After two days of downtime due to sickness, we’re back in action. We went south to Tyre yesterday and spent the afternoon on the beach. Found some sweet towels, which will make excellent souvenirs.
Today we got permits to visit the “secure zone” of Hizbollah controlled towns. Our permit required color photocopies of our passports and new photographs, but ended up being a slip of paper with a number written on it. Sometimes things are just laughably ad-hoc in the Middle East. Stormed a castle that was originally built by the romans, captured by the Crusaders in 1139, used by the PLO to shell northern Israel until 1982, was used by the Israelis during the occupation which ended in 2000. Now there is a yellow Hizbollah flag on the top, and the castle is in rough shape.
We also toured through several villages that were heavily bombed by the Israelis in the 2006 war, where reconstructions is still underway. As our gracious host explained, the Lebanese are experienced at rebuilding. We also saw a former Israeli detention center, which was also bombed during the most recent conflict. Hizbollah banners and martyr posters line the streets, and it isn’t hard to see why the population supports them. Of all the “non-state actors” in the region, they are the only one to achieve any real gains against Israel. My feelings about the group are mixed, however despicable the qassam rockets were they haven’t been involved in suicide attacks within Israel. They do seem to be a more classic nationalist organization than your stereotypical international terrorist group.