The soul of Lebanon has been hollowed out by its financial crisis.Even kids don’t want to play

Read Time:5 Minute, 42 Second


He shook his head. He didn’t want to decorate the tree we brought with other children.

“Why not?” I asked.

Malihari“He replied—he didn’t have the energy to do it.

“He’s always like this,” his father explained, pulling him closer and giving him a light kiss on the forehead.

The child began to shed big, fat and silent tears.

I tried to associate with him again. “What can we do to make you smile?” I asked.

“there is nothing.”

“What do you like to do?”

“there is nothing.”

His father, a Syrian refugee in Lebanon, scribbled his wishes on holiday decorations. “I want to be healthy,” he wrote on a piece of A-4 paper. “I want a sense of security.”

“Here you are. Take a pencil,” he said, putting a pencil in his son’s hand. The boy didn’t even wrap his fingers around it. It fell to the ground with a click.

He is INARA’s first child, and it helps war-wounded children. They cannot be coaxed and even refuse to eat the chocolate cake in front of him.

One of INARA’s children put her decorations on the Christmas tree with her holiday wishes written on them.

After a while, my father and I moved to another room. The father spoke out of breath for 45 minutes. Everything came to the surface: how he tried to keep his family healthy and eating. He can’t keep up. He can’t win. He just watched his child disappear before his eyes.

“They disappeared in front of me, I don’t know what to do.”

This is a family in a country full of drowned souls. The Syrian refugees here have been oppressed. But according to the United Nations, they have plunged into new depths, and 99% of Syrian refugee families do not have enough food. The Lebanese situation is better, but not much worse-the country’s poverty rate is about 80%.

‘They have destroyed us’

The silos of wheat, barley and corn stored in the port of Beirut were destroyed by the explosion.
Beirut felt both familiar and completely unfamiliar. I have been in and out of here since 2003, and have been working here from 2010 to 2014. In Beirut today, people walked over and the energy that once filled the city with vitality has been dissipating since the beginning of the financial crisis. The disaster that started in October 2019. It used to have alive energy, but now everything is gone.

I took a taxi to meet a friend for dinner. Beggars on the street seem to be more crowded than pedestrians.

“They ruined us. I swear people are considering suicide,” the taxi driver said. He was talking to me, but only talking to himself.

He was referring to the political elite of the country. Nowadays, they are called “thief”, “criminal” and “killer”. They have destroyed the wealth of this country, struggling with pain and shock, and almost unable to deal with the new reality.

“You know one day I bought labneh (a kind of Arabic cream cheese) and white cheese, it was not spicy, it was too expensive,” he said. “I bought a total of four things in the store, and the cost was the same as the cost of filling the entire refrigerator.”

“How do you explain this to your child,” I asked.

“It makes me sad. Ask your kids to ask you for things you can’t buy. Small things. Jam and peanut butter. I just told them to be patient. Dad is doing his best. I don’t lie to them.”

He had to pull his children from private schools and send them to public schools. But that school is now closed because the teachers went on strike.

“I swear to you that one day I was just sitting and I started crying,” he said.

He sent me to a lovely restaurant on the hill outside the city. It feels surreal there. The privilege of knowing I can eat is actually disgusting.

In November, a couple watched the sunset near Beirut’s iconic Laoche Rock.

My close friend Reina Sarkis is a psychoanalyst, and she is already sitting at the table. She lost a lot of weight and her face was pale.

“Thank you for coming here all the way, I’m so tired,” she said as we hugged.

Reina has chronic health problems and just received treatment earlier in the day.

“Can you believe I’m still outside? You know I haven’t cried yet,” she said.

Reina lost her carefully renovated house in a historic building in Beirut in a port explosion in August 2020, for which no one is currently responsible. She barely came out alive, which was a miracle in many ways. Like everyone else, her savings are now worthless. She was trapped.

“Just because we breathe, it’s not a proof of life,” she told me.

I saw it on the faces of friends and strangers. One light went out. No real laughter, no self-deprecating comments typical of Lebanese.

A country that has been trying to mend its wounds has now been completely shattered and its soul hollowed out.

The country did not deteriorate overnight. It has been happening in slow motion for many years. But in the last two years it has been thrown into a full-speed collision.

In December, expensive Christmas decorations were on display in a store in Beirut.
The World Bank considers Lebanon’s economic disaster to be one of the most serious economic disasters in the world since the mid-19th century, and calls it a “deliberate depression”. Since October 2019, the country has implemented discretionary capital controls, which means that banks can choose who is allowed to withdraw funds. Usually this has restricted the country’s superpowers.

Most people’s life savings evaporated, inflation soared, and the country’s currency depreciated by more than 95% in two years. The result is a massive impoverishment of the population.

You drive a few hours from the pharmacy to the pharmacy, looking for basic painkillers or medicines for your sick father.​​​ Certain drugs and products are not even imported anymore, and not enough people can afford them.

“Understanding a crisis is different from living organically every day,” Reiner told me.

I sat and listened and couldn’t say anything. Not to her, nor to anyone else I have spoken to in the past few days.

I don’t have a frame of reference when parents have to explain to their children why they can’t eat meat anymore, let alone buy gifts for the holidays. Or worse, why they were expelled from school and sent to work. The latest report from UNICEF states that child labor in Lebanon has doubled in the past year.

Everyone has a kind of anger, accompanied by deep depression. The despair of adults has permeated the children.

The next day, my car drove slowly through a small playground. I looked at the children outside the window. They seem to move in slow motion, as if they were on the verge of childhood. The children don’t want to play anymore.

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