Monday, October 6, 2008

Political fundraising - Hezbollah style

We just returned from a wonderful 4-day trip to Lebanon. Loved it. Stay tuned for photos and more detailed posts. In the meantime, I thought I would write about something I did NOT get a photo of.

We decided to take a day trip and head north east to see the roman ruins at Baalbek. The drive took us up the winding roads to the mountains, across the spectacular range, over bridges being rebuilt after Israeli air strikes during the 2006 war to the other side and down into the Bakaa Valley.

That's when we entered Hezbollah territory. How did we know? The road was decorated with party flags and photos of dead Hezbollah fighters. Young men's faces were framed with slogans like: "You are the men of God" "You are the victory of Islam". Walls painted with Nasrallah's smiling face stood side by side with huge billboards of Khamenei and the late Ayatolla Khomeini. Most notable shop name: "Supermarket of the Oppressed".

We slowed to go through a checkpoint. Once we cleared it, we saw that two men were flagging down cars and throwing glossy, colourful Hezbollah pamphlets into open windows. We grabbed one, thinking what a great souvenir. Doh. We did exactly what they had hoped we would. The men came to our driver's window, demanding money. Our driver gave the pamphlet back, saying they (us) don't want it.

"Give us 5000 LL." (less than $4)

"They are only tourists. They don't want it."

"What about you?" he took back the pamphlet and looked at the money in our driver's hand, "then give us 2000 LL."

"I am just a driver, I don't have any money..."

"Pull over." They pointed like air traffic controllers, trying to guide our car to the side of the road. Our driver just waved at them and kept going.

Suffice to say, no political contributions were made that day.

This little fund raising attempt was the closest we got to anything remotely political during our trip. The rest of the time was spent drinking wonderful coffee, eating delicious sea food and taking in spectacular views. Blissfully unaware of the hardships facing the locals or having the slightest inkling re: the political situation. Lebanon felt more like an upscale European resort than a country recovering from -- and some argue still teetering on the edge of -- civil war.

Elections happen next year. Lets see where this roadside fund raising gets the party of God and it's competitors.


amreen said...

Lebanon - how exciting! I remember an older relative once telling me that years ago, when he had visited, that Beirut was like Paris, only more sophisticated.

Tiffany said...

Actually, we made a LL 2000 donation, courtesy of our driver. He slipped it in the Hezbee's palm as he gave back the propaganda.
Just going for truth in journalism here. ;)