March 31, 2006

Laughing All the Way from Marjayoun to Beirut

I just wrote a friend about something funny that had happened quite some time ago, and how it had gotten us laughing for dayd and days. That got me to something that will still make me laugh up to this date when thinking about it. It is a long story, and an old one. If you have some time, give it a go.
I was going down south (must have been over 12 years ago), the ‘Deep South’, when we still had an occupied Southern zone, taken by Antoine Lahad and his pro-Israel SLA (South Lebanese Army) buddies, for an interview. I was joining a camera crew of Antenne 2, who were at that time represented by Jean Marc Sroussi (one of the best TV journalists I have seen at work), and a Sipa photographer, Pascal Beaudenon. Pascal still lives in Lebanon, made a fantastic book about Lebanese landscapes recently, and Jean March is somewhere in France.
Getting there (the Deep South, that is) was like passing the Berlin Wall, with our car being triple-checked, and a real border post with SLA soldiers and the whole shebang. Antoine Lahad, leader of the southern occupied zone at that time, pro-Israel, had been attacked some years earlier by a friend of his wife, and was now living in a compound that made Alcatraz look friendly. Barbed wire, high fences, and machine guns all over the place.
I don’t remember what the actual interview was about, but we were given the regular tour of the SLA training facilities, barracks, friendly and content villagers and the works.
Anyway, after a day’s work, we were supposed to be heading back to the border post. But as we drove along the winding and idyllic road through the silvery grey hills of Lebanon, what did we stumble upon but a huge convoy of Israeli tanks and anti-personnel carriers on the move! This was great material for images. The sun was low, the landscape doused in a golden light, no trees to block the view, it was late summer so everything had this yellowish orange hue, and an Israeli convoy, like beads on a string, was moving slowly along this rural road in Southern Lebanon. It was all very idyllic.
We got out of the car and starting filming. Much to the dislike of the Israeli soldiers at the last convoy car; a shabby Jeep. Jean Marc paid no heed, and kept filming. They started screaming, and called someone up ahead on the phone. The convoy eventually came to a grinding hold, tanks and all. The Israelis do not ‘mark’ their officers, which means their officers do not wear their stars, otherwise the enemy could easily mark them as targets, and take them out, rendering the entire group without leader. But, somewhere halfway the convoy, 16 tanks ahead, some of their guys was obviously in charge, and he was very, very upset. He was standing on top of an anti-personnel carrier, wildly gesturing at us. We slowly drove our car along side the convoy, passing the first couple of carriers, and intended to stop at where this very upset man was standing. He was standing at the edge of the top of the vehicle. The long laces of his combat boots were hanging in loops over his boots. I don’t know why I focused on that, but I did. He wanted to jump down, about 1.6 meters, and walk up to us and scream into our faces what the fuck we thought we were doing and rip the cassette out of the camera, but as he jumped down, one hand resting on the vehicle, both legs swinging over the tiny rail, somehow the loop of one of his laces hooked behind one of the knobs on the low railing that was around the vehicle’s roof. So instead of jumping down with two feet, one foot jumped down, the other one stayed on the roof, hooked behind the little iron rail.
The fall he made was so embarrassing that none of us wanted to look. He just slammed face first into the tarmac, in front of all his men, and the journalists. It was so incredibly painful, yet fantastically funny.
We laughed all the way back, from the checkpoint near Marjayoun all the way Beirut, a good two hours long. I had pain in my abdominal muscles for an entire week.
A picture of 'the boys' that day. (SLA)

1 comment:

leb101 said...

please send me an email with all the pictures you took in south lebanon i am from south lebanon mostly the SLA and israeli ones