Cathy Sultan combines vital history and vivid personal interviews to relate the lives of the oft-ignored civilians of southern Lebanon and northern Israel during the July war of 2006 and its aftermath. She documents how thousands of area residents have been victimized by the hawkish, shortsighted policy decisions of Israel, Lebanon and the United States. Throughout the book, these narratives of mothers, soldiers, activists and ambulance drivers on both sides are memorable for their detail, honesty and the deep sense of tragedy they relate.
Tragedy in South Lebanon also addresses the media treatment of the war, systematically dispelling common myths about the region perpetuated by government and main-stream sources. Sultan discusses how divisive factions within the current Lebanese government leave the country teetering on the brink of yet more violence, imploring government officials on all sides to act with foresight, compassion and responsibility. Features include a chronology of Lebanese history, maps depicting wartime activity and a glossary of Middle Eastern terms.
I grew up in Washington D.C.. Quite rebellious as a young woman, I yearned to escape from my native city and experience great adventures. My dreams came true when I fell in love with a handsome young Lebanese physician, eloped against my parents’ wishes after a short courtship, had two children and in 1969 moved to Beirut, Lebanon, a city called the “Switzerland of the Middle East” and famous for its hospitality, its lovely Mediterranean climate and its exotic blend of Arab and Western cultures.
For six years I led the life of my dreams. My home was a rooftop apartment with a terrace full of flowers and a breathtaking view of the city. I was accepted and loved as a Lebanese. My husband had a successful medical practice and my children were growing up speaking English, French and Arabic.
But in April 1975, my life was abruptly turned upside down. On a quiet Sunday afternoon, the Christian Phalange militia attacked a bus full of Palestinians in a neighborhood not far from mine in East Beirut. This singular incident set off an infamous civil war that eventually engulfed the whole city. My tranquil treelined street, a block off Damascus Road and two blocks from the National Museum, became a deadly territorial divide: the infamous Green Line, separating East from West Beirut. Despite the constant danger, my feelings for my lover-city were slow to change. Instead of fleeing, my love affair with Beirut clouded my otherwise clear judgement and we stayed through the first eight years of Lebanon’s bloody civil war.
I spent my days caring for my family, racing under the bombs to rescue my children from school and comforting my physician husband who spent his days treating wounded civilians. I kept my sanity during the war in large part because I loved to cook. I entertained family and friends constantly, trying as much as possible to incorporate some normalcy into our lives. Little by little I acquired the coping skills necessary to resist and survive in the absurd dysfunction of war. Eventually, though, war took a huge toll on my family and in 1983 we abandoned our beloved Beirut and returned to the States.
It took a number of years for all of us to regain our sanity. And it wasn’t until when my son, by then a junior at Harvard, asked me to record our adventures in Beirut that I began to think about writing my story. What began as a project for my children quickly became my way to mourn the loss of my beloved Beirut. Another reason had to do with the attitude of people I met when my husband and I settled down in the mid-West. They seemingly could not relate to my war stories and quickly became disinterested. This painful experience was the impetus that stimulated me to write, to pour my heart out, to clease my soul of the traumas of war. A Beirut Heart: One Woman’s War is a memoir of my fourteen years in Beirut.
In March 2002, two years into the 2nd Intifada, I traveled to Israel-Palestine to better understand the conflict. My book “Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides” is part adventure, part history, part travelogue, all bound together with a startling collection of interviews which I conducted first-hand in a variety of sometimes not very safe places.This book is a continuation of the my quest to bring peace to a region tragically gripped by obduracy and fanaticism, a region of the world I care deeply about, a region that is too often mis-represented by biased media coverage.
My husband, Michel, and I live in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, a lovely rural community an hour and a half east of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Currently, I sit on the Executive Board of the National Peace Foundation where I oversee a variety of Middle East educational projects.
Book USA’s Best Books awarded A Beirut Heart: One Woman’s War Best Autobiography of 2006. Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides won USA’s Best Books of 2006 award in the category of History/Politics and received Honorable Mention in the category of Political Science from the Midwest Independent Publishers Association in 2006.
My latest non-fiction book Tragedy in South Lebanon: The Israeli-Hezbollah War of 2006 is an account of the tragic 34 day war and its aftermath. It includes a chronology of Lebanese history, maps depicting wartime activity, a glossary of Lebanon’s political players, and, among others, interviews with both a Hezbollah fighter and an Israeli soldier, both of whom fought in the same battle.