My name is Therese Abou-Mrad. I am a student of Political Science and Public Policy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I live in Kiryat Shmona and my mother tongue is Arabic. I have been in the State of Israel now for ten years; on the day that marks the withdrawal from Lebanon, it is possible to congratulate me, or to note my bad luck, because my father was a member of the South Lebanon Army.
About two weeks ago, I saw a report on Channel Two about the withdrawal from Lebanon. Those 12 minutes were packed with emotion. There is no doubt that the members of the SLA have suffered a great deal since May 2000, but I admit that the repeated descriptions about the feelings of bitterness are getting on my nerves.
My father was the former spokesman of the SLA, the governor and commander of a sector in south Lebanon. I grew up in a home that imbued me with the values of loving my homeland and defending my home, those values according to which my father acted in the South Lebanon Army. At the age of 10, I was torn away from my home, from the family and way of life I had known. I had to go to a new country and build a new life in a new society.
I chose to be a regular Israeli citizen. I finished my studies at the Danziger high school in Kiryat Shmona in the year following the Second Lebanon War. In its wake, I decided to do national service in my town. After making a contribution to the country, I went on to study political science at the Hebrew University as part of the program for outstanding students "Atidim - cadets for the public service."
Today, when I am already 21 years old, I refuse to say to the State of Israel: "you owe me something," or "you owe my father something." I have a great deal of criticism about the way in which the withdrawal was carried out by the Israel Defense Forces and the attitude toward the SLA members; there was a betrayal. But at the end of the day, I believe with all my heart that a person is responsible for his future. I chose to overcome the crisis I experienced at such a young age and to continue to grow after that. I have not given up my Lebanese identity for even one moment; I believe fully in the justice of the way my father chose and the decisions he made; but at the same time, I am not prepared to accuse the State of Israel for everything that has not been successful in my life.
During my first years here, I suffered from racism, because children can be very cruel. But when I explained to my friends in junior high why I spoke Arabic, they understood. There is no doubt that the first generation suffered as a result of the withdrawal and its implications, and that they suffered because of the cultural change; and the second generation, those my age, suffered the difficulties of becoming acclimatized and from post trauma.
Nevertheless, it bothers me, as an Israeli-Lebanese youngster, to hear stories in the media that present only the painful angle and ignore the successes. It bothers me to see such melodramatic and one-sided reports that try to play on the viewers' emotions so as to win a little more rating.
There is no doubt that it is important to relate that even today the SLA members do not live happily and peacefully. I grew up without a family since, except for my parents and brothers, everyone remained in Marjayoun. But it is also important to present the success stories of those who adapted to their new life. Moreover, my father and his colleagues fought for their aims, in order to defend their homes; it annoys me to hear former SLA members, as well as Israelis, claim that the SLA was set up in order to defend Israel. The SLA is my father's past, my past, and what made me what I am today.
Rating is important, but when it replaces the presentation of all the aspects, it is like a sharp knife that cuts twice - first it hurts me and my past and then it cuts into the guilt feelings of the Israeli public. That is a shame.