Tens of thousands of people swarmed the coffin of Lebanon's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Fadallah as it made its way through the streets of south Beirut. His passing shocked and saddened the region and the loss of his advocacy of dialogue, respect and unity among all religions is incalculable. The loss of his support for the current campaign to obtain civil rights for Lebanon's Palestinian refugees will make that struggle more difficult. Justice for Palestine and ending the Zionist occupation was part of his unwavering lifelong work. Some media outlets, reported that shortly before he died, and upon being asked by a medical attendant a few days ago if he needed anything, he replied, " Only the end of the Zionist occupation of Palestine."
On the morning of 4th of July, Zeinab, the nurse on duty at the blood donor's clinic at Bahman Hospital, a block from my former home in Haret Hreik, had just instructed this observer to remain sitting for five minutes and to drink the juice she gave me before I returned to south Beirut's blazing sun.
A companion and I had each just donated a pint of blood in response to an appeal from friends who worked in the Translation Office of Lebanon's much loved senior Shia cleric, Sayeed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah. He had been hospitalized for the past 12 days but on Friday his stomach bleeding had increased dramatically, related to complications from a liver problem he had been treated for over the past several years. Sayeed Fadallah also suffered from diabetes and high blood pressure.
As we waited, Zeinab returned, tears in her eyes, and simply said, "The Sayeed has passed away." And she disappeared. So did my Shia hijabed companion, and as it seemed, everyone from the floor.
I decided to walk down the stairs to the main level and could hear sobs from hospital staff on each floor, now seemingly darkened with each level eerier than the preceding one as I descended.
As I left the main entrance of the hospital, a bit numbed I was thinking about some of the more than a dozen meetings I had the honor to attend with Grand Ayatolah Fadlallah and some of his staff over the past three years. Such as those who regularly visited him from the Washington DC based Council for the National Interest (cnionline.org), and one that I had arranged for former President Jimmy Carter.
Suddenly there was movement for two blocks in front and along the side streets adjacent to Bahman, a state of the art and science Hospital operated by Fadallah's Al Marbarrat Charity. This hospital was among hundreds of civil buildings in Haret Hreik and South Beirut, that Israel had bombed in July of 2006.
"How did these guys get here so fast" I wondered, for it was only minutes since the Majaa ( religious guide) to millions in the Middle East had died. Some security units, dressed in black shirts, caps and trousers, walkie talkies in their left hands, others in civilian clothes, quickly placed traffic barriers in the area. They politely asked that all vehicles including motorcycles be relocated a least two blocks away.