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While Beirut burns, skiing and style survive

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THROUGH 12 years of civil war, Michel Edde has refused to tape the arched windows on the side of his home that offer a panoramic view of west Beirut. On three occasions, incoming shells pulverized the glass to lethal shards that knifed through furniture in the living room and bedrooms. Each time, Mr. Edde, a devout Maronite Christian, thanked God that no one was hurt. Then he replaced the panes and furniture and carried on. Tape would have prevented most of the destruction, he acknowledges, but he never considered applying it.

``I will not tape them,'' he says disdainfully. ``It looks ugly.''

Refusing to tape the windows is a curious act of faith for Edde, whose mansion has the misfortune of rising from a wooded hillside only a stone's throw from the Lebanese Defense Ministry. The ministry has often been targeted by warring Lebanese militias, Syrian and Palestinian forces. Edde's stubborn determination to act as though life is normal is typical of those wealthy Christians who have chosen to stay in Lebanon despite the horrors the war has inflicted on them, their families, and their friends.

``The front is everywhere. It is in your home. It is snipers and car bombs and kidnappings.'' Does he despair of its ever ending? ``It is God's will,'' says Edde, a man who says he would like someday to be president. ``It is not our problem.''

The Maronites and other Christians who live on the east side of this divided capital cope by viewing the present and the future with a strange mixture of fatalism and optimism.

``We decided to stay in this country, so we decided not to wait for the situation to settle down and to make the best of life,'' says Raphael Debbane, the wealthy owner of an agricultural products company.

Mr. Debbane spoke in the living room of his chalet, which he built less than a year ago in Faqra, a private ski resort an hour's drive north of Beirut. The chalet is worth several hundred thousand dollars and is impeccably decorated. Debbane, his wife, and three daughters now spend most of their weekends at Faqra, where, this year, the skiing is good.

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