In the Southern Lebanese city of Mlita, 50 kilometers north of the Israeli-Lebanese border, the militant organization Hezbollah created this museum to commemorate the battles they fought against the Israeli troops in and around the site the museum occupies today.
It was opened in May 2010, at the tenth anniversary of the Israeli withdrawal from Southern Lebanon, which ended the 18-year long occupation. Israel occupied the south of Lebanon during the 1982 Lebanon War after Israeli territory was repeatedly attacked by rockets fired from Southern Lebanon. A similar confrontation led to another Israeli invasion in 2006. Lebanon’s south is the heartland of Hezbollah, which is regarded as a terrorist organization by most countries.
This museum certainly isn’t the only one with a one-sided portrayal of the Arab-Israeli conflicts within Lebanon, but it is presented in a very different way than other exhibitions of this kind. Housed in a modern lofty building with multimedia presentations, hands-on displays and labels in English, it is one of the most modern and best presented museums in the entire country.
The exhibition contains numerous Israeli guns, weapons, and uniforms, on display at the main building. At the open-air section, a forest path leads through a former fighting zone, with weapons, hideouts and trenches still in place. The underground bunkers, where Hezbollah coordinated their offensives against the Israeli army, can also be visited. At the core of the museum is the so-called Abyss, a huge bomb crater, in which several Israeli tanks have been dumped.
Dubbed “Disneyland for Jihadi fighters” and “Hezbollahland” by critics and Western media, the museum has been a source of controversy since its opening. It has drawn criticism because it presents a sanitized portrayal of war, and glorifies the Hezbollah fighters without mentioning the rest of the Lebanese population. The museum also ignores the Hezbollah attacks that caused the occupation in the first place.
Nevertheless, the museum seems to be very successful and claims to have had more than 300,000 visitors in its first three months. Plans to expand the museum are underway, and include a cable car, a swimming pool and a hotel.
Know Before You Go
Mlita, Muhafazat an-Nabatiya, Lebanon