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One year later, two families look back at war

The war between Hizbullah and Israel, which began last year, killed thousands.

By Josh MitnickCorrespondents of The Christian Science Monitor, Correspondents of The Christian Science Monitor / July 13, 2007


Michael Weinberger and his family have tried to bury the memory of the rocket that slammed into the second floor of their house on the third day of the war.

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By coincidence, his wife, Carmela, and two daughters, Noga and Shavit, had gone downstairs to light candles at the start of the Jewish Sabbath and escaped physical harm. Mr. Weinberger and his two sons weren't at home.

Like the streets of Nahariya, a sleepy seaside town of 50,000 that was the second-most bombarded Israeli municipality, there's no sign in the Weinberger house of the rocket that ripped through Noga's room and the couple's closet before exploding on the stairs. Unlike some neighbors who saved rocket shards, they have kept no momentos, save for digital photos kept "very deep" in drawers.

"My wife decided we're not leaving any reminders – not one," said Weinberger, a forester who was out fighting brush fires set off by the rockets at the time his house was hit.

Across the border in the small town of Tiri, Lebanon, Ibtisam Shaito smiles politely at her visitors as she pours hot tea. She wears a full length black chador with a black head scarf. She was one of 19 people in a packed minibus heeding Israel's advice broadcast on the radio to flee north last year when their vehicle was attacked, despite being marked as a civilian vehicle.

Ibtisam laughs readily and is happy to discuss her experience of a year ago, when she was severely wounded and endured a harrowing journey to a hospital in Beirut that could treat her. But she begins to weep when remembering her mother, Nasira Shaito, who was killed.

The 34-day war between Israel and Hizbullah was sparked on July 12, 2006, by the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers on the border. On the Israeli side, the fighting left 43 civilians and 119 soldiers dead. The direct economic cost of the war was estimated at $1.6 billion.

In Lebanon, about 1,125 people were killed in the fighting, which caused an estimated $3.6 billion in direct damages, although the long-term hidden costs have been pegged at $15 billion for the three years following the conflict.

Almost every town and village in southern Lebanon was damaged, some sustaining as much as 80 percent destruction.

Hizbullah is giving $12,000 to each owner of a home destroyed in south Beirut and $10,000 to each owner of a home destroyed outside the city. Another $4,000 will be given to affected individuals over the next year.

The Lebanese government asked countries interested in helping the recovery to sponsor individual towns. Gulf countries have been quick to respond.

Tiri, which has some 5,000 registered inhabitants but only 200 permanent residents, lies tucked into a shallow valley. The village is flanked by olive groves and fields of tobacco plants that sway in the hot wind. Most of the houses are simple one- or two-story dwellings. Some 52 of them were completely destroyed in the war and many more damaged, says Anis Shaito, the mayor and Ibtisam's father.