Over 2,000 years ago, the town of Qana hosted a man billions believe to be their Savior. The small town’s ancient stones still depict that man and his followers. But today it is not the messages of love, forgiveness, and brotherhood that Jesus is said to have delivered in this tiny corner of the Levant for which Qana is remembered. It is the memory of a massacre committed by a people who have claimed for decades to want nothing more than peace with their neighbors that haunts.
Now, once more, Lebanon is a nation in mourning. 10 years, 3 months, and 12 days after the city believed to have witnessed Jesus Christ turn water into wine first ran red with the blood of the innocent, the sacramental altar became once more replenished with an involuntary offering.
The still darkness that marks the end of one day and beginning of the next in the southern Lebanese town of Qana was shattered on 30 July 2006 by the thunderous clap of 80 high-tech harbingers of death sent to snuff out, with the borrowed strength of four storeys of concrete, the lives of 54 destitute civilians, 37 of whom were children hiding from the fury unleashed over the past 18 days of terror, self-righteously named “Operation Just Reward.”
On 18 April 1996, hundreds of Lebanese civilians were given shelter under the flag of the United Nations in Qana as Israel waged “Operation Grapes of Wrath,” another military incursion said to have been aimed at rooting out the Hizbullah fighters threatening the state’s northern border. But despite the shelter and safe quarter assumed to come with the blue and white flag of the UN, Israeli artillery shells were unleashed to smash and shatter the bones and spirit of the “terrorists” hiding inside a long-standing and clearly identified peacekeeping post. When the rubble was lifted and the smoke cleared, over 100 of those seeking shelter were put into opaque black bags as women wailed, the images of which helped end the onslaught being meted out onto an entire population.
Now, 10 years, 3 months, and 12 days after that horrible day, Qana once more fell victim to the hatred, cruelty, and perverse perseverance of a military bent on securing its borders at any and all cost.
Lebanon is today a nation in mourning. It is a nation devastated by the brutality of its neighbor. It is a nation bewildered and alone in the middle of a hailstorm.
Qana has once more been shrouded in rubble, dust, and death. But the nation that has cradled, comforted, and consoled this ancient town over the past decade is aflame with a white hot rage that can only come from the indifferent slaughter of the weak and innocent.
Many of us have been taught that, some 2006 years ago, in the town of Golgotha in what is now Israel, the man who turned water into wine in Qana begged his Father not to blame his executors “for they know not what they do.”
In Qana, no such pleas will be made.
Shawn M. Jackson is Copy Editor of The Daily Star.