Under a yellow-and-white striped canopy, with only water to sustain them and a cordless telephone to keep in touch, three wives of Arab ambassadors and five other Arab women are conducting a fast. They are in Lafayette Square to protest Israel's intermittent blockade of fuel, food, electricity and water to west Beirut.
It is not, however, a fast to death. "It's not your everyday hunger strike, in that we are not going to commit suicide," said Nouha Alhegelan, wife of the Saudi Arabian Ambassador.
Rather, it is a fast "to show our solidarity with the people of Beirut."
To make sure the Israelis are serious when they lift the blockade, which has been imposed off-and-on since they encircled west Beirut, the women are going to fast for 48 hours after they receive word the essential supplies are getting through, said Hala Maksoud, wife of the Arab League's representative in Washington.
Since "a messenger from an Arab embassy came at noon" with word that the blockade was lifted, the women will be fasting at least until midday Saturday, she said.
The fasters, who also include Hazar Jouejati, wife of Syria's ambassador to the U.S., are members of the Arab Women's Council, a group formed after Israel's invasion of Lebanon in order to present an Arab viewpoint on the conflict.
Alhegelan said they chose to make this protest "because we have exhausted all words. The war goes on and somehow the people of Beirut seem to be total victims in that war."
The women began fasting Wedesday morning and stayed in the park throughout the night.