If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
--Mother Theresa

I grew up in the neighborhood of Bir el-Abed and as pictures emerged yesterday of Malak Zahwi and Ali Khadra (two of the now five people killed when a car bomb went off in the neighborhood Thursday), I noticed how some people appeared amazed to see these "civilians" dead in Dahiyeh.

It made me realize that my Dahiyeh might not resemble the Dahiyeh many Lebanese have never even visited, but have certainly conceived of in their imagination. It's something they ignored, they judged and some even hated.

Picture showing Ali Khadra and Malak Zahwi, two of yesterday's Dahiyeh blast victims. (Photo via Facebook)

Your Dahiyeh is a Hezbollah security zone. My Dahiyeh is where I enjoyed endless chocolate and vanilla ice cream cones from Hassoun's shop for 500 LL. My Dahiyeh is Ayat's delicious hamburger meal and Abou Mohammad's candy shop where I still managed to come up with enough sweets and chocolate bars to give myself a stomach ache, no matter how little my allowance was back then.

My Dahiyeh is Sadaka's pink glowing bicycles sitting right outside our balcony that the Hajj always brought outside first thing in the morning, clean and polished making every little girl's birthday gift dream come true, or at least something to dream about every night before going to bed.

Your Dahiyeh is a stereotype of an all-Shia, all-Hezbollahland. My Dahiyeh is me, my family and our fifth floor neighbor, tante Marie, the neighborhood's nurse, who was there through the worst of the civil war. My Dahiyeh is the most welcoming and respectable attitude you could expect while accompanying my aunt, a nun, every time she came to visit us at our home.

My Dahiyeh is my dad's stories of his inherited home that had been through it all, where once only a few other houses and nothing but orange fields surrounded the area.

My Dahiyeh is our second floor neighbors, the Kalakesh family, whose house was always clean, neat and smelled like fresh detergent. It's our next door neighbor Haseeb who always felt perfectly at ease singing and shouting to his mom and brother, Ali, from the ground floor parking lot. It's our neighbor, the famous guy who was always on TV giving interviews in formal suits, but who wandered around in his underwear and flannel shirt whenever he was on his balcony. Its Bazzi's frightening deep, cigarette-infected voice that I was convinced was that of Satan himself. Its Em Tarraf's Lebanese bread bag which she managed to balance on her head even though her back was as low as an 80-year-old's.

Your Dahiyeh might be where people have privileges, and don't suffer as much as you do. My Dahiyeh is where middle to lower-class families lived with little electricit and not enough water, and drowned every winter in the heavy rain (as many Lebanese do), which I loved watching fall from our dining room window.

My Dahiyeh is the closet that reached our ceiling. I used to hang my paintings and drawings on each of its knobs. Israel's 1996 "Grapes of Wrath" Operation on Lebanon meant my paintings had to disappear while I was staying at my Teita's home in the north. My Dahiyeh is my painting of "The Grapes of Peace," a painting I used to relaunch my homemade exhibition space in that very same closet... in my Dahiyeh.

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Doesn't matter how you portray the place, its still a shit hole.

John Winter on Jan 17, 2014 via web
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that was really touching.. my Dahiyeh is my life

Lama Sleem on Jan 3, 2014 via web
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I love what you wrote because i am not from Dahyeh, and i am glad you painted the picture that despite all the finger pointing, everyone is suffering. I am not from dahyeh, but that doesn't mean that my heart doesnt break for the loss of these people, and tfor his nightmare that we are all living. God protect your friends and family, and end this nightmare. We are united in our pain.

Nour Tauk on Jan 3, 2014 via web