Border is Just a Line Between Homs and Hermel

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On either side of the border, one does not find the rows of shops trying to grab customers in the last minutes before crossing. (Photo: Haytham Al-Moussawi)

By: Wafiq Qanso

Published Friday, March 1, 2013

The northeastern Lebanese town of Hermel is just an hour away from the Syrian city of Homs. A glance inside any Hermel home betrays the close ties between the two locales, as they’re filled with goods from the Syrian city.

Hermel residents fix their cars and tractors in Homs’ industrial zone. They buy their couches and kerosene heaters in Jouret al-Shiyah. Their clothes are from al-Dablan market. The Domed Market is where they find their gold, spices, and perfumes.

Homs is the trousseau, jeweler, and ring seller. No wedding invitation in Hermel would be complete without the sentence: “Al-Andalus Printers - Homs.”

Today, Hermel residents see these familiar places on TV and remark, “Poor Homs.” It’s as if all of Syria is Homs. In this, there is no difference between supporters of the regime or the opposition.

The relationship between Hermel and Homs is unlike any other two cities in Lebanon. On either side of the border, one does not find the rows of shops trying to grab customers in the last minutes before crossing. To a large extent, the relationship is more easygoing and tranquil.

Though people from Homs are often the butts of popular jokes, you won’t find an audience for a Homs joke in Hermel. Here, they’re spared from Lebanese stereotyping. For them, Homs is where you find the smart, witty, and funny trader. A city merchant with “rural sensibilities.”

For a long period of time, the people of Hermel lived in peace with their surroundings. Although they were hit by the Lebanese civil war in 1975, it did not disturb their lives in comparison with the residents of other cities. They continued to marry, to retire, to live and die in their city.

They were worried about the future, but not like the rest of us. It was not altogether unfamiliar. In that sense, they were like the Syrians across the border, more satisfied with their present and future.

Two years ago, the future became less certain for the people of Hermel.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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