After the first Lebanon war ended in 1985, Israeli troops remained in the war-torn country, establishing a security zone the south to keep militants at bay. The Israeli presence came to an end in 2000 with a troop pullout that left an astonished army of allied south Lebanese militiamen shocked at Tel Aviv’s “betrayal”.
It has been twenty years since israel pulled its forces out of Lebanon, a cause for celebration for many in the Jewish state who rejoiced at the end of the 18-year conflict.
But for Julie Abou Araj, a Lebanese Christian, whose father was an officer with the South Lebanon Army (SLA) that fought alongside israel against the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) as well as the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah in the 70s and 80s, Tel Aviv’s withdrawal was the “end of the world”.
No Other Choice
The threat was imminent. In May 2000, as the Israeli withdrawal rapidly progressed, vehicles with Hezbollah flags swarmed Julie’s village, making her realise that if she and her family didn’t pack up their destiny might be similar to that of her father, who had been murdered by the Shiite militia a year earlier.
But they were not alone. Fearing persecution, torture, and death, some 7,500 SLA militiamen and their families made their way to the fence that separated Israel from Lebanon, pleading with Tel Aviv to let them in.
Israel, who was only prepared to take in 600 individuals, had no choice but to open its doors for all those…