Saturday, August 05, 2006

Middle East lament

The piquance of being on holiday, the pleasure of doing interesting and indulgent things, is undermined by a gnawing sense of guilt. One cannot watch the news or read the email missives about the Middle East without feeling a hole in one's soul for the misery that is Lebanon and Israel. Oh, Lebanon. Of the myriad places I have been, Lebanon was, by very far, the most civilized and hospitable. The kindness of the people was such that I was rarely able to pay for anything. And I met poets, architects and intellectuals as well as the people of the street. Even at our cheap hotel, workers acted more as friends than employees. I dined in elegant restaurants tiered down the courses of waterfalls - long, languid meals of many delectable morsels followed by sweetmeats and arak and coffee, the latter stretched full-bellied in lounge chairs and puffing on hookahs. Lebanon already had been scarred by violence. How many times has it been rebuilt? And now I look upon the pulverised buildings and mutilated dead and feel so, so, so sad. Yes, for Israel, too. Albeit that it was not kind to me when I visited. It is a land of perpetual tension, which, in itself, is as unhappy as it is unpleasant. One wonders if it will ever achieve its promise. Not this way, methinks. One can only see this grisly conflict going on and on, wishing that Hezbollah and Hamas could pull in their horns and that compromises could be made. So I suppose I am a bit cross with all the aggressors - for they make so many of us so very sad. Even when we have that precious time, as I do now, for lightness of life and earned respite from labours, I feel burdened by grief and a sense of hopelessness for them all.

I wonder if that super-fit, cake-eating President, George Bush, is sharing such dark contemplations. Like me, in this world-troubled time, he is on holiday. Yet again!

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