Mixed Views Among Lebanese, Israelis in U.S.

Southern California is home to large Lebanese-American and Israeli-American communities. Karen Grigsby Bates visited two such neighborhoods near Los Angeles — one Israeli, the other Arab — to see how residents are feeling about the violence in the Mideast.

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NOAH ADAMS, host:

And here at home, news of the conflict in the Middle East is a major preoccupation as well. NPR's Karen Grigsby Bates visited two southern California immigrant communities that are watching, anxiously, the news from home.

Here is her report.

KAREN GRIGSBY BATES reporting:

In the warmth of the Cedar Café in Anaheim, where word has it you can get a good falafel, Boseem(ph) slouches in a chair. His eyes are intent on an Al-Jazeera broadcast on the television hung from the ceiling. As a relative packs a meal to go, Boseem points to the screen, which shows wounded being carried away on stretchers.

BOSEEM: Breaking news - that's four people got killed there, which is my hometown. Which is not surprised if the whole town get killed. This is nothing new. It's something we expected from Israel, it's normal. Destroy your house, destroy property, kill you - that's normal.

GRIGSBY-BATES: Boseem, who declined to give his last name, says he and his mother - who's visiting from Lebanon - have not been able to check on their family in Ainata. The communications are mostly down, and homes where his relatives were are now rubble. About an hour north of Anaheim in the Los Angeles suburb of Encino, this scene is very different. Lunch is in full swing at the Aroma Café, a popular gathering spot for Israeli émigrés. You'll find falafel on the menu there, too. CNN is on the TV in the air-conditioned inside. Outside, tanned Israelis in casual dress sit on the shaded patio. Like Boseem, David Chrispel(ph) has been watching the news. Most of his family's back in Israel.

Mr. DAVID CHRISPEL: Most of my family is in the north, so every sister is in one of the shelled places and one of the towns that are being bombarded right now.

GRIGSBY-BATES: His luncheon companion, Ri Trudelis(ph), says it's an anxious time for Israelis living in the U.S. But, he says, all Israeli's are willing to tolerate this discomfort and anxiety with this latest clash in Lebanon if it means ridding the country of Hezbollah.

Mr. RI TRUDELIS: You know when you have a cancer and you go to operation, you don't leave any parts that will develop later on. So even though the procedure might take longer or maybe it's a little bit more dangerous, at least you know you get rid of it once and for all and that's it. That is what they have over there.

GRIGSBY-BATES: Up the street at Super Sal's, an Israeli grocery, Lemur Fentz(ph) says Israeli's usual fear of explosions is tempered with something else this time.

Mr. LEMUR FENTZ: With all the fear, we are more happy that something happened because we took so long. It was a silent war, and now like all the world can see what's going on there.

GRIGSBY-BATES: Usef Abdul(ph) is Palestinian, and he's the owner of the Olive Café in Anaheim. He says everyone who comes in is concerned about his Lebanese patrons.

Mr. USEF ABDUL (Owner of Olive Café, Anaheim): Well, I mean they feel so bad about their families back home. I mean, one guy, his kids are stuck in Lebanon, his wife is in London. She can't go to Lebanon, he can't go to Lebanon.

GRIGSBY-BATES: Next door, Fiad Usef(ph) is getting reports from his son, who's stuck in Beirut. He worries that no one's stepping gin to save his country before it's totally destroyed.

Mr. FIAD USEF: We're supposed to have one and a half or two million tourists in Lebanon. All the hotels was reserved. Why now, in the summer time? The poor people, they pay the price. The politicians must stand now. The whole world must stand now and go over there and take care of that beautiful country. The Swiss of the Middle East.

GRIGSBY-BATES: Ray Sayid(ph) - editor in chief of The Arab World, a local newspaper - says the bombings have united a country that has, in the past, been torn by sectarian violence.

Mr. RAY SAYID (editor in chief, Arab World): You know they've been involved in civil war for a long time. Christians and Muslims and this and that. And, you know, it makes you feel very good that you see all the churches, all the schools, and the Christian - sectors it's open for refugees coming from the south of Lebanon where it is, you know, they say that it's, you know, the Hezbollah area.

GRIGSBY-BATES: Back in Encino, Lenore Fentz(ph) says she understands the Lebanese yearning for an intact country. She remembers when it felt that way in Israel.

Ms. LENORE FENTZ: I come from a generation that had some peace in Israel, that we didn't lock the doors when we went to sleep, and we could go down and play and we went on buses and the parents weren't worried about what we were doing. So those, this generation missed those days. You know, they want it back.

GRIGSBY-BATES: That seems to be a universal wish among both Lebanese and Israelis. They differ in how it should be achieved. Karen Grigsby-Bates, NPR News, Los Angeles.

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ADAMS: And you can find full coverage of the fighting in Lebanon, plus photos of Jackie Northam's tour of the southern suburbs of Beirut at our Web site, NPR.org.

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