A man with no known enemies was buried with benefit of clergy but without a casket today, yet another of Lebanon's thousands of victims sacrificed to this tormented land's gods of violence over the past seven years.
As far as could be told, the death of Karim Majdalani was not directly connected to the current war Israel is waging against the Palestinian guerrillas in West Beirut.
Majdalani, a friend of this correspondent, was an amiable man in his mid-thirties, surrounded with other friends from among Lebanon's mosaic of sects and communities and Beirut's once-thriving foreign colony.
Son of a prominent Greek Orthodox family, Majdalani had dined in one of West Beirut's few remaining restaurants with friends. The survivors said later that they had all ridden to the seafront to pick up a third car. On their way back, a black BMW fishtailed in ahead of Majdalani's car, which was in the lead, and halted. Two men jumped out, ran up to his car, fired and killed Majdalani and a woman friend of the family who happened to be sitting next to him.
Their friends rushed them to the American University of Beirut's hospital where they were pronounced dead on arrival.
Majdalani owned a thriving mineral water bottling company and a once-chic restaurant in West Beirut's elegant Raouche seafront neighborhood. In recent weeks, Israeli gunboats have reduced the neighborhood--and the building that houses both the restaurant and Majdalani's apartment--to a much damaged hulk.
Telephones do not work very well these days--not that they have at any time in recent years--yet by word of mouth the news got around. Disbelieving friends insisted on going to the morgue to make sure.
They, and others, then trooped down to the modest Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption, a few blocks away in the heart of once sophisticated West Beirut.
Uniformed civil defense workers arrived in an ambulance. The bodies were carried in on stretchers. There was no time to find a casket, no room in the hospital's rapidly filling morgue and, in the heat of a sweltering Mediterranean summer, the families decided to bury them quickly.
Two Greek Orthodox priests presided over the ceremony in Arabic. A hundred or so of Majdalani's friends were present--women in designer jeans and Cardin blouses, men in suits, men in sports shirts, Moslems, Christians, members of Lebanon's all but extinct Jewish community.
The church sexton shooed away the little boys curious about the arrival of the ambulance and so many elegant grownups. The ceremony was brief--17 minutes--and five minutes later the bodies were buried in the adjacent cemetery under tall cypresses and pine trees.
Majdalani was not the first Beirut resident to be killed in such fashion. But in most other cases some motive, however tenuous, has been established. He was not actively involved in politics.
His friends could come up with no explanation for his murder. Asked if he had taken any political action over the past month, the only thing they could think of was a decision to stop distributing his water in East Beirut because the Israeli blockade had made it impossible to distribute it in West Beirut.
His wife, Soha, dispatched recently to the safety of nearby mountains with their young son, was unable to attend the funeral. The Israelis manning the museum crossing point into West Beirut happened to be stopping even pedestrians from entering West Beirut this morning.