In Makeshift Camp, Deportees Determined To Lead Normal Lives With AM-Lebanon-Deportees
MARJ AL-ZOHOUR, Lebanon (AP) _ History professor Abdul-Fattah Ouwaisi lectures about the glories of Islam, but the scene is not a university campus.
It is the makeshift camp that has been set up by humanitarian agencies to accommodate 415 Palestinian deportees expelled by Israel last week.
″During the war against the Romans, the morale of the Muslims was high, like yours today,″ said the bearded, bespectacled professor, who normally does his lecturing at the Islamic University in the West Bank.
His listeners bobbed their heads and shouted ″Allahu Akbar 3/8″ - ″God is Great 3/8″
The camp in southeast Lebanon lies between Israel’s self-declared security zone and a Lebanese army checkpoint in the village of Marj al-Zohour.
Israel says the men were deported for being supporters of fundamentalist Islamic groups responsible for attacks on Israeli troops. But the furor over the deportations could threaten the Middle East peace talks.
When the deportees, handcuffed and blinded, arrived at the crossing, few even realized they had left Israel. But in a matter of a few days, they quickly settled into a routine.
″These people are very organized and calm,″ said International Committee of the Red Cross delegate Alan Roth.
Ouwaisi lecture at the university this week was to mark Yarmouk Battle, a 7th century A.D. clash that pitted Muslims against the Byzantines, who inherited the eastern Roman empire. He went ahead and spoke on the topic anyway.
″I want to go on practicing my profession even in the camp,″ Ouwaisi said. ″Life should go on.″
Many deportees are drawing on their experience in Israeli jails to see them through. On their third day here, the deportees formed several committees to see to day-to-day affairs of the camp.
″We decided to organize ourselves while we were still in the buses,″ said Salah Mosleh, 28, a merchant.
The deportees also have appointed a spokesman.
The day begins at sunrise with the morning prayer. A muezzin stands on a high cliff calling the deportees to pray. They kneel on white plastic sheets spread on the road.
An hour of gymnastics for those who wish to participate follows. It is led by trainer Bassam Saifi, 34.
Breakfast consists of bread toasted over an open fire, cheese, jam and occasionally eggs with a cup of tea.
Garbage collectors make the rounds with large plastic bags, removing the trash left behind from breakfast. The garbage is collected three times a day and burned in two shifts.
Deportee doctors take turns supervising the clinic, set up in one of the tents. It consists of a mattress on a white plastic sheet and several boxes of medicine. A stethoscope has been provided by the red Cross.
Ismail Abu Ata, 83, a civil engineer, oversees his workers as they make ditches around the tents to drain rainwater.
The deportees wash their clothes in a nearby stream and hang their washing on lines stretched from one tent to the other.
During breaks, they sit huddled around the fire, chatting, reading the Koran or listening to the radio. At night they sit in their tents with one candle per tent.
″Morale is still high because they’re busy,″ said Sheik Hassan Shaaban, a cleric. ’May Allah help us when they stop being busy.″