In the weeks that followed, we were on the lookout for cluster bomblets in the village. We found hundreds of these in every place imaginable -- snuggled underneath car tires, on street corners, inside homes, and of course in orchards and vineyards in our valley and in the thorn and thistle fields in the rugged hills above the village. The variety used at the time by the Israel Defense Forces was a little larger than size D batteries -- with a white ribbon hanging from each. We detonated as many as we could.
This was June 1982. Bhamdoun's strategic location on Mount Lebanon, high above the Mediterranean, made it a favorite spot for "last stand" battles between warring forces trying to control the road between Beirut and Damascus.
Much has happened since then. In September 1983, after the invading Israeli army withdrew from our part of the mountains, Christians and Druze fought a fierce battle in Bhamdoun for control of the mountains. Our village was torched to the ground. Fellow Bhamdounis, along with Christians from neighboring villages, were "ethnically cleansed" and took refuge in other parts of the country. We lived in exile for 15 years.
We have since rebuilt the village, in some cases restoring the old houses one stone at a time. We redid the dilapidated terraces on our land and replaced the orchard under our house with a vineyard. My son Karim, who was born and raised in the United States, graduated from George Washington University in 2012. He is now working in Lebanon to provide assistance to Palestinian refugees -- more than 50 years into their own exile.
Karim called me the other day. He told me that he and his friends spent the weekend in the village, and he proudly mentioned that he went up with them on the mountain paths above our house. I was silent for a moment. And then I said: "Karim: Please be careful.… Be extra careful.…"