Devoted crowds throng Hezbollah's Lebanon theme park

Wed Aug 11, 2010 1:43pm EDT
 
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By Alistair Lyon, Special Correspondent

MLEETA, Lebanon (Reuters) - If you have an urge to inspect mangled Israeli tanks, toy with a rocket launcher or explore a genuine rock-cut guerrilla bunker, Hezbollah's multi-media theme park in south Lebanon is just the place.

The Shi'ite Muslim group, which fought Israel to a stalemate four years ago and has been preparing for the next war ever since, has applied a creative flair to its "resistance tourist landmark" at Mleeta that mirrors its innovative military skills.

Hezbollah is often secretive. Its decision to throw open a strategic hilltop bastion on what was once a front line with an Israeli-occupied "security zone" suggests it does not expect to re-fight past battles when the next confrontation explodes.

For now, it is taking the propaganda war to its enemy, as well as seeking to inspire its own people with the tale of its prowess as Israel's deadliest foe in the past quarter century.

Here, on the resort's oak-sheathed slopes, the nitty-gritty reality of life as a Hezbollah guerrilla is on display, replete with themes of patriotism and martyrdom, plus a dose of bombast.

Despite searing summer heat, more than half a million people have flocked to Mleeta, about 50 km (37 miles) southeast of Beirut, since it opened in May, say Hezbollah guides who conduct tours in English, French, German, Italian as well as Arabic.

"If the Israelis don't attack us, we won't attack them," said one mild-spoken part-time guide, who gave his name as Ali.

"We are not terrorists, we are very peaceful people and we have the right to live like any other nations."   Continued...

 
<p>A view of a Hezbollah operation room at Hezbollah's "resistance museum" in Mleeta village, southern Lebanon July 1, 2010. If you have an urge to inspect mangled Israeli tanks, toy with a rocket launcher or explore a genuine rock-cut guerrilla bunker, Hezbollah's multi-media theme park in south Lebanon is just the place. REUTERS/Ali Hashisho</p>