Regardless of where your sympathies lie in the various conflicts in the Middle East, the Mleeta Resistance Landmark is an interesting place to visit. Established by Hezbollah and opened in 2010, the Mleeta Resistance Landmark is Hezbollah’s presentation of their conflict with Israel and a celebration of their role in it. The “Tourist Landmark of the Resistance” has been dubbed everything from “Hezbollah’s Disneyland” to the “Terrorist Tourist Trap” to “HezbollahLand” by the international press.
I’ll discuss details such as how to get to Mleeta at the bottom of this post.
Here is a photo of the main Mleeta complex:
Hezbollah explains the architectural concept behind Mleeta as being “simple, but deep with meaning and inspiration” as is “the life of the resistance fighters.”
They go on to state that the landmark was constructed in a “quadrate shape in order to mimic the Muslim’s Kiblah, while pointing to four sides: the north and south that represent the journey of the flying birds that seek a warm homeland, the east that points to the sunrise of the resistance and its society, and the west that points to the fading star of the occupation and tyranny.”
So, there you have it..
The circular area in the center of the opening picture above is “The Abyss.” This structural art piece is filled with Israeli military vehicles, helmets, boots, bombs and bullets captured from the Israeli army between 1982 and the July War of 2006. The display is intended to graphically represent the political and military morass in which Israel supposedly finds itself in regarding Hezbollah.
The helmets of Israeli soldiers killed while fighting Hezbollah militants are displayed next to a tombstone bearing the Star of David:
At the center of the display is an Israeli Merkava-4 tank, with the barrel of its main gun symbolically tied in a knot:
There are also some unique creations to be found within “The Abyss” such as a metallic man constructed out of the machinery of war and carrying a trident with (fake) human skulls impaled on it.
Thousands of Hezbollah militants formerly occupied the brush-covered Mleeta mountaintop and “The Path” is a trail winding through their different fighting positions. During the time that Israel occupied this territory, Hezbollah launched hundreds of operations from Mleeta.
In order to avoid editorializing and to give you a feel for the official sentiments expressed at the Mleeta site, I will present below, verbatim, some of the descriptions of the scenes as they appear in the brochure handed out to guide one around Mleeta. I will use a normal font for my words and italicize the words from Hezbollah. Again, the italicized blocks are NOT MY WORDS. I present these descriptions to you exactly as they appear in the brochure – awkward translations and all.
So, without further ado, accompany me down “The Path”…
Sayyid Abbas Barricade: This military barricade was utilized by the late Sayyid Abbas Moussawi, the former Secretary General of Hizbullah, where he prayed and read supplications as well as met and encouraged the resistance militants:
Reinforcement… This is a logistic mission during which the resistance militants transported a variety of instruments and supplies from the backlines to the military frontlines:
Constructions… This is a logistic mission during which the resistance militants worked on entrenchment, fortification and building bunkers against enemy salvo:
Missile Power… This military unit is commissioned with short, medium and long range surface-to-surface missiles, whose aim is to deter the enemy from targeting Lebanese civilians and civil infrastructure:
Hezbollah fighters stockpiling missiles:
Combat Casualty Care… This is a specialized first-aid unit with preparations to treat and rescue injured resistance warriors on the field during military operations:
War of Wills
On April 3rd, 1985, the Israeli army retreated from Mount Lebanon and the villages and cities of the southern coast to an area that extends from Haasbayah and Mount Sheikh in the east, to Naqoura coastal town in the west, planting hilltops and mountaintops with dozens of fortified outposts and barracks. Soon afterwards, the resistance militants followed the enemy to its bases, to initiate the “war of bases”. From 1985 and over a period of 15 years, the resistance took Mleeta and other mountains and valleys as their strongholds, in defiance of the enemy.
This is a rocky bunker that the resistance militants constructed when they used Mleeta as their stronghold.
Initially, this cave was merely a 1 meter gap that the resistance militants used as a refuge against the Israeli enemy bombardment and to protect themselves from harsh weather elements. It was later transformed into a 200 meter long tunnel. Over the course of 3 years, an excess of 1000 men dug and prepared it in rotation, excavating over 350 square meters of rocks and soil, the weight of almost 1000 tons, which were dispersed under trees to cover an area of more than 4000 square meters in a camouflaged manner that made it difficult for the enemy air observation to discover. After completion, Mleeta cave was transformed into a military integral base dubbed by resistance fighters as “The Point”, which housed several parts and rooms. Moreover, it was linked to a water supply for drinking and other purposes and was equipped with electricity, safety devices and ventilation, allowing more than 7000 resistance militants to use it as a barracks and main base to resist the enemy in that area.
The cave entrance:
A field kitchen within the bunker complex:
A commander’s bunker… Farther to the left was a shelf containing a variety of communications equipment:
The excavation of bunkers, tunnels and trenches:
This novelty area overlooks the villages and cities of Iqleem al Tuffah region, Zahraani, Nabatiyeh and Saida, areas that were liberated by the resistance from the Israeli enemy in 1985.
The Main Commandment: Preserving The Resistance
By means of endurance, steadfastness and sacrifice, the resistance thwarted all conspiracies and continued its path to liberate the land. The martyrdom of Sayyid Abbas Moussawi on February 16, 1992 transformed the resistance into a metallic fireball to be embraced by the people and burn the enemy’s mightiness.
Would you believe that everything you have seen above is hidden under those bushes and trees? It’s true:
Infantry Support Artillery… This is the resistance artillery unit:
Special Force… This is a highly trained and fully equipped infantry special force:
The Engineering Unit… This military unit is responsible for the production and planting of explosive devices against enemy infantry and vehicles:
Anti-Tank Unit… This military unit is responsible for guiding missiles against armored targets:
…Leads to the Sujud Bunker.
The resistance built this barricade in 1987 for surveillance and firing at Sujud enemy outpost. During the years of occupation, the enemy, with hundreds of attempts, could not discover or destroy it:
This is the view down the barrel of the gun:
Some other areas and units that can be found along the trail, but are not featured in this post, are the Martyrdom Seekers, the Signal Unit, the Anti-Aircraft Unit and the Reconnaissance Unit.
THE FREEDOM FIELD
Also known as “Liberation Field” and informally as the “rocket garden,” this area at the end of “The Path” allows visitors to admire the arsenal possessed by Hezbollah. On display are Hezbollah’s standard 107mm and 120mm Katyusha rockets, which rained down on northern Israel by the thousands during the 2006 war. But there are also quite a few more advanced weapons on display, including U.S.-made TOW missiles — reportedly acquired by Hezbollah through the arms-for-hostages swaps that were later exposed in the Iran-Contra affair — RPG 29s, and a Kornet-E anti-tank guided missile, which Hezbollah used to devastating effect against Israeli tank columns in 2006.
The grounds of “The Freedom Field” are formed in the shape of the Hezbollah symbol:
TOW anti-tank systems (TOW is an acronym for Tube launched Optically tracked Wire commanded):
Malyutka anti-tank guided missile systems… The wires leading outside the frame of the picture connect to a radio antenna:
M1/75 recoilless rifles:
The Kornet-E anti-tank guided missile system:
Designed to counter the impression of Israeli invincibility, this hall contains a diverse array of equipment captured from Israeli forces over the years.
Posters line the wall detailing the advanced weaponry possessed by Israel and the United States:
The spoils of war:
They even have a sampling of seized food and water:
The building next door to “The Exhibition” is listed as the “Multi Purpose Hall” and inside one can review detailed maps or watch videos produced by Hezbollah (thoughtfully subtitled in English). The videos are filled with thundering music, passionate speeches and stirring imagery. Some children that watched the videos with us seemed quite inspired.
Rising 1050 meters above sea level, “The Hill” is intended to symbolize the ascendance of Hezbollah and its followers. More practically, it serves as an excellent platform from which to survey the Mleeta complex and its surroundings:
The view from the top:
The Mleeta Resistance Landmark even has a gift shop on site where you can find items ranging from Hezbollah shirts to Hassan Nasrallah coffee mugs to DVDs to dart boards where prominent Israeli political figures serve as the bullseye:
And in case you are hungry or thirsty, there is a snack stand and a cafe to be found on the Mleeta site as well.
How to get to Mleeta:
The closest town of significance is Sidon which is 33 kilometers away. And unless you have special permission from the Lebanese government, the only way to access Mleeta is from the Sidon route. We tried to access Mleeta from the Beqqa Valley and were repeatedly turned back at government checkpoints. Save yourself the frustration we experienced.
We stayed in Sidon the night before visiting Mleeta, but it is perfectly feasible to visit Mleeta as a day trip from Beirut as one can take the highway for much of the way until cutting off into Lebanon’s interior.
The Mleeta site is surrounded by the towns of: Habboush (Habbush), Arabsalim (Arab Salim), Jarjou (Jarjawah), Mlikh, Loueize (Al Luwayzah), Ain Bouswar (Mazraat Ayn Bu Siwar), and Juba’a (Jba). Find those towns on a map and head in that direction. Signs are never great in Lebanon, but there are actually a few indicating the way to Mleeta (look for brown signs bearing reference to the “resistance landmark”). As long as your general direction is headed up the mountain once you depart the main road, you should eventually get there, but don’t be afraid to stop and ask for directions as it will make things a lot easier.
The address for the Mleeta Resistance Landmark is:
South Lebanon, Iklim al Tuffah,
For information call 00 961 70 076060 or visit Mleeta’s website at www.mleeta.com
Mleeta is open each day from 9:00 am until sunset. You should probably give yourself about two hours to visit all areas of Mleeta.
All of the signs at the Mleeta Resistance Landmark are written in both Arabic and English.