Pass the Ball
Posted Sunday, October 25, 2020 04:22 AM

 

Those cheery little faces…

“Can I really make a difference?” The people of Lebanon have an answer

 

One sunny Beirut afternoon a few years ago, I was playing hoops with students on AUB’s outdoor court along the Mediterranean.  We were a mixed bunch—Christians, Muslims, Jews, et al.  Arabic was a steady chatter of ‘Yalla! Yalla! Yalla!' and ‘Ana! Ana! Ana!’—'Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!’…’Me! Me! Me!’… The concept of teamwork was difficult to convey.  Dribbling, incessant dribbling, seemed a clear affront to ‘passing’.  Coaching basketball in Beirut was indeed a challenge.  But Lebanon has really good ball handlers—you might imagine. Friends back in Raleigh might say that is the way I played—I guess I wasn’t much of a passer either, or a good role model for that matter.  :-)

LEBANON: American University of Beirut (AUB) • International Week • Freie  Universität Berlin

Beautiful American University of Beirut (AUB)

 

Student playing basketball at AUB (American University of Beirut) campus,  Beirut, Lebanon Stock Photo - Alamy

 

After the game, one of the players (a Palestinian) asked me if I would go with him the next day to see an anti-aircraft gun which was set up in the southern part of the city.  Being curious, I agreed, so the following morning he picked me up in an old Mercedes sedan along the corniche beside the university.  We drove for almost an hour through snarling traffic until the neighborhoods started looking seedier with bombed out buildings and cluttered streets. Civilians in street clothes and militias and Lebanese soldiers wearing army fatigues and different colored berets made their way on foot through broken bricks and glass.  Around a bend in the road we turned into a gravelly entryway, and there it was—a twin-barreled anti-aircraft gun set on the back of a beat-up old truck parked near an apartment building and an open area where children could be seen at play.

We parked the car and got out to look. There was a group (a team) of young Palestinian men manning the gun.  I looked out across an open span of dirt that stretched for about fifty yards to a playground where children were looking back at us through a chain-linked fence, their cheery faces pressed up against it, behind them a wrought iron jungle gym, and a set of swings and a seesaw.  The children waved, happily beckoning us to come over to them, which we did.

I high-fived them all and talked with their teacher (a Shia Muslim woman wearing a hijab), a delightful lady with a warm smile and a perky, dry sense of humor.

But she was worried, too, and kept eying the gun instillation. ‘They keep moving those weapons to avoid the bombing, she said.  I hope they move it (the gun) again, away from here, soon.’

We returned to the gun emplacement where my friend was the ranking officer. He was a Palestinian soldier between school days, and even though one of his basketball teammates was Israeli and Jewish, he was at war with Israel.  I don’t think he passed the ball to his teammate much, though, but they seemed to be friends—odd, isn’t it? 

I asked him about the close proximity of the anti-aircraft gun to the children on the jungle gym. ‘You know that those F-16’s will come roaring in and blow that weapon to pieces, don’t you? And the explosion will likely kill the children over there,’ I said, pointing to the playground. There was a pause, then he managed a sheepish smile, saying, ‘We know.’

The Palestinians know…the Israelis know…but, the children do not know....

 

HD wallpaper: lebanon, beirut, demolished building, war, south beirut,  israel war | Wallpaper Flare

 

 

Children at a playground in Beirut Lebanon Stock Photo

 

 

Capture - Beirut Today

 

Marathon Pundit: Suburban Beirut: "Civilians" with anti-aircraft weapons

 

Diplomatic Observer

 

As we swim through troubled political waters in America, I think back to this little Lebanese boy I played basketball with out on a playground near his school on the outskirts of Beirut back in 1980.  He wore a Magic Johnson tee and a warm smile on his face.  His name was Jamal, and his cheerfulness on a concrete playing surface with a background of bombed-out buildings and lost loved ones was captivating.  He was such a delight, and his mother, a Shia Muslim wearing a hijab, watched us (from a park bench) with great pride in her eyes for that son of hers.

 

When we finished playing after an hour or so, I took them both over to a street vendor for falafels and mint tea.  A good afternoon and friends for life.

Muslim woman wearing hijab looking away outdoors Stock Photo - Alamy

 

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palestinian tea - Google Search | Tea, Moscow mule mugs, Coffee tea

 

THE BEST Falafel in Beirut (Updated October 2020) - Tripadvisor

 

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Although I am a bit loose with the metaphor, I try not to offer political viewpoints—not good at that anyway and have friends of many persuasions. We are a mixed bunch.  How ‘bout passing the ball around and high fiving those cheery kids along that chain-linked fence.  And please move that truck. :-)

 

Be careful out there.

Peace, Shalom, Salam  :-)