Postcard from... Mleeta

 

Abu Abdullah points to a snow-capped Mount Hermon in the distance. “The Zionists' outpost is just there,” he explains. “But there are thousands of our fighters here. They work in the factories, many of them are at schools and universities but at the same time they are ready to defend.”

Near the village of Mleeta in south Lebanon, the Hezbollah Museum, or the Tourist Landmark of the Resistance as it is officially known, occupies what was once an important mountain base for some of the hardiest fighters in the Shia militant group.

Opened two years ago the bizarre theme park-cum-propaganda centre gives Hezbollah's take on the history of its conflict with the "Zionist enemy" since it was formed in protest to the Israeli occupation of Lebanon during the 1980s, most recently the 2006 war in which Hezbollah claims victory.

Children clamber on captured Israeli military equipment in the 60,000 sq ft park and visitors are met with a video featuring archive footage of conflicts with Israel.

The centrepiece of the museum is "The Abyss" which Abu Abdullah – who has dedicated himself to showing us around – explains is "very symbolic". Spiralling walkways surround a graveyard of Israeli military equipment, representing, he says, the hurricane that Hezbollah unleashed on the Zionist enemy. A tank has a knot tied in its barrel to represent the resistance's success in neutering the Israeli army.

In the surrounding forest displays show how fighters fought in the mountains, tunnelling through rock to avoid detection from the air. As we meander we discuss the differing views on Hezbollah – which is deemed a terrorist organisation by the US, but is a member of a coalition government in Lebanon. "People can come here to learn the truth," says Abu Abdullah.

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