Eastern student spends the summer in Beirut

Eastern student Sevag Bakalian left Beirut, Lebanon, one-and-a-half weeks into the war between Israel and Hizbullah.

Sevag, a sophomore social work major, has moved back and forth between Beirut and the Unites States his entire life.

His father is the pastor of an Armenian Evangelical Church and the chaplain of Haigazian University in Beirut, and his mother volunteers at Armenian Evangelical libraries.

There is currently a ceasefire in Beirut, but no aid, food, water or fuel are being let through to the Lebanese because of the Israeli blockade.

“Most, if not, all major roads have been bombed,” Sevag said. Most of the bridges and the airport have been bombed as well.

Despite the circumstances, Sevag is able to hold on to humor.

“The Lebanese people are afraid to get dental bridge-work done because they think the Israelis will bomb them…Dark humor has taken on an entirely new dimension.” He said in an email.

Windows in Sevag’s family’s home had to be left open at all times so that pressure from the bombs exploding wouldn’t shatter the glass.

“It’s amazing. At night you would be serenaded by ‘thunder,'” he said.

Towards the end, he was sleeping through most of the bombs. Sometimes, though, “I’d wake up and say ‘oh that’s a bomb,’ and go back to sleep,” he said.

From his family’s balcony on the tenth floor, the view of the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains was obscured by smoke.

Again Sevag’s sense of humor came to the surface when he spoke about the smoke.

“Beirut has that nice cloud cover from the bombs, so there’s a little bit of shade,” he said.

Sevag said the evacuation from Lebanon was bad. It took two or three days to get back to the States, and much of that time was spent standing in lines.

Travel was by bus, a Saudi cruise liner, and an 11 and a half hour airplane ride from Cypress to Baltimore.

Although he is back in the States, Sevag still carries a flashlight, useful during power outages in Beirut, as a reminder of all that has happened in Beirut.

Sevag is adamant about two things:

“Hizbullah (this is the correct spelling, and literally means “party of God”) and the Lebanese government are two very separate entities. Although some citizens support Hizbullah, they are still civilians, and do not deserve to die.

“Secondly, I want to stress very much that the Israeli military is in the wrong,” he said. “Many Israelis want an end to the conflict.

“People say, ‘I’m so glad you’re back,’ and I say, ‘I wish I was still there,”” Sevag said.

Sevag is in the States to invest in his future so he can invest in Lebanon’s. “I want to return and help rebuild what has become my country,” he said.

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