|by Howard W. Hewitt • July 28, 2006|
After 40 hours of travel, at least 3-4 of it on a dangerous highway between Beirut and Damascus, Wassim Labaki ’08 is back on the Wabash College campus.
Labaki, a Lebanon native, decided with his family that now is the time to return to school instead of waiting to late August as he had originally planned. The biology major said his family feared the Israeli bombing would soon target the key road between the two capital cities and he would be stuck in Lebanon indefinitely.
Labaki and friends drove from his home town of Baabdat, a northern Beirut suburb, to Damascus without incident. But the junior admitted it was scary. The Israeli air force has targeted key infrastructure from Beirut south to the Israeli border. The Beirut airport has been totally destroyed.
Wassim laments what he has had to witness first hand in his homeland during a brief summer vacation.
"We’re enduring a very big crisis because we might face lack of food, drugs and medical supplies," he said of average Lebanon citizens. "I’m very sad about the casualties among civilians on both sides, whether it’s Lebanese or the Israeli side - especially for children and babies. The pictures I have seen on TV - mutilated children and babies its very, very sad - it’s very frustrating to see civilians hurt.
"Even an ambulance for the Red Cross was targeted and the headquarters for the United Nations in the south - those are pacifist sides and should not be targeted ".
Labaki said support is very mixed for Hezbollah in his country. Hezbollah is the terrorist organization targeted by the Israeli insurgence. Labaki describes the war as one between Iran, which funds Hezbollah, and Israel – not a war between Lebanon and Israel, "but it’s going on in our country."
The junior conducted research with Dr. Lon Porter during the month of June and didn’t return home until July 2. At that time, Lebanon was filled with nearly 2 million tourists visiting its beautiful beaches. The entire population of Lebanon is just over 3 million in the tiny country. Shortly after his arrival home to visit his parents and two sisters, the bombing began.
One of the few bright spots he’s encountered over the past weeks has been the level of concern and support from Wabash.
"I’m very thankful to the entire Wabash community for continuing support to me over the last three weeks, especially Mr. (David) Clapp, Dr. Porter and Dr. Veronique Zara. I stayed in correspondence with them. "My family and I were very touched by the support and we’re really thankful to the entire Wabash community for caring about us and asking us about the entire situation."
Labaki has agreed to write more about what he witnessed and what is going on in his country. We’ll post his writing Monday on the Wabash College website.
In photo: Wassim picking up his luggage at Indianapolis airport Thursday evening. On homepage, Wassim talks briefly with Director of International Students and Studies David Clapp before heading to Crawfordsville.