Lebanese Expats Build Suburbia in Bint Jbeil

lebanon-map-bint-jbeilAccording to Lebanon’s Daily Star, the war-ravaged southern town of Bint Jbeil is remaking itself as a suburban summer getaway for expatriates who left over the last three decades of strife.

Suburban living has made deep imprints across the Middle East, particularly in the shopping malls that have sprouted up in the West Bank and the mega-mall planned for Israel’s Beer Sheva.

In the war of 2006, Bint Jbeil was a major flashpoint between Hizbollah and Israeli troops; Hassan Nasrallah delivered an incendiary speech there. But the violent history starts earlier: Bint Jbeil was invaded by Israeli troops in the 1978 Operation Litani. From 1982-2000, Israel occupied southern Lebanon, including Bint Jbeil, following the country’s civil war.  The Daily Star reports that thousands of Lebanese left the country during the 1970s and 80s to start anew in the American Midwest, particularly Dearborn, Michigan. Since 2000, they’ve come home for summers spent in villas that remind them of their adopted home:

bint-jbeil-villaA walk through the avenues along these hills reveals high stone walls and massive brass gates that lead to lush green gardens surrounding these villas, evoking a high-end suburb in southern California, instead of a traditional Lebanese village that has suffered years of war and occupation.

Garbage bins stand outside the gates of each home, while a myriad of Mercedes, BMWs and Lexus SUVs trail bits of American slang behind them as they drive by.

While they have built up a suburban summer paradise, the infrastructure that keeps it all running smoothly in America doesn’t exist in Lebanon.

Readily-available electricity, hot water and air conditioning are 24/7 American luxuries that don’t exist in Bint Jbeil, making it difficult for potential returnees to imagine a permanent residence in the town.

The article is a fascinating look at another penetration of Americana into this region. However, the very things that make Lebanon unattractive as a permanent home to emigres highlight the enormous cost of maintaining neighborhoods of single-family homes.

::Map by Daniella Cheslow

::Photo from Lebanon Daily Star

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