The new law of the Middle East; the harder you’re hit by Israel the more popular and resilient you’ll become:
Hezbollah has opened its first permanent museum atop a wooded hill here that was strategic territory in a 2006 war with Israel, the latest step in the group’s evolution from a band of militants to an established political force in Lebanon.
Since its birth in 1982 as an Islamic militia fighting Israel’s invasion of the country, Hezbollah has transformed itself into a powerful military, political and social organization. It controls a large swath of southern Lebanon, much of the Bekaa Valley and the southern suburbs of Beirut.
Now, in addition to significant political leverage, Hezbollah also has a sprawling 15-acre, $4 million tourism complex. Hezbollah opened the park in late May, marking the 10th anniversary of Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon.
A walking trek called “the Path” is the centerpiece, winding along a what was once Hezbollah’s front line against Israel during the occupation. It is peppered with artillery shells of various sizes, along with mockups with mannequin Hezbollah fighters crouched, glaring out through the brush, or receiving medical treatment.
From inside a 600-foot-long tunnel, visitors can peer through glass at some of Hezbollah’s former underground hideouts. The fortifications were closely guarded secrets until recently, and key to some of Hezbollah’s recent operations, including its fight with Israel in a brief 2006 war along the southern border.
To manage the new museum and other planned sites, Hezbollah is creating its own museum department, adding to its other divisions, which include radio and TV stations.
“It shows that the resistance is more stable,” said Muhammad Kawtharani, director of Hezbollah’s arts foundation and a spokesman for the Mlita museum project. “You’re seeing a secret that is a secret no more.”