Tension between Israel and Hezbollah hit home for several Carnegie Mellon students this summer. From the bombings of Beirut to a boom in Tel Aviv’s business, students from Lebanon and Israel expressed mixed perspectives of turmoil in their home countries. And for a couple of first-years, moving to college meant leaving close ones behind in a war-torn land.
Moving into his dormitory for the first time, first-year mechanical engineering major Charbel Eid parted from his home near Beirut, where he has lived his whole life. Eid’s family also moved during this time, but for a very different reason.
“We would hear everything, and the building would shake,” said Eid, speaking of the southern Beirut bombings.
Fighting broke out between Hezbollah and Israel on July 12 after Hezbollah took two Israeli soldiers captive and killed three others. Prior to the mid-August cease-fire, Israel bombed Lebanese infrastructure including Beruit International Airport, and Hezbollah launched salvos of rockets across the Israeli border.
According to Eid, the noise from Israeli bombs became so bad that his family moved north to escape the blasts. However, bombings have stopped with the cease-fire, he said, and his family is now moving back home.
According to an August 18 article in the Washington Post titled “U.N. Urges Europe to Join Mideast Effort; Western-Muslim Force Sought; Italy Offers Peacekeeping Troops,” Eid’s family members were
just a few of the 4000 people who traveled back to their Lebanese homes during this time. The Post described the cease-fire as a time for “many in Lebanon to carry out burials ... in about 40 villages for more than 250 people killed during the war.”
First-year business major Guy Levit experienced the battle from the other side — when he came to college, he left behind his home in Tel Aviv. But for Levit, life remained largely the same as it was before the war, as much of the conflict occured away from his home.
“It doesn’t look as dramatic [in Tel Aviv] as it is in the north,” he said.
According to Levit, people still go to work and into the city. Businesses are doing well in Tel Aviv, as people from the north filter in to escape conflict.
“Life is pretty much normal,” he said.
Levit said that the hardest part for him personally was when a missile injured a family friend. He said that he has friends in the north who work as engineers in shelters.
Francois R. Farjallah moved to Lebanon as an expatriate, recently finishing coursework for his MBA in the Tepper School of Business. Farjallah lived in the city center of Beiruit.
Matters appeared minor at first, he said, as the public and private sectors remained opened in the city and people still went to work.
Farjallah described people’s initial reaction as optimistic. “[People thought] this is one of the turmoils that will happen and then things will get better.”
Bridges were bombed, he said, and things escalated quickly. There was fear that danger could spread into the city center, where all of the activity happens.
“We were hesitant,” he recalled, wondering, “Do we leave or do we stay?”
Farjallah recalled how he was evacuated from Lebanon to Syria via a targeted road one week after the conflict’s beginning.
He remembers hearing on the news that a bomb had exploded just 10 kilometers from his vehicle — a big worry, he said. “Most of the roads by that time were hit.”
Back-and-forth violence subsided with the passing of United Nations Resolution 1701 in mid-August. The resolution called for a cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon and for the deployment of European troops to sustain peace.
For Eid, the resolution left him with a feeling the conflict could have ended sooner. “I think everyone could have been more proactive,” he said.
The Lebanese first-year also said he would like to see permanent peace. And while he wants the “proposed solution” — the cease-fire — to work, he also thinks it is temporary. According to Eid, in his home country, there is now fear of civil war.
Across the border into Israel, Levit said the United States has been very supportive of his home country. Outside countries, he noted, have an important role to stop conflict.
Levit said that he would like to see an international force disarm Hezbollah, and he would also like see Hezbollah return captive Israeli soldiers to Israel. He doubts, however, that Hezbollah will comply without being given something in return.
“Otherwise, from their point of view, they did not get as much out of this conflict,” he said.
Farjallah said that countries have shown their support of Lebanon by helping to rebuild and refinance the country and clean the country’s water. “We see that there is a commitment from the international community to help as much as they can,” he said.
Farjallah said that he would like for people in Lebanon to be able to travel and work in peace. But he realizes there are complications to achieving such peace.
“I think peace is a must, and it will come. But I think it will take some time.”