israel and the following displacement of million of Palestinians, they seem as uncompromising as do the current Israeli government, no wonder any peace deal seems so far away. I am told that the crusaders occupied this land for 200 years and were eventually kicked out, that Israel is still young only 60 years old, that there is plenty of time for the Jews to be kicked out, that as the American economy collapses in the recession it won’t be able to continue propping it up.
Dentist Rima like many here puts much of this in the hands of god, “One day we will get the land back” she says, “Oh and the good news is root canal is healed”. If it wasn’t for my veiled Arabic mother what would I do?