Hezbollah opened a new museum in Mlita dedicated to the Resistance.
As a young boy walked around Hezbollah’s new museum dressed in child-sized military gear and carrying a toy gun, he awed at the AK-47s, weathered missiles and belts of ammunition.
He was one of hundreds of thousands of children and families who have visited the museum since it opened late last month. Like others, the boy was there for a day of “jihadi tourism.” Established to celebrate the war guerilla fighters waged against Israeli forces beginning in 1982, the museum offers visitors an extensive look into Hezbollah’s military history.
The tourist site is located on the mountaintop village of Mlita, once an outpost for fighters. “Mlita was a place the Resistance militants were going through and from to make their fight with Israel,” Hezbollah spokesperson Mohammad Kawtharani said.
Israeli forces invaded Lebanon in 1978 after the Palestine Liberation Organization began launching rockets into the Jewish State from Lebanon and pushed as far north as Beirut. Guerilla fighters in Mlita and elsewhere, collectively called the Resistance, picked up their weapons in 1982 to combat the Israeli forces. The occupation lasted another 18 years, until Israel withdrew from Lebanese territory in 2000.
A typical tour of the museum begins with a short film about the history of the Resistance. Visitors then move to “The Exhibition,” a room full of weapons and booty left on Lebanese soil following the Israeli withdrawal. A series of maps and charts line the walls, one outlining Israel’s military structure in an effort to signify Hezbollah’s intelligence capabilities.
“There are new technologies that I wasn’t aware of, and I got to see how the resistors were fighting,” said Walaa Al-Yousseff, who visited the museum for the afternoon.
Outside the Exhibition is a place called “The Abyss.” Sunken into the ground, the exhibit is located on the sight of an Israeli bombing. A circular pathway leads visitors around the exhibit to give them up-close views of recreated, broken Israeli tanks meant to symbolize Israeli defeat.
“I came here to see what the Islamic Revolution in Lebanon did to free my land and my village,” visitor Kamel Mouradi said, referring to Hezbollah, which was founded by the Iranian establishment.
Up the hill from the Abyss is a walkway that leads tourists through a dense forest. Visitors walk past a hidden cove where former Secretary General of Hezbollah Sayyed Abbas Moussawi would pray and encourage fighters. Life-size replicas of Hezbollah militants are spread throughout the woods – some carrying missiles, others firing them and another, kneeling down to pray.
Stepping down a rocky staircase built into the compacted dirt, one eventually comes to a door carved into the mountainside. It’s the entrance of a 200-meter-long tunnel, once a hideout and area used for military planning. It includes a kitchen, rooms for prayer and rest, and an office equipped with a phone, computer and maps of the battlefield.
One tour guide told NOW Lebanon that over 130,000 people visited the museum in the first ten days it was open. Kawtharani said the park will expand to include a cable car and hotel. This is the largest museum Hezbollah has built. Unlike the others, it is expected to be permanent.