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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Overseas tension hits home for some UA students

    Basil Schaheen, a molecular and cellular biology senior, returned from Lebanon last week just after war threatened the country. Basil is just one of many UA students impacted by recent events in Lebanon and Israel.
    Basil Schaheen, a molecular and cellular biology senior, returned from Lebanon last week just after war threatened the country. Basil is just one of many UA students impacted by recent events in Lebanon and Israel.


    asil Schaheen awoke from his first sleep in seven days surrounded by U.S. Marines on the bow of the Queen Orient, his eyelids frozen shut with sea spray.

    Forced to cut short his summer spent working at a Beirut hospital – as rockets and bombs began trading airspace throughout Lebanon and northern Israel – Schaheen was among scores of Americans evacuated by ship to the neighboring island of Cyprus, July 21.

    “”I’m still a little bothered when I hear planes fly overhead and bass from a car speaker,”” said Schaheen, a molecular and cellular biology senior who returned to Tucson last week.

    “”Other than that, I have all my limbs, and I’m no worse for wear,”” Schaheen said. “”I’m recovering.””

    As the Israeli military’s response to the Hezbollah capture of two of the Israeli Defense Force’s soldiers nears its third week, UA students with Lebanese and Israeli roots are confronted with fears and hopes that transcend nationalities.

    The foremost concern expressed by those students is the constant unease over distant relatives living near combat zones.

    Lara Schaheen, Basil’s sister and a molecular and cellular biology senior, was afforded some assurance of her brother’s safety, thanks to his American cell phone, as he rode out the initial wave of air strikes.

    Calls to the U.S. State Department for information about the evacuation plan that whisked Basil from the embattled capital were of little consolation however, offering only recorded messages, according to Lara Schaheen.

    “”You feel phenomenally helpless – it’s very frightening when you can’t get your loved ones out of there,”” Lara Schaheen said. “”They really don’t give you any direct answers.””

    Still, Basil was able to inform Lara of his whereabouts – like the two days he spent waiting out in the sun on a concrete bridge for a bus ride to the Port of Beirut as the Lebanese capital was blasted behind him.

    “”For us, it was easier than for some families, because we had a means of communication,”” Lara Schaheen said. “”There are many still with no idea, only optimism.””

    Many families on the other side of the border in Israel have also been displaced and have suffered losses due to heavy and persistent Hezbollah missile attacks.

    “”The bombing on the north side of Israel is nonstop,”” said Danielle Steinberg, psychology sophomore and UA women’s tennis captain. “”We are hosting family members ourselves.””

    Steinberg’s aunt and her children recently fled the heavily-hit coastal city of Naharia for her grandmother’s home in Holon, near Tel Aviv, Steinberg said.

    Steinberg, who served in the Israeli army for two years while continuing to train in her sport, returned to her hometown of Tel Aviv for the remainder of the summer, close to family members who headed south to escape the fighting.

    She’s far from her laid-back Tucson existence, which she describes as a “”great opportunity to focus on things like tennis and school and not war and bombs.””

    She said a key feature of her country’s personality is that daily life must continue – war or no war.

    “”That is a part of being Israeli,”” Steinberg said. “”Since we have so much bad experience with terror and fighting, it’s sad to say, but we are kind of used to it.””

    In Tucson, though, most aren’t as familiar with the effects of war as Middle-Eastern natives.

    “”I’m very worried for my family over there,”” said Bethany Slim, a Lebanese-American journalism and political science senior, whose father was born in Beirut.

    “”To not get in touch with them or find out where they are or how they’re doing is really scary,”” Slim said.

    Two of Slim’s cousins managed to escape the carnage and travel to Canada. Their parents still refuse to leave Lebanon, as Slim’s grandmother – the family matriarch – is too old to travel.

    “”It kinda looks like they’re going to be staying there,”” Slim said, followed by a long pause. “”I’m kinda holding strong.””

    Slim is concerned that the mounting civilian casualties in Lebanon will only ignite more support for Hezbollah militias – a vicious cycle foreboding more misery for those on both sides of international lines.

    “”I think that could definitely cause more trouble for (the Lebanese people),”” Slim said. “”Hezbollah is not a very diplomatic group, and I think that violence is really the only way they try and solve problems.””

    The sense of duty is a motivator for other students responding to the call for national survival.

    It’s a strong magnet that pulls recent UA Judaic studies graduate Drew Alyeshmerni to a new homeland, as an immigrant.

    Alyeshmerni is headed to Israel this week to live on a kibbutz, or self-sufficient community, until she is drafted into the Israeli military in November.

    “”I feel that Israel needs me now more than ever,”” Alyeshmerni said.

    Last semester, Alyeshmerni helped form the Tucson Peace Project, a dialogue group of Jewish and Muslim students for Middle East peace.

    Despite her benevolent nature and her hopes for assignment to a non-combat post Alyeshmerni said she is willing to fight for her new country if necessary.

    It’s a move that her parents wish she would put off for a while because of obvious dangers, Alyeshmerni said.

    Still, the future IDF soldier retains idealism about the conflict, recognizing the humanity of her adversaries.

    “”There shouldn’t have to be terrorists to begin with,”” Alyeshmerni said. “”Every terrorist is a son or daughter or brother or wife or sister of somebody. We feel for any loss of human life.””

    And despite the approaching fall semester, it’s apparent that meal plans and textbook prices are the last thing on the minds of these students who are uneasy about the future of the war-torn region.

    “”This could be a catalyst for wider problems,”” Slim said. “”Everyone over there could sure use some help.””

    Israel/Lebanon conflict timeline


    July 12: Hezbollah militants kill three Israeli soldiers and capture two others during a raid across the border of northern Israel near the towns of Zarit and Shtula. An Israeli tank is also destroyed and its crew killed as IDF troops try to prevent the militants from escaping further into Lebanon.


    July 13: Israeli military reacts with air strikes against Hezbollah targets throughout Lebanon, including runways at Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut. A naval blockade is imposed against the city as well. Hezbollah reacts by firing rockets into northern Israel, which kill two civilians and injure dozens.


    July 14-15: Bombardment of Lebanese infrastructure intensifies, with roads, bridges and utilities hit. Hezbollah continues launching dozens of rockets into Israeli towns, resulting in civilian casualties.


    July 16-20: U.S. Marines begin evacuating Americans and other foreigners from Beirut as the conflict continues.


    July 21: Israeli military begins calling up reservists.


    July 22: Cruise ships of evacuees from Lebanon begin reaching Cyprus.


    July 25: More than 100 Hezbollah rockets strike towns throughout northern Israel. Air strikes across Lebanon are intensified, and four U.N. observers are killed when an Israeli bomb destroys a U.N. observation post in southern Lebanon. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan calls the strike “”apparently deliberate.””


    July 26: Nine IDF soldiers are killed on the ground during battles in southern Lebanon, making it the bloodiest day yet for IDF forces during the conflict. The U.S. vetoes a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the previous day’s air strike against the U.N. observation post.


    July 28: Longer-range Hezbollah missiles slam into the town of Afula. Hezbollah rockets also hit an Israeli hospital in Nahariya, causing damage but no injuries.


    July 29: Israeli air strikes continue, and the Lebanese-Syrian border is sealed, while two U.N. peacekeepers are wounded by air attacks in southern Lebanon. IDF troops pull out of the Lebanese town of Bint Jbeil after intense fighting.


    July 30: A nighttime Israeli air strike kills 60 civilians – including several children – when a residential building is hit in the southern Lebanese town of Qana. Israeli officials say the intended target was a rocket-launching site near the structure and call a 48-hour halt to air raids. More than 150 Hezbollah rockets hit Israel, causing several injuries.


    July 31- August 1: Israeli ground forces push across southern Lebanon with limited air support.

    -Compiled From Wire Reports

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