Shebaa (Lebanon) a village on the border of Syria and Israel

After a two hour drive from Sour, the town where I’m currently living, the driver from the NGO hosting me starts slowly escalating the last slopes before the small village of Shebaa. The surrounding mountains are covered with blocks of limestone giving to the landscape a lunar aspect. The fog, slowly climbing the mountainside gives at the same time that feeling of isolation typical from days of bad weather in altitude. Located in the seemingly tensed region of the south-eastern end of Lebanon, the village shares a border with Syria and on the other side a border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Not to be confused but not far from the disputed land of Shebaa Farms now in Israel but claimed by Lebanon. The main core of the village lies at an altitude of 1250 meters (4101.25 ft) above sea level and ends the UNIFIL supervised border demarcation between Lebanon and Israel known as the Blue Line. The past tensions seem quite far away despite a few UN convoys and the Israeli military base perched on the opposite sumet.

The situation in Syria has however provoked the arrival of 800 hundred families, and just like Arsal, the Syrians have now outnumbered the locals. The uninhabited houses, shops and basements, used by the villagers to store winter goods, have been turned into reception areas for refugees who rent their room for a couple of hundred dollar per month. No Informal Tented Settlements (ITS) have been made since the accidented land makes it impossible, but free space is starting to run out and refugees still arrive. The two biggest mosques are already full and most garages have been occupied. The Syrians here mostly came from the village of Beit Jin and its environs in Syria. A rural region where the opposition armed groups attempted an attack against the Syrian Army. As a response, the regime’s army escalated actions against its enemies using heavy artillery and warplanes, which led the civilians to flee towards Lebanon.

In a garage, where a small window let’s in just enough light to show at least twenty human silhouettes, I realized that living in a shelter built in stone (garage or unfinished building) is probably just as bad as living in a tent. The dampness and the cold is equivalent, but the almost total lack of light and fresh air makes it insane to stay more than an hour. These 3 families, have however lived there for three months and I know that they are not going to leave soon. In a camp or an Informal Tented Settlement (ITS) it is very clear, the quantity of tents roughly gives an estimate of the number of persons who are present. It is, for a photographer a visual signe and an easy message to transmit through the camera. On a rainy day when you walk in these towns, you cannot measure the impact of the influx of refugees. You could minimise that fact. It is only when you follow social workers and with them you open the doors of those garages, warehouses and other form of built shelters that you see how Lebanon is enduring the Syrian crisis.

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