HJ/EDJuly 24, 2006

Two DC couples find themselves in the middle of a war

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

Keith and Ellora Kleven, both former DC teachers, took their fourth trip to visit friends Tony and Terry Saber, in Lebanon – but this visit became like no other.

The Klevens arrived in Lebanon July 11 and were planning to stay for a month taking care of the Sabers’ second home in Beirut, while the Sabers made plans to return to their Lake Washington home.

However, plans changed when bombing began the next day, after the Hezbollah, a militant group, kidnapped two Israeli soldiers.

The Klevens and Sabers weren’t sure if anything would materialize so they decided to continue their plans the following day for an engagement.

While they were traveling in a more dangerous part of Lebanon, they could see billboards plastered with pictures of the Hezbollah leader; and then a bomb hit nearby.

The couples watched CNN Friday, which reported heavy bombing in southern Lebanon, and they decided that they better get out of the country.

With family and friends in Lebanon, “It was hard to leave loved ones behind,” Tony Saber said.

Shaama Saber, the Sabers’ daughter, had to leave her fiance behind.

The Sabers live in a northern suburb of Beirut, while bombing took place in the south. There had already been a blockade of ships and the airport had been closed due to bombing as well as the road to Damascus.

Their only alternative was to take a northern route into Syria.

“It was an unpredictable trip,” Saber said. “We didn’t know what was next, we just had to have faith we were going to make it.”

A ship was leaving from Syria to Cyprus, but not until the following Tuesday, so they decided to take a taxi to Turkey in hopes of flying to Amsterdam because this would be the nearest opportunity to fly back to the US.

“There were only two times I was scared,” Keith Kleven explained.

“First when the bomb hit the side of the road, and the second when we drove through Syria,” he said.

His nervousness came from the bad relationship between the US and Syria, and the possibility of being taken hostage.

But they got their visas to enter Syria, and made it safely to Turkey, he said.

They later found out the road they had traveled on along the coast to Syria was bombed soon after.

From a small airport near Antakya, Turkey, formerly known as Antioch, they flew to the airport in Istanbul, Turkey. From there, they went to Amsterdam and then home to America.

The Sabers were able to take their regularly scheduled flight, but the Klevens had to wait two hours for the next flight.

“We were fortunate it was only two hours instead of two days,” Keith Kleven said.

“I’m so happy to be home to wonderful Dassel-Cokato,” he said.

Although they are sad for the people left behind, they are glad to be back home and safe, Tony Saber said.

“We thank the Lord for our safety and daily living,” he said.

What lies ahead

Tony Saber is unsure as to what lies ahead for his native country, Lebanon, but feels the international community has to workout a permanent, peaceful solution between the two fighting countries.

“It’s a sad situation,” Saber said.

The two men agree that they don’t foresee a cease-fire any time in the near future.

Kleven explained the Hezbollah is stubborn enough that they are waiting for help from Syria and Iran.

Israel also won’t back down because they have been dealing with the Hezbollah for some time now, Kleven explained.

“Israel is slowly, but surely destroying Lebanon,” he said.

“Is this part of God’s plan or just two counties fighting against each other?” Kleven asked.

He thinks it’s “God’s plan that no one understands, but everyone is talking about,” he said.

Kleven and Saber are disappointed with the slow response of the US to get its citizens out.

“I don’t know why they waited so long,” he said.

They are also appalled by the fact that the American government was charging its citizens to get out of Lebanon.

Countries like Australia, Canada and France already got their citizens out and America possibly has the most citizens in that country, Kleven said.

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