First you wage a revolutionary guerrilla war against Israel, then get trained up by Iranians and expand into a fully-fledged political group. You throw your weight around Lebanon with guns, invoke Allah a lot and end up with seats in Parliament. After having another fight with Israel, you tone down your revolutionary stance and decide to enter into a coalition with your enemies, but just when it seems like you've got it all, it turns out you watered down your message too much and the kids in Beirut are now more into skateboarding and Nando's than jihads and juntas. Typical. It's a tough situation – how are you gonna get back to fostering hate at the rate you've become accustomed to?
Well, congratulations to the head of Hezbollah's marketing department for making Shi'a Islam cool again: the Middle East's best loved terrorist wing have opened a jihad theme park!
While Disneyland sells itself as the 'The Happiest Place On Earth!' and Alton Towers goes with 'The Fun Never Stops!', Hezbollah's Resistance Park, up on a hill in Southern Lebanon, greets visitors with the promise that 'Israel Is Weaker Than A Spider's Web!'
Built on the remains of a former Israeli settlement, the centre-piece of the $4 million park is a large diorama constructed from bombed-out remains of Israeli tanks, flanked with mannequins of dead soldiers. You've got to give them props for their efficiency, the war ended in 2006, and four years later they're opening a museum to commemorate it.
When you arrive you're ushered into this theatre where you watch a video of Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah pointing and shouting a lot in Arabic, predicting the imminent onset of World War III. There are no height restrictions on this activity and the kids love it.
Next, you take a walk through the real mountaintop forest 50km from the Israeli border where Hezbollah guerillas waged their holy war. All the weaponry on display is real, so the painfully post-modern possibility of a real-life military coup taking place in a mock-up of a military coup could one day come to fruition. Strewn soldiers' helmets containing real human hair, worn-in soldiers' boots and burnt up clothing bearing Hebrew inscriptions litter the environment. Which is pretty harrowing.
One of the rides at the theme park is this little interactive prayer mat placed where assassinated Hezbollah co-founder Sayed Abbas Musawi once sat. Making a prayer here is the equivalent of getting your picture taken with Mickey Mouse in front of Sleeping Beauty's Castle.
I'm certain that they don't know what this means. In fact, I think they'll be pretty pissed off once someone tells them.
WORDS: ALEX HOBAN
PHOTOS: ØRRE LUDVIGSEN
If you’re doing something interesting in a place that isn’t Shoreditch and that might make for a good Atlas Hoods story, send pictures and info to email@example.com and we’ll be in touch.
Previously in this series:
THE THIRD KOREA
BOTSWANA’S COWBOY METALHEADS
THE CROATIAN GRANDMA TATTOO CULT
TSUNAMI GROUND ZERO
VENEZUELA’S SKYSCRAPER SLUM
THE GANGSTER PREACHER
TRANSNISTRIA PART II: WEAPONS SMUGGLING AND YOUTH CULTS IN THE COUNTRY THAT DOESN’T EXIST
TRANSNISTRIA PART I: THE COUNTRY THAT DOESN’T EXIST