Notes From Hairenik

In the midst of chaotic destruction stemming from the ceaseless power struggle between the Palestinians and the Jews, which once again is being fought on Lebanese soil, tens of thousands of people are trying to get out of the region. Southern Lebanon and parts of Beirut have already been heavily hit by Israeli artillery shells and missiles launched from fighter planes. With each passing day dozens of lives are being taken and homes are being ripped apart from the seams. A half-million people in Lebanon have already been displaced.

Armenia on Tuesday announced that it would offer amnesty to anyone from Lebanon regardless of ethnic origin for as much as three months. This is quite a show of support for neighboring peoples in the region currently caught up in a sandstorm of bombardment. Lebanon is home to thousands of Armenians. At one time Beirut was considered the cultural, educational, and even political center of the Armenian Diaspora, as well over 200,000 people once lived in Lebanon. Those numbers have far been reduced in the last twenty years, especially since the onslaught of the civil war in the 1980s. Nevertheless, some Armenians there are once again looking for a way out.

I have relatives who are in Lebanon—at least three of my father’s first cousins and their families live in or around Beirut. So far there doesn’t seem to be any news as to how they are getting by. Apparently the wife and three young children of a good friend of mine from the Boston area are stuck in Beirut, where they were vacationing. My father is sometimes heard commenting that the Middle East should only serve as a depot for Armenians, a temporary transition place from the land of their ancestral roots back to that land or to other, more democratic societies. In the wake of recent events, perhaps he is right.

I have to say that it is very unfortunate Lebanon has to be the battle ground again for the two parties in conflict. It has taken 20 years for the country to pick up the pieces and attempt to put into place a proactive democratic government represented by Muslims and Christians alike. To see Beirut, newly emerging once again as the “Paris of the Middle East” crumbling to rubble is a travesty.

So far a few European countries, such as Sweden and France, have been able to evacuate their citizens from Beirut by ship. The US, which has about 25,000 citizens currently in Lebanon, has yet to move people out by air or sea. But Armenia, a country the size of a peanut and with minimal clout compared with its giant western economic savior, is already working out the logistics to get those people who want to leave out of Lebanon as soon as possible. It is a bold step, and Armenia should be commended for lending a helping hand to the victims of the senseless attacks that have no immediate end in site.

You can read more about this here and here.