One of these days I suddenly remembered one of my many plane trips to Europe, some ten years ago, that time from Tel Aviv via Athens to Frankfurt. During the last leg I was sitting in the middle section of the coach, trying to work. In the back a party was going on. People were changing seats all the time, loud discussions from row to row, distribution of home made food, blocked aisles, annoyed flight attendants, a picture not uncommon in flights in this corner of the world...
I was too far away to understand anything, but there was no doubt in my mind that those were fellow Israelis on their way to some organized vacation in Europe, also taking advantage of the cheap connection via Athens. Since it was just impossible to work I got up after a while to check out the home made food (try that one on an United Airlines flight...). Once I came closer I realized that the people were speaking Arabic, not Hebrew. I was puzzled, because they were not looking like Israeli Arabs, actually they were not looking like Arabs at all, at least not to me being a newcomer to the region at the time. I sat down in the vicinity and observed the happy crowd. It became clear after a while that this was a couple going to honeymoon, and some of their friends or relatives (ever thought of taking your buddies along with you on your honeymoon...?). I closed in and asked one of the happy people where they are from and what is going on. It turned out that the wedding party was from Beirut. A Lebanese group behaving exactly the same way Israelis would behave in a similar setting.
I also recall stories from Israeli soldiers who had been to Beirut in the first war, making friends despite their status as enemies, and feeling pretty much at home. Most of them are just like us, they said.
Well, I guess that is true for the secular Lebanese, for the Christians and some of the moderate Moslems. It is certainly not true for those fanatics which sacrifice their children in order to give shelter and international legitimacy to the Hezbollah terrorists bombarding Israeli cities.
Still, with all that is going on now, I wonder where are the voices of those Lebanese people, with whom we could make peace so easily. I would love to travel one day to Beirut, which was once called the Paris of the Middle East, sit in a cafe and have a croissant with some Lebanese friends. Is this so far fetched?
It didn't seem to be back then.