Borj Rahal: A Small Town Resists Occupation

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The star is Khazna Ghazal, 85. She sits on the rubble of her house, which was demolished by the Israeli bulldozers in revenge against her son Ali Khrais. (Photo: Hasan Bahsoun)

By: Amal Khalil

Published Monday, December 17, 2012

On December 13, residents of the southern Lebanese town of Borj Rahal are celebrating. The town’s people have gathered in the Hussainia, or Shia congregation hall, to fill the place with stories, tears, and memories. It’s the 28th anniversary of its popular resistance against an Israeli raid that aimed to arrest and kill leaders of the military resistance.

From 1982 to 1985, the town was occupied by the Israeli military, yet its residents maintained years of resistance to its forces.

A video depicting the events of December 13 was screened. The star is Khazna Ghazal, 85. She sits on the rubble of her house, which was demolished by the Israeli bulldozers in revenge against her son Ali Khrais, the Hezbollah MP who was a military resistance leader. She mutters, “The land is ours and you will leave.”

Her daughter Zainab, a member of the popular resistance, and Abbas Ghazal, a hero in the Resistance, invited us to a gathering on the rubble of Khazna’s home to recount the day’s events.

They were not sure however where to begin: from that day, or with the early resistance to the 1982 Israeli invasion, when a hundred children descended from the scouts’ camp to throw stones at the army patrols?

Their stories were repeatedly interrupted as they jumped from one event to the next. They helped each other remember the details, like how Fatima kept a match box in her pocket while Zainab would tuck a kerosene bottle in her clothes.

On December 13, the media reported the burning of an Israeli tank in Borj Rahal’s square. Zainab, 20 at the time, and Fatima, 16, were behind the incident. They recount how the town’s young women stood up to the Israeli soldiers’ attempt to storm its alleys. They gathered tires and set them on fire. Aida, then 18, threw the only thing she could find at the soldiers: a can in which she had planted a sapling. When the can hit one soldier in the neck, his fellow soldiers fired at them. Her friends were wounded and Aida was martyred.

The young women also used to transfer weapons to the resistance fighters under their clothes and bury them in the olive groves. They will never forget how the Israelis kidnapped Abbas, dangled him from the helicopter’s chains and flew him over the town. The residents watched him all the way to Tyre before being transferred to Ashkelon prison where he was given a 216-year sentence. He was later released in a prisoners’ exchange deal.

Borj Rahal’s most significant achievement, according to Abbas, is that it limited the presence of Israeli agents whose presence was ubiquitous in other areas. He stressed that Borj Rahal had no spies throughout the period of its occupation from 1982 to 1985, after the town’s residents changed the directions of their street signs, as well as those leading to neighboring towns.

The stories of Borj Rahal are not part of the written history, but are rather told at evening gatherings. The town’s residents have not written down the events of those three years, but at the annual commemoration they seek to preserve those memories.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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