"Their explanation of why they're doing it is consistent with their other work: as they would say, serving the poor. Now people who can't afford the regular high-class Lebanese resort will have a place where they can relax."
Mleeta ceased to be operational as a military base after Israeli troops withdrew from Lebanon in 2000. The leftover bunker, a reinforced tunnel buried under nearly 250 feet of rock and soil, is now part of the museum tour. Inside, vistors are shown scenes from a Hezbollah life – canned food, camouflage jackets, radios and an older-model computer. On the walls are portraits of Hezbollah leaders and Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, and one poster showing Islam's defeat of Zionism - the Dome of the Rock crushing a Star of David.
The portrait Hezbollah puts on display is a retrospective on methods and military gear from 1985 through 2006. Today, Hezbollah's arsenal is believed to be more sophisticated, with much more firepower. This month, on the fourth anniversary of the war in the summer of 2006, Israel released some of its intelligence on Hezbollah's military assets. The presentation described a stockpile of 40,000 rockets, including long-range missiles capable of targeting Tel Aviv. Israeli officials said many of the missiles are being stored in residential areas, using villagers for human shields.
As a rule, Hezbollah does not reveal what weapons it has or where they're stored. Earlier this year it neither confirmed nor denied allegations it was receiving scud missiles from Syria. But amid the escalating rhetoric of the past few months, Hezbollah leader Sayed Hassan Nasrallah warned of an attack on Tel Aviv Airport, if Israel were to strike the airport in Beirut.
In that climate of traded threats and ready violence, visitors come to Mleeta knowing another war is a possiblity. They leave with a sense of how much Hezbollah and its supporters are willing to sacrifice in the fight. Many of the museum workers, including our tour guide, live in the nearby towns, in homes that might neighbor a set of katyushas rockets.
Rami says that his compatriots often think of a future war, but see the risk to their towns and homes through the prism of martyrdom. Collateral damage doesn't worry them, because they have been reassured by the backing and resources of Hezbollah.
As for the museum itself Rami says, "if it is ever destroyed by the Israelis, we will just build again."