BEIRUT: It’s that time of year again when people are making resolutions to save money, make that gym membership count and get serious about that promotion. But for some Lebanese such personal goals are only a luxury that they will think about indulging in once there’s peace and stability.“I want to be able to walk down the street and not be scared,” said Maher Mushref, an air conditioning repairman, sitting with friends on plastic chairs having his morning coffee near the Phoenicia hotel in Ain al-Mreisseh, a short walk from the site of Friday’s explosion that killed former Finance Minister Mohammad Shatah and at least seven others.
Over the past several days, the city center has been much more quiet than usual, the seasonal festival atmosphere of shopping, dining out and looking at Christmas decorations has been dampened by the assassination, one of many incidents of political violence this year. Shoppers and even pedestrians are staying home and shopkeepers and local residents appear numb.
“I hope next year will be better than this year. If there’s better security, then there will be better work – and maybe even tourism,” he said. “I’m married with three children. I hope they’ll have a better future than what I’m living now. All of the money my wife and I earn goes toward paying rent and eating. That’s all.”
Before giving up completely on the idea of a resolution or personal goal, he said, “I hope to own a house one day.”
Beside him, his nephew Walid Mushref scoffed at the idea of a New Year’s resolution. “I can go do sports if there’s war or peace,” he said, referring to the common resolution many have of getting in shape. “I don’t have any resolution. I just want to live in peace and quiet and security.”
Chadi Abou Hageili, an unemployed baker from Syria and a lifelong resident of Beirut, said his wish for next year was simply to “live in peace and relax. No more war, no more fear of explosions. I just want stability. If that doesn’t happen then I want to leave. I haven’t worked in a year and a half.”
Paul Orfaly, who works at a Downtown bakery, said his wish for the New Year could be summed up in three words: “Peace for Lebanon.”
“When that happens, then people can think about other things,” he said.
Walid Mansour, a venture capitalist who works at a firm Downtown, acknowledged that this past year has been difficult for Lebanon, but said he hoped that people would be able to set personal goals in order to better themselves in the New Year.
“A lot of people are distracted,” he said, due to “a lot of unfortunate events. There are refugees here with no equipment or shelter. If you’re surrounded by negativity, then you tend to be negative. People need to stay focused.”
Mansour said he hoped to learn a new skill, though he hadn’t decided what yet – maybe a new instrument or language. He also wished for others to be happier.
Abou Ali, a taxi driver and car repairman Downtown, appeared taken aback when asked about the New Year.
“2014 has got to be a better year. I didn’t like 2013 at all. There were so many problems in the region,” he said.
He hesitated for a split second before coming up with an explanation for why 2013 was such a disaster. Nodding his head and looking around for his friends’ consensus, he said adamantly: “I know why 2013 was so bad. Thirteen is an unlucky number.”