There is little joy in Lebanon these days, even in this Christian hamlet near the Syrian border where some think there is reason for it.
The Christian villages here and in neighboring Menjes fled into Syria during the recent civil war, just ahead of advancing Moslem forces. Most of them now have returned and, helped by a French Catholic relief organization, they are rebuilding their burned and looted homes.
These two villages are frequently cited as examples of normalization after almost two years of bitter civil war. In truth, the people live in a state of fear and uncertainty, surrounded by Moslems. They only returned because, as one put it, anything was better than the misery of life in tents in Syria.
Kfar Noun and Menjes are unusual, because people have come back to their homes. For the great mass of Lebanese, not to mention refugee Palestinians, made homeless by the war, such as goal remains remote.
Assad Rizk, minister of social affairs, estimmates that there are 150,000 displaced Lebanese, many of them people who have fled their homes since the fighting supposedly stopped last November.
Their problem is seen in a vicious circle of flight: The Shia Moslems cannot go back to the Nabaa sector of Beirut because Christian refugees from sacked Damour are living there now.
The Christians cannot go back to Damour because it is occupied by Palestinian refugees from the Tal Zaatar, the camp outside Beirut that was destroyed from the Tal Zaatar, the camp outside Beirut that was destroyed by the Christians last August. The Palestinians cannot go back to Tal Zaatar. It no longer exists.
Here in Kfar Noun, Sgt. Ramzi Selim Elias has been reunited with his wife and eight children. The family fled along with 350 other villagers on March 20, 1976, two days after 11 Christian soldiers were ambushed and killed on their way back to the village.
The killings broke a cease-fire pledge that Elias said the all-Christian village had received from local Moslem leaders. Once the villagers had left, he said, the Moslems moved in, looting and burning.
"Now we have no contact with them," the sergant said, referring to his Moslem neighbors.
The story was much the same in Menjes, where the church and the school were sacked along with the houses. The burning was done by Moslems from the nearby village Fraidis, according to farmer Melik Khoury, but Khoury said he did not blame the Moslems.
"They were instigated by others," he said.
"If the Palestinians leave, we will have peace," Khoury said.
Sgt. Ellias predicted "a lot of killing" if the Syrian troops enforcing the peace here to pull out.
Hardly a family in Lebanon has not been hit by the civil war, and the bitterness runs deep. Michel Amukar, a constsruction man who lost his American-educated son, said that Lebanon "will never go back to what it used to be."
"I will never shake hands with a Moslem again," he said.
He is probably not an exception. In the mountainous district of the Chorf, a curious armed peace between Christians and the warlike Druze seet held throughout the fighting. It was rudely shattered March 15, when Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt was assassinated.
There has never been any evidence that Christians had anything to do with it. There is some evidence that Druze killers hired by a foreign agent were responsible. Nonetheless, the mountain Druze went on a rampage, killing 136 Christians, most of them women, children and old men, according to George Dib, the mayor of Deir Kamar, the largest Christian village in the region.
The result was a mass flight of Christians from villages in the Chouf. Dib said that about 3,000 have fled, leaving villages like Barouh and Mazraat Chouf completely deserted.
"The Christians want vengeace," said Dib, who is mild-mannered and believed in watchful coexistence. "They did not kill Jumblatt, and if there is no justice, they will take personal justice."
The Christians claim to know the names of at least 100 Druze who participated in the killings. They are marked men, scheduled for elimination once the Syrians leave. Two of them have already been killed.
"We have not reached the stage where people return," he added.
A gloomy picture, but there are signs of hope. One is in the coastal village of Jiyeh, not far from the ruined, squatter-crowded town of Damour and the place where Jonah was supposedly disgorged by the whale.
Jiyeh was 70 per cent Maronite Christian. Some of the Christians fled, but most remained and were protected by the Shia Moslems who live side by side with them.
One of the Moslems was Hamzi Hajj, who with his brothers sheltered 70 of their Christian neighbors when things got rough. When a Palestinian guerrilla tried to get to the Christians, Hamzi barred the door. "We are all Christians here," he told the Palestinian.
Now, Hamzi's brother, Mustapha, a former police commissioner temporarily out of work after clashing with his Christian superior, is building a six-story, 70-bed hospital in Jiyeh. A third brother, Ahl, 70, is up on the roof under the burning sun laying concrete blocks for the top floor.
Mustapha donated the land.Construction is being done with voluntary labor and supplies from Christians and Moslems.
Mustapha's attitude toward communal violence in a country that lives by violence is simple and refreshing.
"If God wants me to kill you because you are a Christian, then I don't want this God," he says.