Thumb sm
Hezbollah War Museum
Mleeta, Lebanon
By Cherine Yazbeck
14 Dec 2014

Where "Earth Speaks to Heaven": A Day at Hezbollah’s War Museum

Text by Cherine Yazbeck

A scenic hill in South Lebanon that Hezbollah fighters once used to launch attacks against Israeli troops is now a museum to commemorate martyrdom and victory.

This is the Mleeta war museum. Built in 2010, it stands as a reminder of Hezbollah’s main source of popular legitimacy – the liberation of southern Lebanon from Israeli occupation. Hezbollah fought against Israeli troops during their occupation between 1982 and 2000. In 2006, Hezbollah also fought a bloody war against Israel that lasted for 33 days.

The museum stretches over more than 65,000 square meters and includes an outdoor exhibition as well as a projection hall and indoor cafés.

On display are military equipment, fatigues and weapons of different calibers abandoned by Israeli troops as well as equipment used by Hezbollah fighters.

This project is still under development. Once completed, it will include a luxury hotel, a paintball arena and a cable car station that offers visitors a scenic view of the area.

While Hezbollah has been discreet about the project’s cost and source of funding, it is estimated that the museum has so far cost several million dollars.
The Lebanese Ministry of Tourism recognized the “Tourist Resistance Landmark”, as Hezbollah names the Mleeta museum it, as an official Lebanese tourist site.

The main gate has a college campus feel. At the entrance there is a café, a souvenir shop and snack bars. After climbing long stairs, the visitor reaches a circular observation area in the middle of which there is a memorial plaque honoring fallen fighters.

One is free to either walk around alone or join a complimentary guided tour in different languages. Guides are former militants who generously share their experience with curious visitors that flock to Mleeta from the Persian Gulf, Hezbollah’s Lebanese supporters, in addition to a few Westerners.

The guide suggests that Hezbollah is not a terrorist group and aims only at defending its country. In its war to defend Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, the party has tried to distinguish itself from Sunni militias it is fighting, which it labels as “terrorist”. Hezbollah says the purpose of its involvement in the Syrian quagmire is only meant to deter extremist groups from threatening Lebanon.

A tour of “victory”

The tour starts with a short documentary film extoling the militia’s victories, accompanied by a soundtrack of explosions, military music and religious chants. The film features footage of Hezbollah’s battles against Israel and the group’s leader Hassan Nasrallah giving a speech, claiming that Israel “has fallen.”

The indoor exhibition hall showcases a variety of captured Israeli arms and equipment displayed in glass cases and galleries beneath ground level.

On the wall, a large panel with aerial photos maps out the destruction and casualties which Hezbollah claims were inflicted on the civilian population during the last Israeli incursion into Lebanese territories in 2006. Other giant panels offer a detailed anatomy of Israel's military machine and show satellite pictures and map coordinates of potential Hezbollah targets in the Jewish state.

Across the main square is the “Abyss” – a construction that symbolizes Israel’s defeat and withdrawal from Lebanese territory. It consists of a two 20-metre wide hollows that contain mangled Israeli tanks amidst giant Hebrew letters and scattered ammunition. Inside the round sunken arena lies a model of an Israeli Merkava tank with its gun barrel tied in a knot – this is a mockery of Israeli forces, portrayed as weak and defeated.

Scattered around the outdoor arena, Israeli military hardware and empty vehicles carcasses lie belly-up to underline the victory of the Party of God over “the Zionist enemy”. The labyrinth of walkways allows a 360-degree view of this dramatic “art” installation.

The combination of reality and artistic narrative continues as the path leads into the woods, where networks of waist-high trenches, camouflaged by small oak trees, lead to a tunnel; these are the rugged tracks that battle-hardened fighters used during the occupation to monitor enemy positions and hide from war planes and drones. The reconstitution seems unrealistic at times; however, the life-size models of resistance fighters planted in “daily-life” poses fuel some realism.

The details of the constructed setting are important as they display the nitty-gritty reality of a Hezbollah guerrilla fighter. Resistance against the enemy and martyrdom are the two major themes of this outdoor exhibition.

This former hideout was part of the militia’s trench-line. The pathway links up with the “Cave”, the “Outlook”, and the ‘Tunnels”, all of which formed part of the defensive complex used by the fighters. A field hospital and a camouflaged rocket launching site portrait the experience of “fierce mujahideen” who patiently endured all kind of hardships.

"The Cave" was once used secret as a secret bunker. Hezbollah fighters dug it over the span of several years and had to work in discretion, day and night.

A large part of the network lies underground, dug deep into the rocky hillside. Hezbollah built a legend around its tunnel digging skills. According to the tour guides, it took the fighters over three years to hack out the limestone. Under occupation, this underground complex housed hundreds of fighters and was equipped with a kitchen, a prayer room, a field hospital, a dormitory, a command room and living space for up to 30 fighters.

The passage takes visitors to a lookout point high above villages perched in rolling hills. The spectacular green and peaceful scenery contrasts the exhibition’s military ambiance.

For Hezbollah supporters, Mleeta is revered as a symbol of courage, commitment and sacrifice.
Unlike official war museums in Western countries, in Mleeta, the party has added a religious militancy as well as an emphasis on martyrdom. The exhibition’s cryptic slogan "Earth Speaks to Heaven" sounds like a philosophic statement that summarizes Hezbollah’s reliance on religion as a source of political legitimacy.

Frame 0004
South African Jewish Veteran of IDF R...
By mproductions247
22 Jul 2014

A thoughtful, honest and probing interview with a South African Jewish veteran of the IDF whose mother's family perished in the Holocaust and who served as a tank-driver in the West Bank in the 1970s but quickly came to oppose taking part in military operations in an occupied territory, as he puts it. In the video, he discusses the prospects for peace (one-state solution), the opportunities Israel has to become a leading player in the Middle East outside of the military sphere, and even what Israel could learn from South Africa in terms of reconciliation across racial and other lines.

Thumb sm
Israeli Forces Demolish Bedouin Camp ...
Al araqib, Israel
By Elo B
26 Aug 2013

Al-Araqib, an unrecognized village of the Al-Turi Arab Bedouin tribe (8 km north of Beersheba), was demolished for the 56th time since July 2010. Israel Land Administration inspectors and some 40 riot police officers stormed the village and 2 bulldozers knocked down three shacks.

Thumb sm
Separation Wall Between Jerusalem and...
Bayt Jala, Palestine
By Firas Mukarker
02 Feb 2013

This wall is taking all the green areas that used to be owned by people from Bethlehem, now it is all taken and no one can reach it! location Aida Refugee Camp

Thumb sm
West Bank Barrier (2 of 11)
West Bank, Israel
By Osie Greenway
13 Aug 2012

The Israeli West Bank barrier is a security and separation barrier under construction by the State of Israel along and within the West Bank. The painting here depicting the german shepherd attacking the Palestinian woman is created from a photograph that was taken in the West Bank during altercations between Israeli security forces and Palestinians over the building of the barriers. This guard tower is now abandoned by the ISF after continual attacks during the second intifada.

Thumb sm
West Bank Barrier (5 of 11)
West Bank, Israel
By Osie Greenway
13 Aug 2012

The Israeli West Bank barrier is a security and separation barrier under construction by the State of Israel along and within the West Bank. Upon completion, the barrier’s total length will be approximately 700 kilometers. The barrier also known as "Davids Wall" is 20ft high and the walls have become a form of artistic expression and anti occupation murals made by artist from around the world.

Thumb sm
West Bank Barrier (4 of 11)
West Bank, Israel
By Osie Greenway
13 Aug 2012

The Israeli West Bank barrier is a security and separation barrier under construction by the State of Israel along and within the West Bank. This mural is one of the most elaborate and is a Palestinian rendition of the famous painting from the 1830s by Eugene Delacroix commemorating the French Revolution. The large "WHATEVER" behind the painting is a feeling felt by many Palestinian youth of any glorifying successful revolution against their occupiers.

Thumb sm
West Bank Barrier (3 of 11)
West Bank, Israel
By Osie Greenway
13 Aug 2012

The Israeli West Bank barrier is a security and separation barrier under construction by the State of Israel along and within the West Bank. This Bethlehem mural is of Leila Khaled holding her AK47, a female fighter and once poster girl for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, she hijacked her first plane in 1969 and became the international pinup for armed struggle.

Thumb sm
Palestinians wait at Qalandia checkpoint
Qalandia Palestine
By Elo B
27 Jul 2012

Palestinians wait to cross Qalandia checkpoint, one of the largest Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. This checkpoint is not located on a border recognized by international law but one between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Thumb sm
Palestinians wait at Qalandia checkpoint
Qalandia Palestine
By Elo B
27 Jul 2012

A Palestinian man read the Coran while waiting at Qalandia checkpoint, one of the largest Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank.

Thumb sm
Portrait of a Palestinian man waiting...
Qalandia Palestine
By Elo B
27 Jul 2012

Palestinians wait to cross Qalandia checkpoint, one of the largest Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. This checkpoint is not located on a border recognized by international law but one between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Thumb sm
Palestinians wait at Qalandia checkpoint
Qalandia Palestine
By Elo B
27 Jul 2012

Palestinians wait to cross Qalandia checkpoint, one of the largest Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. This checkpoint is not located on a border recognized by international law but one between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Thumb sm
A Palestinian man reads the Coran whi...
Qalandia Palestine
By Elo B
27 Jul 2012

Palestinians wait to cross Qalandia checkpoint, one of the largest Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. This checkpoint is not located on a border recognized by international law but one between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Thumb sm
Palestinians wait at Qalandia checkpoint
Qalandia Palestine
By Elo B
27 Jul 2012

Palestinians wait to cross Qalandia checkpoint, one of the largest Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. This checkpoint is not located on a border recognized by international law but one between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Thumb sm
A Palestinian man reads the Coran whi...
Qalandia Palestine
By Elo B
27 Jul 2012

Palestinians wait to cross Qalandia checkpoint, one of the largest Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. This checkpoint is not located on a border recognized by international law but one between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Thumb sm
Palestinians wait at Qalandia checkpoint
Qalandia Palestine
By Elo B
27 Jul 2012

Palestinians wait to cross Qalandia checkpoint, one of the largest Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. This checkpoint is not located on a border recognized by international law but one between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Thumb sm
Palestinians wait at Qalandia checkpoint
Qalandia Palestine
By Elo B
27 Jul 2012

Palestinians wait to cross Qalandia checkpoint, one of the largest Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank. This checkpoint is not located on a border recognized by international law but one between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Thumb sm
A man stares into the camera through ...
Jerusalem, Israel
By Ms_R
27 Jul 2012

Thousands of Palestinians attempted to cross through the Qalandia checkpoint to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque for the second Friday of Ramadan.

Thumb sm
A man gestures through the bars as he...
Jerusalem
By Ms_R
27 Jul 2012

Thousands of Palestinian Muslims take the once-a-year opportunity to pray at Al Aqsa in Jerusalem. Many have IDs that do not normally allow them into Jerusalem except during Ramadan. This year, the regulations were slightly relaxed, allowing women and men under 40 to cross Qalandia.

Thumb sm
An IDF soldier checks a Palestinian m...
Jerusalem, Israel,
By Ms_R
26 Jul 2012

Thousands tried to cross through Qalandia checkpoint from the West Bank into Jerusalem Friday, using a once-a-year opportunity afforded to many to pray at the Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan. The checkpoint is run and staffed by the IDF, and while regulations were somewhat more relaxed this year, men under 40 are not permitted to cross to pray in Jerusalem unless they have a pre-existing East Jerusalem ID card.