Golan settlers are unconcerned by latest Syrian peace overtures.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
Very few signs along the border indicate
that it separates two belligerent countries.
Military presence is limited by the 1974 dis-
engagement agreement. A few signs warn
passers-by to "Beware of mines," referring to
explosives buried long ago. The white cars
of the U.N. force are the only automobiles
to pass the border crossing.
Kibbutz Merom Golan, Israel
he latest hit in movie theaters across
Israel is called The Syrian Bride. The
award-winning Israeli feature tells the
story of a young Druse woman in the Golan
Heights who is engaged to marry a Druse man
on the Syrian side of the border. Once she
No 1973 Repeat
crosses the border, she knows she will no
In sharp contrast to the signals emanating
longer be able to return to Israel.
from Damascus, Israel Defense Forces'
Lately, Syrian President Bashar Assad has
reserve troops took part in a drill last week
resembled the Syrian bride. Like her, Assad
a Syrian invasion, similar to the
wants to return to Israel — at least figuratively
Israel by surprise in 1973.
— for peace talks. But for the time being, the
years we have been train-
border is closed, with Prime Minister Ariel
of a deterioration,"
Sharon insisting that Assad expel terrorist
groups from Damascus before engaging in a
peace tango with his desired "bride."
On a clear day at Kibbutz Merom Golan,
you can see the beautiful mountainous land-
Thaer Abu-Saleh, an international relations
scape, a combination of dark volcanic rocks,
insistence on retaining Israeli land it took by force
in the Druse village of Majdal Shams,
wide green fields running between them, and the
after Israel's 1948 War of Independence.
that as far as Syria is concerned,
snow-capped Mt. Hermon on the border between
Jews are not alone in the Golan settlement drive —
Israel and Syria. Though Israel and Syria officially are
some Syrians are doing it, too. One plan on the Syrian
war. Syria wants to
in a state of war, over the last three decades this border
agenda is a resettlement of Kuneitra, which once had
has remained Israel's quietest.
40,000 residents. Presently Kuneitra is a ghost town,
Last week, Shifra Michaelowitz of Ramat Gan took
lying in ruins as a persistent Syrian protest against
up residence in her new home in Merom Golan, along Israel's presence on the Golan.
with her husband, Eli Shabo, and their two children.
From the roof of a former Syrian officers' hotel
The 1,600-square-foot, four-bedroom house is one of
located on the Israeli side of the border, one can easily
in Iraq to the east, the unfriendly Hashemite
100 villas being built in a new neighborhood adjacent
see the Kuneitra ruins, among them a deserted
Kingdom of Jordan to the south and Israel to the west.
to the veteran kibbutz, in the midst of a grove of
mosque and government buildings.
"Syria is trying to break the blockade by improving
majestic oak trees.
Maj. Stefan May, military public information officer
relations with Turkey, Jordan and the U.S.," he said.
of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force,
However, Abu-Saleh ruled out the possibility that
said that so far he had seen no signs of construction
Assad would give in to Israeli demands and expel
Michaelowitz and Shabo, who have invested $150,000 work in Kuneitra. However, he said, the highway from Palestinian terrorist groups from Damascus.
Damascus to Kuneitra has been expanded from two to
in their new home, are not alone in their desire to
He suggested another way out: After the visit last
four lanes, and there is considerable construction
plant roots in the area. Over the last three years, some
week to Damascus by PLO Chairman Mahmoud
going on in the towns and villages east of Kuneitra.
650 Israeli families moved into 19 Golan settlements,
Abbas, the Palestinian organizations could be incorpo-
"We are under the impression that the Syrians have
an increase of 400 percent, according to the Regional
rated into one Palestinian office in the Syrian capital.
rediscovered the Golan," he said.
Council of the Golan.
So far, there is no sense of urgency among the
In recent months, former residents of the town were
Michaelowitz is unimpressed by the latest peace
16,000 Israelis living in the Golan. In fact, 1,300 fam-
asked to submit official applications to rebuild their
overtures from Damascus — which, if they lead to a
ilies are now on the regional council's waiting list to
homes. Brothers Salah and Fuad Shams of the Israeli
peace agreement, would probably mean she would
build homes in the Golan.
Druse village of Bukata submitted their reconstruction
have to give up her dream home. "Of course we want
"Many among us are ready to give up territories in
to Damascus via the Red Cross.
peace," Michaelowitz said. But how many govern-
exchange for peace," Shabo said. "But look, Rabin,
The two make a good living from their apple ware-
ments have changed, how many times have they
Netanyahu and Barak were each ready to return terri-
in the village of Mas'adeh. Golan apple growers
almost signed peace, and nothing came out of it? You
tories in exchange for peace, and nothing happened. I
supply up to 40 percent of Israel's apples and are try-
cannot just sit and wait until someone makes a deci-
can count on the Syrians that nothing will happen this
ing to overcome Israeli bureaucracy and political hur-
time as well."
dles to export their apples to Syria.
Israel took the Golan from Syria in the 1967 Six-
The only view from Michaelowitz and Shabo's new
Despite their economic well-being, the Shams
Day War and returned some of it, including the ruins
house in Merom Golan is one of Mt. Hermon. One
brothers, like most of the 18,000 Golan Druse, identi-
of the town of Kuneitra, as part of the disengagement
cannot see Damascus from the kibbutz, and the
fy with Syria and have very little faith in Israel's readi-
plan after the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Previous Israeli
Golan residents don't want to. Let the Syrian bride
ness to make peace. "We live on the hope for peace,"
prime ministers reportedly agreed to return the entire
build her home in Kuneitra, they say, and let her stay
said Salah Shams, "because sooner or later we shall
Golan to Syria, but such talks broke down over Syria's
return to Syria."