“A cynical disregard for the security and lives of people,“ so wrote Lebanese national, Dyab Abou Jahjah on the 5th August, after nearly 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate ripped out the heart of Beirut – the direct result of corruption, mismanagement and incompetency. Having shouted at the television for two days solidly every time the news came on, I realised that getting furious from my chair wasn’t really going to make a difference.
The labyrinth of aid packages and the economic frailty of the country meant we wanted to be sure any help would reach those that needed it most and could sustain and grow a new life. My Lebanese friend and our E-commerce guru, Misa Zahar, was tasked with finding the right channels for the funds we raise. This is her newsletter, her city but it's also our world and the aftershocks from whatever happens in this crucible of cultures will affect us all.
In the face of masks, disinfectants, smug virtual working and living in paralysis of a flu like virus – the reaction to this devastation amongst those living there was exactly what makes us human... they all pulled together and braved the fear of contact, of touching strangers not in your pod, of working in groups, of ignoring the 2 metre rule, of rejecting the isolation of screen time for real community on the streets because they understood that death conquers only when you live in fear of it.
Words by Misa Zahar
“Very loud explosion in Beirut! But it’s ok!” my mother texted me at 16h14 on 8th August 2020.
I thought it was another car bomb, another targeted assassination, another moment of senseless violence. It pains me to say but those, we are used to. We are used to explosions. We are used to living on a knife edge. But this time it was different. We were living in a volcano and we didn’t even know it. In a split second the city was obliterated; lives reduced to shards of glass, torn pictures, mangled bodies and broken hearts.
Since then we have been trying to comprehend what has happened, trying to piece together our lives, our loves, our families, our friends, our homes and, for those of us who weren’t there, feelings of relief laden with guilt.
A friend recently wrote “to be Lebanese is to be broken hearted” and these 8 simple words sent me back to an afternoon stroll in Downtown Beirut with my mum last year when we wondered out loud if the last 30 years could be reduced to rubble, if we could suffer the fate of Syria or Iraq and see our country destroyed, again. We shrugged these fears off, like we had countless times before and told ourselves that war wasn’t in anyone’s interest and we could survive whatever would come next.
Today we know that destruction came in the guise of a blast so large that we now have a spot in the Pantheon of the largest explosions in History. We also know that in the midst of this pain and terror we have seen an outpouring of love and support from those closest to us and from strangers who know and love Beirut and could feel our pain.
This love is why I am writing this Connolly newsletter; Isy’s immediate reaction was to cloak us in her support and show us there was love around us, not only death, not only fear.
Today we are not writing to you about the famous Lebanese resilience. We reject lyrical metaphors and refuse to be phoenixes rising from the ashes. Today we come to you asking for your support to help those who need it the most on the ground, helping families rebuild their homes before winter, fix their broken windows and torn doors and hope that their hearts heal a little too.
Thank you so much,
Connolly have chosen to support Alfanar’s Sustainable Emergency Relief Effort and will be donating profits from the sales of a limited collection of archive pieces, that is part of our philanthropic initiative Love My Old Connolly. Alfanar have been supporting the growth of the social enterprise sector since 2004. Combining the spirit of philanthropy with the rigor of private sector investment, they support ambitious social enterprises (SEs) working to improve access to quality education, economically empower women, and employ youth. Any funds raised will be given directly to entrepreneurs who have lost their businesses and livelihoods as well as their homes, in particular those in the creative industry who have been especially hard hit by the blast. In addition, Alfanar is supporting young unemployed Lebanese from around the country, helping find jobs within the reconstruction effort and as such allowing them to provide for their families for the first time in months.