Clarissa's Middle East Diary: Thursday, February 1

Photoessay: Clarissa's Travels

Thursday, February 1, 12:45 p.m.

With all the wars, fighting, riots and assassinations that we report on in Beirut, many forget that Lebanon is one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

If you ask anyone in the Middle East about Lebanon, their eyes will light up and they will take pleasure in telling you happy anecdotes about the country. In Lebanon, they say, you can go skiing in the morning and swimming in the sea in the afternoon. It’s true — the mountains of Lebanon literally go down into the Mediterranean, so that from Beirut (which is directly on the water), you can drive 45 minutes and be up in the mountains, surrounded by snow.

I often have trouble understanding how people with such a beautiful country and such fantastic weather have any inclination to fight. With all the vineyards and olive trees, banana and orange groves … with such fresh, delicious food, astonishing sunsets and beautiful people … with a rich and ancient history and such a fun, cosmopolitan capital … how is it that Lebanon cannot escape the violent ghosts of its past?

I don’t have any answer to that question, but I sense it might have something to do with inherited behavior. My Arabic teacher told me a story today. She was handing out a short story to her 4 grade students by a Lebanese writer, Emily Nasrallah.

Beyond sharing the same last name as the Hezbollah leader, the author has nothing to do with politics and is, in fact, a Christian. But when the children saw her name, chaos broke out. A Sunni girl began shouting that she wouldn’t read garbage written by anyone called Nasrallah. And then Shiite boys in the class began shouting at the Sunni girl. My teacher was deeply upset by the incident. She remembered how 20 years ago, she had asked her students to write down what their dream in life was. One girl had written, "My dream is that all Christians will be killed and there will be none left in the whole of Lebanon."

Ten-year-olds don’t know the difference between Sunni and Shia. Ten-year-olds don’t understand or care about politics. Ten-year-olds don’t even really understand the concepts of death and murder. Ninety percent of what 10-year-olds say, comes from what they hear at home. And as children continue to be brought up listening to political feuding and sectarian hatred, they will not be able to look beyond and see how beautiful their country is.

Clarissa Ward is a reporter based out of Beirut, Lebanon. She has reported for the FOX News Channel from Beirut and Baghdad, covering stories such as Saddam's execution and the current unrest in Lebanon.