Page 4 - PC_Winter2020
P. 4

An Overwhelming and Emotional Task
4 WINTER 2020
 Continued from page 1
of the house, it was in shambles. It seemed to have been a modest room: a small bed by the side of the wall, a nightstand next to it, and a chest of drawers across the room. A small wooden cross was still hang- ing precariously over the bed. Glass shards and chunks of wood—piec- es of the broken wooden shutters— completely covered the bed, dresser and floor.
Habib beckoned to a few of his young workers and turned his at- tention back to the woman. She had wandered back to the shattered liv- ing room area and was staring at a big chunk of cement wall crumbled in a heap on the floor. “We will clean this up for you, too,” he said with forced cheer fulness. “Don’t you worry.”
Habib looked around. As far as he could tell, the woman was unmar- ried, and judging by a dusty photo- graph still sitting on the dining room mantel, she and her sister, who also seemed to be single, shared this flat. Probably the original family home.
“Where is your sister?” asked Habib. “Perhaps we could be of as- sistance to her, too.”
The woman’s eyes, suddenly filled with tears, reverted to the crumbled wall. Habib stared at her incomprehensibly and looked back to the heap. And then he saw it. An armchair of some kind, badly dam- aged among the debris. The woman looked at Habib and nodded. Her sister was sitting in that chair. She didn’t have a chance.
A subdued JCC group moved on to the next building. And the next. And the next. It was all the same. Shattered glass, wood, aluminum scraps, splintered furniture, crum- bled walls...and disturbing stories. It was like living in a Hollywood Ar- mageddon movie, Habib thought. Day after day, the JCC group put up nylon sheets across windows and balcony doors, and hauled down the stairs hundreds of bags filled with debris. Glass shards were care- fully placed in bags destined for recycling. In a way, thought Habib to himself, it was a field day for re- cycling companies. Never had they seen so much glass. No, he thought sombrely, this was no field day. Not for anyone.
Cer tainly not for the young gym owner with cuts all over his face who sat on what seemed to be part of a stationary bicycle. “Careful,” he called out as the JCC group walked in, “the walls, or whatever is left of them, are about to fall.”
The JCC youth group cleaning debris after the explosion in Beirut.
Habib looked around. It was a small gym. Remnants of weight machines and treadmills were eve- rywhere.
“This was my livelihood,” said the young man. “I earned just enough to feed my mother and sisters.”
“Now what?” he asked no one in par ticular. He explained that his mother and sisters survived with slight injuries, “but three of my best friends died.”
They usually meet in the gym every day for their workouts. After work. About now, he added.
Once the gym was cleared, the JCC group moved on. More destruc- tion, more hear t-wrenching stories. At times, Habib doubted the wisdom of exposing his youth group to such tragedy, to such hardship.
But there was more than that.
They were Palestinians (albeit Christians)—a word which, for years, brought contempt in many Christian circles. Indeed, many massacres and battles were com- mitted by both groups against each other—Christian and Palestinian militias—during the Lebanese civil war. Habib’s father was severely injured during such fighting. Habib himself fled from one area to the next to escape the clashes.
The JCC Palestinians were too young to realize the irony: they were aiding the very people who once upon a time were the enemies of their parents and grandparents.
“You are Palestinians?” said one
older woman, as the group hauled out the debris from her home. “And from the camp?”
Habib nodded slowly. The JCC youngsters looked oblivious to the question. They smiled cheer fully.
The woman looked at the youths.
“The government hasn’t been by to ask about me,” she said. “They didn’t come to clean my home and help me. But you did.”
She paused, then looked at Habib.
“Curse the war,” she said. “You are my brother.”
     Even in times of crisis and despair, Presbyterians Sharing continues to share God’s hope and love. In October 2020, an extra
grant of $13,500 was sent
to support the JCC.

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