Hezbollah gets a lot of attention for its rockets but is far less known for its symphony, which performed rather triumphantly last Monday during an event commemorating the life of fallen commander Imad Mughniyah (pictured center screen on yellow canvas). Mughniyah of course, was assassinated over a month ago in Damascus and this event marked the 40th day since his death– a typical mourning period in Arab society which culminates in celebration.

The band took it very seriously. They performed with meticulous splendor as if they had rehearsed for months. The violins were crisp, the chorus was overpowering–yet refined– and the horns were hypnotic in their precision. The conductor, meanwhile, had all of the unwavering discipline and composure of any seen in the world’s most majestic concert halls.

The venue here though, was the party’s sprawling hanger-like facility, known as Martyrs’ Hall. Rebuilt after being pulverized by Israeli air strikes in the 2006 war, the giant sheet metal structure is an important rallying point for the party faithful as they gather in their thousands to listen to Hezbollah leader Sayed Hassan Nassrallah by video broadcast. But as evidenced by the droves of exhilarated children in attendance, the hall also provides an important social space, hosting a cohesive community ‘event’ that feeds a neighborhoods’ needs as it would any where else in the world. And in this neighborhood, Hezbollah doesn’t only run an Orchestra but also traffic police, schools, hospitals, and even a highly efficient public works and construction company that would put FEMA, the US Federal Emergency Management Agency, to shame.

Hezbollah is far more than a group with guns and rockets. It is an all-encompassing social movement that is part and parcel of the lives of thousands upon thousands of ordinary Lebanese citizens.

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Habib Battah
Habib Battah is an investigative journalist and founder of the news site beirutreport.com. Battah has covered Lebanon and the Middle East for over 15 years and teaches journalism and media studies at the American University of Beirut. He is a contributor to Monocle, The Guardian, BBC World, Al Jazeera and others, a former fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University and two-time recipient of the Samir Kassir Press Freedom Award. Battah's investigative work was recently recognized for outstanding local reporting by the Columbia University Oakes Award for Environmental Reporting. Battah earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.A. in Near East Studies and Journalism from New York University.



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