Magazine article New Internationalist

Written in the Stars

Magazine article New Internationalist

Written in the Stars

Article excerpt

Reem Haddad finds herself up against the fatalism of her compatriots.

I listened with shock to my carpenter relating the events of his weekend. His young brother-in-law and wife were killed in a car accident, leaving their three-year-old-child an orphan. The bewildered boy. kept calling lor his mother.

'That's terrible,' I said, on the verge of tears.

My carpenter nodded his head. 'Terrible or not, it was meant to happen,' he said. 'Don't waste your tears. It was written that they should only live so many years. Nothing could have changed that. We must accept it.'

And there it was again: fate. Most Lebanese are great believers in it. Your life, they believe, is written for you before you were born. Que sera sera. Fate dictates everything that happens to you: your birth, marriage and death.

'It's sad but don't dwell on it,' said my carpenter as he continued his job.

I've seen it many times before: strength in the face of death. Some years ago, 1 covered the aftermath of the April 1996 massacre at Qana where over 100 Lebanese civilians were killed in an Israeli artillery bombardment as they took shelter in a United Nations base. The 17-day-old baby of Fatmeh Balhas was decapitated by a lump of shrapnel as she held him in her arms. Fatmeh's husband, 16-year-old brother and her two other children had also been killed in the shelling

I personally don't think I could have gone on with life, but Fatmeh did. She eventually remarried and had another baby.

'It was my baby's fate,' she told me sadly. 'It was meant to be.'

A few years later, I was covering an Israeli air strike against a Lebanese electricity plant. Flames were billowing from the wrecked machiner}' and a group of journalists was begging the army to let us in to look at the damage. As the army refused, fire engines arrived. We stood aside and looked at the firefighters rather enviously. The younger firefigluers had heard our pleas and smiled sympathetically at us. I remember their faces well. No sooner had they entered the burning electricity plant than we heard the sound of returning Israeli jets. I saw a lightning flash followed by a huge explosion. We ran screaming in all directions and took shelter behind some fuel tanks in a gas station. The stupidity of hiding from missiles in a gas station sent us running away again. …

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