Our hearts ache for those in Beirut. Club member and Beirut baby Zena, with family roots in this beautiful city, has been directly impacted by the recent catastrophic explosions. We have come to her with an open heart to listen, and to share her story.
Picture: A locally sourced photo of what was once a heritage building and yoga studio.
In the words of Zena:
"On Tuesday the 4th of August 2020, the third most powerful explosion in history, decimated a 5km radius of Beirut’s most valuable realestate. Hotels, resorts, new and restored heritage buildings, the famed Souk Beirut and museums containing irreplaceable artefacts have all been completely destroyed.
Once again the country has been brought to its knees.
The government has been stealing from its citizens for decades with corruption rife throughout the ranks of power. No matter how much the people protest, beg, revolt and demand - nothing is done about it.
The cries fall on deaf ears both locally and internationally."
"When you hear the words Lebanon or Beirut, you think of bombs and war.
People always ask me “Is it safe there?”
I always say, 'If you stay in the safe areas, yes you’ll be safe.'
When I say these words, my heart fills with love.
I think of my family, I think of my grandmother’s garden, her dining table surrounded by photos of my father and his siblings. I think of my uncle in the garden sipping his coffee. I think of the beaches, the nightlife, the energy, the people you meet from all over the world who share the love of Lebanon, too.
A feeling I’ve never felt anywhere else in the world."
"The best nights of my life were in those streets, with my cousins and their friends, laughing and getting up to no good as teenagers. I feel a huge sense of love for my parents' country, like so many other second generation Lebanese from all over the world. We make the journey to Lebanon as often as we can, to our roots, to connect with the spirit of our ancestors and to visit our grandmothers."
"My parents met in the early 70’s in Zahle, Lebanon.
My mother, a student nurse, and my father, a patient’s relative, were married 6 years later in a small church not far from where they met.
My mother wore a denim A-line dress, my father a beige suit. Next to them stood their siblings and only a small group of family.
During this time, the civil war in Lebanon had broken out.
My mother found herself six months pregnant with her first child, preparing to leave her homeland, family and everything she’d ever known for a new life 14,000km away." "I was 5 years old when my parents first took me back to Lebanon.
I immediately felt it was my second home and became as close with my family there as I was with our family here in Australia.
The love my family in Beirut showed me is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.
When I was 14, my father passed away after a 2 year battle with cancer.
Heart broken, my mother took me back to Lebanon to visit family in the Summer of 1999.
I was older by then and even though I was grieving the loss of my father, just being in Lebanon made me feel more connected to his memory and spirit than ever.
I’ve been back almost every Summer since that year. Exploring new parts of the country and falling more in love with it every time."
"My photo albums are full of memories of my trips to Lebanon.
Our visits to Lebanon were so sentimental to our family that my uncle would take the luggage tags off our bags and keep them in his draw whenever any of us visited from Australia, to remember our visits.
The initial arrival into Lebanon was the same for many years. Tradition.
His house was always the first place we stopped by when arriving into Beirut airport. My Aunty and some cousins would drop by, we'd share a meal with the family depending on the time of day.
We would then travel 45 minutes up the main highway, into the mountains, to pass by another uncle's home.
Finally, we would go on to Zahle and Rayak where my parents' homes are."
"The Lebanese people are strong, they are fighters and survivors. They say Beirut has been built from the ashes 7 times, giving it the nickname of 'The Phoenix'."
"The Lebanese people are smart, very well educated, cultured and well travelled. They speak 3 or more languages fluently by the time they’ve finished school. It is a country where education, knowledge, history, family, and the love of life is valued above all else."
"Although the civil war ended almost 30 years ago, the political and economic situation has never properly improved. Between the million Syrian refugees flooding the country as a result of a 9 year civil war in Syria, an economic crisis with hyperinflation of the Lira devaluing the currency by 85%, and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions forcing people to stay in their homes with no way to earn an income and buy essentials, Lebanon’s situation has been worsening day by day."
"Whatever the outcome of this most recent event, no matter how long this takes, my love for Lebanon and my family will last a lifetime. I will continue to visit every year and I will continue to live my life with integrity, ambition and strive for success, as so many Lebanese people do across the world. This is so that the sacrifices my parents made to make a better life for us by leaving their homes and their families during the civil war, will not go in vain."
"The world is watching now and I pray this is the start of something. A change. A new future for the generations to come. The world is praying for you Lebanon. You deserve better. Our people deserve better."
Beirut is rebuilding from the ashes once more. Here's where and how you can contribute to local communities in the city. We've created a small list of charities and organisations both local (AUS/NZ) and in Beirut, that have come together to raise funds that will support our families and friends in Beirut.