To be sure, Lebanon pulls far ahead of California when it comes to a history of bloody civil strife (not that the Golden State hasn’t had its moments). But where California definitely pulls ahead is in theme parks. California has Disneyland, Six Flags, Legoland, and countless others. We looked long and hard for a theme park in Lebanon but the only attraction that seemed to come close was Hezbollah’s new Tourist Landmark of the Resistance, in Mleeta, about 50 miles south of Beirut, near the Israeli border. It’s a multi-million-dollar complex that memorializes resistance to the Israeli occupation (1982–2000) with something of a Six Flags spin. To that segment of the Lebanese who refer to Hezbollah as “the Hez” the attraction is known as “Hezbollahland.” Israel—known to many locals as “the Zionist Entity”—refers to the same place as “a Disneyland for terrorists.”
This isn’t from the Onion, but rather a Vanity Fair article by Tom Freston, “Six Flags over Lebanon.”
His fellow travelers were interesting:
We also took a friend of a friend, a smart, funny Lebanese-American named Jihad. Kind of like heading for the Magic Kingdom with a guy named Mickey.
Though it seems like it might be best to wait a few years before planning your own trip:
The facility was impressive: modern buildings in every direction, open plazas, signs and markers in Arabic and English. Our guide, a proud, friendly, soft-spoken man, was happy to see some foreign visitors. It was Ramadan and business was slow. He said that what we would see was just “phase one”—only 15 acres. Hotels, a spa, swimming pools, a sports club, campgrounds, and a paintball battlefield were still to come. Hezbollahland was just getting started.
Mr. Preston points out that the impact of this effort isn’t trivial:
We left the Resistance Tourist Landmark with a mix of reactions. Hezbollah has long supported terrorism—this is the organization that blew up our embassy and the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut in the early 80s, with enormous loss of life. Full stop. Even so, it’s hard not to have some understanding for why Hezbollah has gained respect among the local population for its role in ending the 18-year occupation. Now Hezbollah has built an effective attraction to communicate its narrative to the young.
Oh, about his traveling companion:
A couple of days later I saw my new friend Jihad bartending at a club called Radio Beirut. His T-shirt read, “MR. JIHAD,” in huge letters. Such is Lebanon. The drinks were on him.
The entire article is interesting, entertaining and worth your time:
(h/t Andrew Sullivan)