Saturday, December 5, 2009

Journeying through the Golan

A Druze (religious-identity) sweet-shop owner's statement that "there are no winners in war," rang strongly while driving through the mountainous and fertile Golan Heights. The Druze here in the Golan heights know more than many others about the effects of war, seeing as they lived through one of the harshest battles for territory in modern-history. The Golan Heights was annexed from Syria by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War. Reminance of the tragedies on both sides remain as stark reminders of the casualties of war. Memorials comemmorating the thousands of fallen Israeli soldiers have been erected along the roadside. Dilapidated and bombed out Syrian Mosques, military bases, and homes every few kilometers remind us of the historical civilization that once lived in the region. We walked through the foundation of what once was a beautiful Syrian Mosque, now a bullet-ridden, grafittied structure, with no in-tact determining symbol of a Mosque other than the minaret standing hundreds of feet from the ground.

Black spray paint reading "Kahana Tzadek" ('Kahana was right') around the Golan Heights affirms the presence of the right-wing sentiment that exists amongst many Israelis, possibly a stumbling block towards a peaceful and substainable solution. Meir Kahana was an Israeli extremist whose party, 'Kach', was deemed a terrorist organization and banned by Israel. A large anti-war movement exists in Israel and we look forward to meeting some of the organizers in the near-future. But thus far, we are yet to meet anyone who even most American-Zionists could consider 'moderate'.

Politics is deeply entrenched in this culture, and unlike most American teens, even the most average and apathetic teenagers here feel strongly about the current political situation. Our friend Avi's girlfriend and her friend, near in age, seemed taken back and shocked when we told them our reasoning for visiting their country. It was as if we had struck a nerve, as if we were traitors and joining up with the enemy, as they blurted out the first emotional reaction that came to their head: "Why would you go there?!?" We simply described how we are interested in studying the conflict first-hand. Avi explained that volunteering in the West Bank is just like volunteering anywhere else. We're not going on a political mission; we simply seek to witness the conflict, derive our own conclusions, and help the people in need, just as one would do in other 3rd world countries.

We found them to be quite hypocritical and guilty of their own arguments against Arabs. Saying, "They don't want peace" does not mean much when preceded sarcastically with, "we like Arabs too...we like them in their coffins." This type of racism is so prevalent in many parts of Israeli society, seeing that most Jewish citizens must serve in the Israeli army, enriching their pride and respect for their homeland.

Keeping in mind, we've only spent a few days here, and though trying to talk to as many Israelis as possible, we do not yet have a grasp of the diverse opinions that may exist in Israel. This is simply what we have seen thus far. We hope that in the following weeks we are able to get a better depiction of the nature and opinions of the people of Israel.


  1. Hi Josh and Michael,

    I'm so glad you arrived safely and hope you continue to find both fun and insight during your travels. I look forward to following your experiences on this blog. Best of luck.

    Pat Whitlock (Dooz)

  2. Hi Josh. I love that you're doing this. You wrote that the "Kahana tzadek" grafitti represents a right-wing sentiment "amongst many Israelis." Not really. It just represents a percentage of pinheads. Israeli elections are where you need to look at remember that Kadima and Labor combined represent a huge percentage of the electorate (41 seats). If Shas had gone with Kadima/Labor instead of Likud (as they did with Labor in the past -- 1992 and 1999) Israel woudl have a different government today.

    In fact, recognizing that Israel is a centrist country facing existential problems (which is why it's so afraid to make any hard move to the right or the left after Oslo) it's Netanyahu that's recognized a two-state solution and is privately negotiating with Syria (through Turkey).

    My job is to keep the facts coming and your job is to give me an on-the-ground perspective I don't usually get. I appreciate it.

    -Neil Rubin

  3. I am so proud of both of you for being willing to act on your convictions. I would urge you to keep an open mind and to report on your observations without preconceived biases or agendas. You have the potential to achieve a great deal, and that potential will be maximized if you are perceived as being fair. Keep up the great work!

  4. not to knock the youth or their understanding but like... how much of those emotions and words is teen angst or chest puffin bravado or things to say cuz its "cool"?

    im interested in known how the adults feel.. the voters, the ones who speak for the peace lovers and the aggressors at the ballot.. whats there opinion generally?

    that being said.. whats that jewish proverb/quote..

    “Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
    Watch your words, for they become actions.
    Watch your actions, for they become habits.
    Watch your habits, for they become character.
    Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

    that a jewish quote?

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