The young Norwegian soldiers on U.N. peacekeeping duty like to show the graveyard where skeletons in their Sunday best lie strewn helter-skelter on the ground, where the blast from an Israeli air raid almost three years ago dumped them when the family vaults flew open.
There's no need to linger there, for the entire town is a cemetery, one of more than a dozen Lebanese villages that have come to feel the destructive of the vast firepower being used in the forgotten war of Lebanon.
Once a prosperous Christian village of 3,000 residents renowned for its pottery and olives, Rashaya learned the hard way the cost of sheltering Palestinian guerrillas.
Although the remaining hundred or so residents do not like recalling the reasons why they were singled out for punishment, there is still a telltale, hand-painted sign on the collapsed wall of a house saying "PFLP-GC." The letters stand for "Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command," a small but violent guerrilla faction headed by a former Syrian Army officer.
The village, nestled in the foothills leading to snowcapped Mt. Hermon, first felt Israeli punishment in 1970 when the guerrillas set up shop in and around Rashaya, which dominates the Huleh Valley of northern Galilee in Israel directly to the south. An Israeli incursion blew up four houses the first time.
Another Israeli raid blew up many more houses two years later, but it was not until the 1978 Israeli invasion that the town was flattened as if some angry Old Testament patriarch had taken a giant hammer to each of its stone dwellings.
The mukhtar, or village headman, who has run the town for 32 years, interrupts loading his donkey with leaves and twigs and invites his visitors into his damaged living room for coffee and cigarettes.
Slapping Norwegian Maj. Erik Eggum, the local company commander, on the thigh, the mukhtar says, "He is our government," and then laughs. "The Norwegian soldiers are our government."
The mukhtar muses about the Lebanese state that was too weak to prevent the Palestinians from moving in and now fobids him to go to nearby Marjayoun, the capital of the Lebanese Christian enclave controlled by Israeli-supported Maj. Saad Haddad.
From time to time he has traveled with other southern mukhtars to Sidon on the Mediterranean to plead with the government to pave the roads, reinstall electricity and telephones, provide a schoolteacher or help rebuild the village houses.
He says he has not seen a single civil servant since 1978. "No, I am wrong," he corrects himself. "Two gendarmes came by saying they were showing the flag for the Lebanese republic. I laughed, but not to their faces, just in my heart."
BRASHIT -- The attachers, Haddad's people or Israelis, struck, as usual, late at night on Dec. 17 at Brashit, one of six villages hit within an hour in a wide arc along the U.N. area of operations.
Simultaneously a house on the outskirts was blown up and the attack began on a second dwelling less than 60 feet from the Irish Army post. The post was pinned down by fire.
One attacker fired a rocket grenade through the second house's back window, stampeding all but one of the occupants out the front door.
There, another assailant killed three of them and wounded three more. Before withdrawing under cover of a smoke shell fired to nullify the Irish troops' flares, the attachers left behind two satchel charges with 2 1/2-minute fuses to discourage the inquisitive.
Within minutes the sky was ablaze with small arms fire. The villagers all have automatic weapons and their nervous firing was meant in self-defense.
The wild firing delayed the arrival of Irish reinforcements, leading to complaints that the Irish purposely had allowed one of the victims, the son of the mukhtarn to bleed to death.
The other two deaths almost certainly were intended: the local leader of the pro-Iraqi Baath Party and a colleague in the Lebanese Communist Party. But the mukhtar's boy had just returned from Africa, where many of the Shiite Moslem villagers work, and was about to leave for another job in Saudi Arabia.
What was it all about?
According to the Mukhtar's older son, Mohammed, who lives in Detroit, Haddad, the leader of the Christian Lebanese militia that controls the area, had told his father "to get the Irish out" and his father had protested that he could not control the Irish U. N. forces.
"In any case, the whole town has fled, gone perhaps for good," the mukhtar said.
A schoolteacher said that 30 families or about 200 people had fled. Many of the young men no longer slept in the village. It was too dangerous, but perhaps with time, they, too, would return.
BOURJ ASH SHEMALI -- Just after the Iranian revolution, the man sitting in the chair, a Stanford graduate in high energy physics, had briefly become the new Iranian government's defense minister.
Now teaching at the shell-damaged Shiite Moslem vocational school here above Tyre, Mustafa Ali Chamran showed little of his charm or multilingual erudition. But, in his street-wise way, he had the south summed up.
"In the south there is Haddad, there is Israel, there is UNIFIL [the U.N. peacekeeping force] and there is Chicago," he said, summoning the image of 1920s gangland violence.
"You are in Chicago. There are a hundred governements here -- from Jordon, Libya, Iraq, Syria plus all their friends and groups inside the Palestinian movement plus all the Lebanese parties.
"The temperature of Lebanon depends on outside events. Jordon hits Syria, Syria hits Iraq, Iraq hits us. Why? Because there is no authority."
TYRE -- A Symphathizer of Amal, the Shiite nationalist movement that has trouble with the Lebanese leftists and the PLO because it cooperates with the U.N. forces, describes life in gangland.
"Everyone spies on everyone else in Tyre," he said, speaking of the now seedy port where two ships sunk years ago by Israeli fire lie rusting offshore. "Something happens here and within 20 minutes it's on Haddad's radio -- even small trouble."
Tyre is PLO turf. "They make people afraid. They kick you every three days, they cool it, then they kick you again. TNT bombs near stores -- just to let you know who's in power."
A half hour earlier, he said, he had helped defuse an argument between two gunmen over a 17-year-old schoolgirl. One gunslinger worked for Fatah, the major PLO faction, the other for the Iraqi Baath Party.
The man watched the cars go by, driven by young men with young women sitting next to them. "The top thugs in each party, just waiting to nail each other," he said, "and the police stay indoors."
NABATIYAH -- The Antonine sisters' school stays open, in the words of one of the nuns, " to prove that not all Maronite [Christians] are fanatics."
That has an oddly dated ring about it because the conflict has changed since 1975-1976 when religion was a major factor in the Lebanese civil war.
The school is about the only continuously functioning institution left in this battered town that once boasted 40,000 inhabitants.
Before the war the school had 1,300 students, including 200 boarders, and 20 percent were Christians. Now Nabatiyah has become almost totally Shiite Moslem. So has the school. The rich and the not-so-rich have left. The surrounding fields, once planted in tobacco, lie untilled.
There may be a return to normalcy of a sort: the student body has increased from a low of 220 to 630.
The children, a nun said, "are very talented, but not very joyful. They've lost the gaiety of being children. It shows in their drawings: bombs, rockets, anything that is about to explode. Or mother cowering behind a refrigerator or under a chair. Or a sky full of warplanes, Israeli warplanes."
MARJAYOUN -- Seven miles southeast in the very different world of Marjayoun, the equally deserted capital of what Haddad has proclaimed as "Free Lebanon," the few residents scurry around. School is closed.
The Israeli Army officer, without whose permission and constant presence no visits are possible, is nervous.
"We are in south Lebanon, not Israel," a resident says. "We do not want to be part of Israel."
Another says, "Get your escort to take you up to Khiam and see what they have done -- completely destroyed and now they're using it for training. Go up and see what a deserted Lebanese village looks like, sir."
Outside in the street a man, speaking of Haddad's forces, says, "I ask them why they shell our schools in Nabatiyah. They answer me by asking what the Palestinians are doing in Nabatiyah. They tell me my friends should leave Nabatiyah and come here."
To do so these requires a circuitous trip across the mountains and down the Bekaa Valley, through Syrian, then Palestinian and leftist Lebanese, then U.N. and finally Haddad's lines. Many Christians prefer to travel in and out of the enclave via Israel although a regular taxi service functions for Lebanese passing to and from the north.