[Note: The Lebanese town of Qana, famed for the miracle of water into wine, has also seen the blood of its children flow during two Israeli strikes (April 18, 1996 and July 30, 2006).]

By George El-Hage

My peace to you.

Oh, our beloved innocents
Oh, our meek children
Oh, smile of the heavens, fruit of our benevolent land
Oh, hope of the prosperous future.
You are the salt of the earth
You are the gods of the coming era
And the zenith of beauty, love, and freedom in this world.

Oh sacrificial lamb of the one God
We have killed you
We have slain you
They have killed you
They have slain you

We veiled ourselves in nationalism
They hid themselves behind self-defense.
We called an emergency session of the Security Council,
They met…and their words were unalterably wooden,
Soiled, lifeless, unrepentant and hopeless.

We sprinkled you with flowers
And wiped your faces with the covers of the holy books.
Alas, the Torah did not inspire us
Nor did the Gospel save us or the Qur’an console us.

All of us,
Both sides of the border,
We are all Cain
We are all Yazid
We are all Judas.
We are all vampires and murderers
And we are all responsible for your sacred blood and your innocent souls.

Where is your laughter?
Where are your small fingers and light footed steps?
Your faces, radiating with Life, Joy, and Optimism?

You fled from the bombs of hatred
You sought refuge in a building believing it a haven and a shelter
You were trembling with fear
And terror was a devil drawn upon your spring faces
Assassinating the dawn in your eyes,
Spreading the twilight over your olive-skinned brow.
You surrendered to a fitful slumber,
To a nightmare without dreams…without tomorrow.
This was your final rest.

The shadow of death startled you,
Cleaving your tender bodies,
Harvesting the roses and lilies of your coming years,
Transforming your abundance to drought,
And your fertility to wasteland,
And the light in your eyes to ashes,
And the warmth of your smile to frost.
It abandoned you…putrid corpses.

You were sheaves of wheat and fields of incense
And the valleys of fragrance and longing.

Oh, our little ones
Branches of the cedar tree
Pillars of Baalbek
Snow of Mount Sannin.

We shall not celebrate the wedding of Qana after today.
We shall not drink of the sacred wine.
We shall not be visited by the Lord, whose time is not yet come.
From this day hence, the wine is blood and the wedding a funeral,
And the Lord will not visit.

I bow before your meekness.
I kiss your noble foreheads and kneel before your holy feet
I seek the blessings of your hallowed tears.
And I lament.

I bestow upon you the Peace of Jerusalem and the Peace of Mecca
I apologize to you on behalf of the People of Moses,
The People of Jesus,
And the People of Mohammed.

You are the prophets
You are the messengers
You are the promise
You are the truth
You are the goodness
You are the beauty
You are the resurrection
You are the hope

Forgive us, forgive us
Pardon us on the day we meet in the world to come.

I beseech you,
Do not wear our skin,
Or do as we have done,
Or speak as we have spoken.
For we have not been worthy of your presence among us.

You were the best gift the heavens ever brought forth.

[Written July 29, 2006. Translated from the original Arabic by George El-Hage with special thanks to the contribution of the Intermediate Arabic class (SILP) 2006 at MIIS.]