Friday, March 5, 2010
as you might remember, we went north last weekend, to a small, quiet and luxurious little place. just D and i. we drove through the galilee (with that amazing rainbow). the weather was ever changing: dark, dramatic and heavy clouds would roll over the sky, and we were in the high land surrounded by foggy mist floating between the trees, making everything look like a fairytale and smell like a forest dream.and then, the next moment, the sun would shine on a blue sky making the grass and the trees sparkle from all the drops of water hiding on the leaves and clinging to the grass.
we also went for a drive in the golan heights, this beautiful piece of land that is the main reason why syria and israel is still in a state of war. syria wants it back, israel won't give it up. partly because it would provide a strategic spot to syria to launch attacks far into israel, partly because it would mean giving up a great part of the access to the jordan river as well as the eastern cost of the galilee sea (which is the major source of the drinking water in israel). and then it is, of course, also historical land, and very rich, good for farming.
obviously syria wants the land back for the same reasons: military strategy, access to drinking water, and because it was their land until israel occupied it after the six day war back in 1967. i guess they have a point, since the united nations, the united states, the eu, the uk, the arab league, the red cross, amnesti international and human rights watch, basically the entire international community, still consider the golan heights to be syrian territorie occupied by israel. but i still don't see it going back to them anytime soon. not with the cold-as-ice silence and mistrust between these two countries.
at first sight you don't really notice this state of war as you drive through the golan heights, but don't be fooled, it's ever present. along the side of most roads runs a fence with little yellow signs telling you to stay out, because just under the green grass, the wild flowers and the small trees, the dirt hides landmines that were put there during the war. cattle is herding on these hills, though, and every now and then one will make a landmine explode. and sometimes it happens to the people: only a few weeks ago a boy lost his foot when he stepped on a landmine. the government and the army say they don't have resources to remove the landmines, but obviously, if the land wasn't still a source of (even if it is only silent) aggression between israel and syria, they'd do it. they are most likely left there, just in case the syrians will make a military claim to have the heights returned.
but an exploding landmine now and then is not the only sound of the unpeace of the golan heights. if you go to the shouting hill, you can sometimes hear the human side of the sadness that will evidently be when a piece of land is separated suddenly and aggressively. because no matter who's side you're on, that was what happened. in fact it happened so fast, that the druze families (the people that lived and still live in the golan heights), who's members once were only divided by those few kilometers that stretched between their villages, could suddenly no longer visit each other. ever. parents could no longer visit their sons and daughters, grand parents not see their newborn grandchildren, brothers and sisters not attend each other's weddings, funerals or any other event where family is what matters the most.
till this day there is no mail services between the two countries and no official phone communication, though emails and mobile phones have made it somewhat easier to remain in contact. but back in the days these families would go to an area that would come be known as the shouting hill of the golan heights and let each other know about a birth, a death, a wedding, anything that they wanted to share with their relatives, just over the hill, but a world away. it still happens that family members shout happy or sad announcements to each other, using binoculars to make it as close to a face-to-face meeting as this long lasting state of war will allow them.
so, the dramatic, dark clouds seem fit for this place. a reminder of the dark side to this beautiful place. and as much as i appreciate the beauty of the golan heights and like to go there (because there are landmine free, amazing areas too), i was happy to "come down" to the galilee, the israel that we all agree on is israel (ok, not everyone, but at least the international community agrees on it).
even the sun came back for good, the clouds were happier.
here's to a happy weekend.