The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Students affected by Israel-Lebanon war

Originally Published Sep. 6, 2006

Lebanese CSUN student Rosaline Tashdjian went to spend another relaxing vacation with her family at their summerhouse in Jounich, Lebanon, as she does every year, but she never thought she would be waking up to the vibrations and sounds of explosions.

“All of a sudden everyone started panicking,” Tashdjian said. “People were screaming, but nobody really knew what was going on.”

She was having a night out in downtown Beirut with her friends and cousins when the first attack occurred in Lebanon.

Tashdjian and her cousins made it to their home safe, where they had to seek shelter for about a week, only leaving the house to get supplies.

“We went to the market to buy bread before it was all gone, and filled the tanks of the five family cars and several canisters before the gas stations ran out of fuel,” said the senior interior design major. “There were long lines of cars that went all the way out of the stations.”

It was a stressful and sleepless week for Tashdjian and her family.

“The only thing we did was watch the news and the lighting produced by the bombings that were occurring across Lebanon,” Tashdjian said. “We couldn’t sleep because there were explosions every one and a half hours.”

Along with her family, Tashdjian witnessed the battles between the Hezbollah militia and the Israeli army from the balcony of their house, which is located up in the hills of Jounich.

“One time I saw two Israeli F-16s, which were flying really close to the ground (and) exploding after being hit by Hezbollah,” Tashdjian said.

Her family didn’t know whether to stay or to leave the house because they were afraid that if they left, they were going to be hit, she said. They heard stories of people dying on the road because Israel was attacking the main routes that lead to the borders, so nobody could leave the country, Tashdjian said.

After receiving leaflets dropped from Israeli planes warning them of an upcoming attack in their area, and hearing from people that the situation was only going to worsen, the Tashdjian family decided it was time to escape.

The family prepared for their escape by withdrawing as much money from the bank as they could. Then they rented a bus that would transport 17 people, including family and friends, Tashdjian said.

Some families did not have the same resources as hers, she said.

“On our way to Syria there would be homeless families sitting in parks because they didn’t have any money to leave the country,” Tashdjian said.

The Tashdjian family had to stay four days at a friend’s house in Syria before departing to their home in Saudi Arabia because all the flights were booked. Saudi Arabia is where Tashdjian originally grew up and where her family is currently established, she said.

“It was the worst summer I’ve ever had,” said Tashdjian, who said she is grateful nobody in her family was hurt.

Israeli student Adva had a tumultuous summer as well. She was not right where the war was happening, but worried through sleepless nights because her family was in the middle of it. Adva said she does not want to give out her last name for fear of retribution.

Adva, a junior TV production major at CSUN, whose family lives in the northern city of Safad and whose 23-year-old brother and 21-year-old sister are in the army, also had to go through stressful days and nights in the United States.

“I couldn’t sleep for a month,” Adva said. “I called home every day to see if my family was fine.”

Adva, a former officer in the Israeli army, had a brother fighting in the frontline and a sister working in the welfare office, she said.

Her parents and the youngest of the siblings were not safe either because they didn’t know where Hezbollah was going to attack next, since the warning sirens go off only after the first rocket falls, Adva said.

“My family was driving home one night when the warning sirens went off, forcing them to abandon the car immediately,” she said. “The rocket fell just a few meters away from their car.”

Her family had to move around the country constantly and stay with family members in Jerusalem and Elat, she said. However, they had to keep going back to Safad because her mother, who works at a hospital, was always on call.

Adva said she wishes her family was here and constantly tries to convince them to come, but her parents can’t leave her brother and sister, who have at least a couple of more years left in the army, she said.

While Adva’s family has managed to stay unharmed during the conflict, some of their friends were not so lucky.

Her mother’s best friend and her children were severely hurt after a rocket hit their house and another rocket missed her sister’s boyfriend by just a few steps when he was driving home to see his parents, Adva said.

Adva said she still worries today, promising herself to do whatever it takes to bring her family here, she said.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I don’t think I would be able to handle this anymore,” Adva said.

Tashdjian and Adva experienced similar anxieties of the war in the Middle East, but each formed a different view about the actions of Israel and Hezbollah, just as other Lebanese and Israeli students did.

Tashdjian, who before the war was neutral about the ongoing battles between Hezbollah and Israel, now supports the Shiite Muslim militant group, she said. Her support is based on the actions taken by both Israel and Hezbollah, during the war.

“They captured only two Israeli soldiers, hoping to exchange them for the 2,000 soldiers that they took from them, but instead they decided to attack,” said Tashdjian, who experienced her first war this summer.

“Many women and children died even though the Israelis knew where Hezbollah was located, so why did they attack all of Lebanon?” she said.

Lebanese student Shady Zailaa, senior business major, who had originally bought a ticket to Lebanon this summer to visit his family in the north, but couldn’t go because of the situation, also questions Israel’s actions.

“Why didn’t they just attack Hezbollah?” Zailaa said. “Why did they have to kill innocent people?”

Adva, who has a different view about Israel and Hezbollah’s actions, says the Shiite political party used the Lebanese citizens as shields.

“They hide between civilians because that’s their tactic,” Adva said. “Therefore there is always going to be innocent people who will get hurt.”

She supports the initial decision made by Israel to attack Lebanon, but believes they stopped too soon.

“They should’ve rescued our soldiers before the cease-fire,” she said. “I was in the army and my siblings are now there, therefore I can understand the pain of the soldiers’ families.”

Israeli-American student Gershon Feit, who also has family in Israel, believes the cease-fire happened too soon as well.

“Israel accomplished nothing,” he said. “They had a lot of casualties, they kept getting attacked, and they didn’t get back their soldiers.”

Both Adva and Feit see Hezbollah as terrorists.

“They want us Israelis to disappear from the face of the earth, and use the Lebanese government as a puppet for their own purposes,” Adva said.

Feit, who had neighbors killed by Hezbollah in the past, doesn’t believe the group is necessarily aiming at Israel, but still sees them as terrorists.

“Israel is being attacked because they are just another obstacle in their plans,” Feit said. “They live among Lebanese civilians, whom many times are used by the Shiite militant group for their own terrorist plans.”

However, Lebanese students Tashdjian and Zailaa see the Shiite political party as a militia that is trying to defend their families and their country.

“The only thing I know about them is that they defend our country with Syria and Iran’s support, just as Israel is being supported by America and Brita
in, because our army is not that strong,” Tashdjian said.

Zailaa has never met any Hezbollah members, nor knows how many of them there are, but says they’re just a very religious group that is trying to protect its families and community.

Tashdjian, Adva, Zailaa and Feit will continue with their studies at CSUN this fall. Their social life, including their friendships with people from the other side of the border, will remain the same.

“Everything will be fine between us as long as we set the conflict aside,” Adva said.

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