The Safe Side of the Road
Exploring the Many Cultures of the Golan By Robin Silver-Zwiren
More Red Alert Sirens went off. The Syrians are making life for the Druze difficult, but on the Israeli side of the border, their cousins prosper. Driving up to Majdal Shams in the daytime is quite different from driving in the evening with clouds of enemy fire overhead. We drove the winding roads, bypassing villages and towns. We saw lush landscape, vineyards and animals grazing. We witnessed how peoples of other faiths can live together in peace. Druze are not Muslims but more a Unitarian Movement. They are monotheistic, against polygamy and divorce and loyal to the country in which they live. That also means that many serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. Last November Druze Sgt. Major Zidan Seif was killed during a terrorist attack at a Har Nof synagogue. Unfortunately, he was not the first, and will likely not be the last, to die protecting Israel.
— something they would no longer have living under Sharia Law.
In places like Syria the Druze are called heretics, which is why fundamentalist groups like ISIS want them exterminated. When the wars were fought in Israel, the Druze populations crossed over the Mt. Hermon area and settled in Syria. Decades later, they are trying to cross back into where they are safer. Living in Israel, Druze women have the rights of their home country and their religion
In the sprawling center of Majdal Shams is an impressive statue. It actually commemorates the Druze uprising against French colonization in the 1920s. Sultan al-Atrash is depicted with a sword in his hands. He would probably be very pleased to see the land and people prospering in the region.
Driving through friendly villages, we were not harassed, and, of course, I needed to stop to photograph the sights. I was amazed by the villas sprouting up against ancient buildings no longer used. Shopping malls and restaurants were spotted. There were families out for a Sunday stroll, as well as teenage boys playing together in a park. We stopped by a roadside stand to buy some of the most delicious cherries ever. During the shmittah year, it is not as easy to get such fresh fruit, but as the Druze in the area own their own land, we were thrilled to fill our bags. The vendor filled our hands with samples that we were excited to taste. The elderly couple sitting on the deck above the highway stand nodded when I said hello — salaam. If only life could only be so peaceful.
Majdal Shams and Kiryat Shemona
have much in common, being border towns in countries with so much unrest. Yet Israel grows and prospers while across the borders, the soil is not rich, the trees are not growing and villages are not protected by horrific occupying forces. Only in Israel can all religions live and work side by side. It is so unfortunate that there are those who call Israel the terrorists, the occupiers, because the lands of Judah and Israel were in our hands long before. Nimrod’s Castle and Fortress was built by Al-Aziz Utham, a Muslim, who wanted to protect his territory from the Crusaders. Wars and an earthquake caused much damage to the impressive structure that is now looked after by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. This castle is actually seen in the movie “Beaufort,” because that particular castle, on which the book and movie are based, is in Southern Lebanon. As someone who spent time in Israel during the 1982 Lebanon War, this particular story is extremely meaningful. Banias is an ancient site in Caesarea Phillipi and is actually a source to the River Jordan. A shrine to the Greek god, Pan, was discovered at the site. During the Hellenistic Period, a battle was fought in the area as early as 200 Kosher oc Magazine // August 2015