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 Post subject: Meet the Young Arabs Who Want to Be Israeli Citizens…
PostPosted: Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:33 pm 
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Meet the Young Arabs Who Want to Be Israeli Citizens… Again

Long loyal to the Assad regime, some Druze in Israel's Golan Heights are
changing their tune
~Author: Assaf Uni
Posted: 10/14/14 11:09 EDT
http://www.vocativ.com/world/israel-wor ... /?page=all

MAJDAL SHAMS, ISRAEL—It’s close to midnight and the bars and restaurants are
packed with young men and women. Cars crowd the busy streets and kiosk
vendors hustle Heinekens as electronic music floats out into the night.

This may sound like downtown Tel Aviv, but it’s actually a remote mountain
village in the Golan Heights, located just a few miles from the Syrian
border. And most of the revelers are Druze, a Muslim minority group commonly
found in Lebanon, Syria and northern Israel.

“I want to have a nice life, to study and have a good time with my friends,”
says Raami, a young man sitting at a bar along the town’s main strip. “What
do I care about Shiites and Sunnis, about Sharia law and holy war?”

Raami’s feelings are increasingly common here. But like many in town, he
doesn’t want to disclose his full name; his relatives, in both Israel and in
Syria, wouldn’t approve of what he’s saying. “There is Syria, and here is
Israel,” he continues, “and between us there’s a border.”

Culturally speaking, that border is changing. As the Syrian civil war pushes
into its fourth year, a growing number of young Druze in the Golan are now
privately saying they want to be part of Israel, not Syria.

It wasn’t always the case. Until the 1967 war, when Israel gained control of
the Golan Heights, the area’s Druze, which now number around 30,000, were
Syrian citizens, and most longed for their land to be returned to their home
country, where many still had family. In a number of public ceremonies
during the 1980s, village residents burned their Israeli ID cards and
passports, a symbolic way of refusing Israeli citizenship, which the state
offered them after officially annexing the area in 1981. Until a few years
ago, Syrian flags fluttered above buildings and across the ceramic balconies
here in town. And most Druze in the Golan continued to pledge their loyalty
to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Israeli government would likely welcome the change among the Druze in
the Golan. Indeed, their loyalty to Assad has made them an anomaly among
Israel’s roughly 100,000 Druze, most of whom are citizens and serve in the
Israeli army.

A secretive offshoot of Shiite Islam, the Druze have survived in present-day
Lebanon, Syria and Israel for hundreds of years, mainly through strategic
alliances, despite the region’s reputation for religious intolerance. One of
the reasons the Golan Druze is loyal to Assad: His government offers a free
college education. Thanks to this largesse, villages such as Madjal Shams
have some of the highest per capita rates of people with college degrees in

Despite the tension between the Syrian and Israeli governments, the area has
remained peaceful. “There is no violence here,” says Dr. Wajdi Safadi, a
local surgeon, pointing to the young men and women drinking and chatting at
bars along the main strip. “There is no other place like this in the Middle

For young Druze in Majdal Shams, however, the war against Assad has been a
wake-up call for what could happen to their community if they continue to
lean toward Syria. “It’s an event which totally transformed the reality of
this community,” says an older resident who was also present at the bar. “If
you ask an elder in this village, he will say, ‘I am Syrian.’ If you ask a
teenager, he will say, ‘I am Druze.’ Some will say they are citizens of the

Over the past two years, as the death toll has mounted in Syria and some of
the regime’s most brutal tactics have come to light, many young Druze in the
Golan have lost faith in what their parents told them about the Assad
government. Raami and his friends, for example, have seen the effects of war
firsthand. Some of them studied in Damascus until last December as part of
the Syrian government’s free college program. “We were there when the war
started and two years into it. First it was far away. Then a group of men
with guns and machetes robbed us while we were sitting in a viewpoint
overlooking the old city,” Raami says.

His friend imitates the slow movement of a blade across his throat. “It was
a real shock for us,” he says. “After that, we came back to Israel.”

Now both study at Tel Aviv University, which is a welcome change in many
ways. “It’s quite different,” they say with a smile. “Tel Aviv is much more
fun, but we felt richer in Damascus.”

Nevertheless, tension remains. Some young Druze can’t vocalize their desire
to accept Israeli citizenship, fearing it would upset their families
tremendously. “It depends on which family you come from,” says Firas, a
young Druze, as he takes a swig of beer. “If your father is a strong Assad
supporter, it is hard to go against him.”

Another young man at the bar agreed. “I tried to explain to my father that
it’s OK for us to get IDs, that it would make our life easier with work or
traveling abroad,” he says. “I even showed him paragraphs from international
law stating that an occupied people are entitled to these documents and do
not risk their future status. He wouldn’t listen. They are very stubborn,
the older generation. I told him sarcastically, ‘Thanks, Dad, for securing
my future.’”

But as the war in Syria worsens and new ideas continue to take hold, few
here see much benefit in siding with Assad or associating themselves with
the Syrian government, whether it stands or falls. “The whole village is
waiting for someone to break the taboo,” Firas says. “I would say it’s just
a matter of time before we all have blue [Israeli] IDs.”
  
IMRA - Independent Media Review and Analysis

JUDEA, SAMARIA & the GOLAN are clear and unquestionably JEWISH!

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