News / Middle East

Israeli Druze Keep An Eye Across Fence as Syria Upheaval Unfolds

A rally in support of Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad - on the Israeli side of the demilitarized zone
A rally in support of Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad - on the Israeli side of the demilitarized zone

Multimedia

Luis Ramirez

The upheaval in Syria is raising concern among some of the estimated 100,000 Druze who live in Israel. Many consider themselves Syrian, and call for the return of the Golan Heights - a piece of land that Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

In the border town of Majdal Shams, some wonder what the future holds for them if the land ever reverts to Syrian control.

A rally in support of Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad - on the Israeli side of the demilitarized zone.

It is one of several that have been held on the Golan Heights since the start of Syria's uprising.


Supporting Syria's government is important to residents like Ghandi Al-Kahlouni.  He was a young boy when Israel captured this land.  He says he has never stopped being a Syrian. "It is true that we are under Israeli occupation but we are part of the Syrian homeland and what happens in the homeland happens to us," he said.

This land of dramatic scenery has changed hands many times over the centuries.

What is happening across the fence matters to people here because many believe the Golan may eventually return to Syrian control and the government of Damascus may one day be their government again.

Human rights advocate Salman Fakhr El-Deen has been keeping a close eye on events in Syria.  He is among those who believe change is due. "People are demanding a lot of reforms that were deleted for a long time in Syria, which means it's a very urgent case to have a deep reform in the system of economy, politics, the political life," he said.

Relations between Israel and Syria have remained hostile since the 1967 war, but this border has been quiet for more than four decades.

Golan's Druze have benefited from Israeli economic development, social services, and democratic system of government.

Scenes of the violent crackdown across the border are sobering for Fakher El-Deen. He hopes the best will emerge. "It will influence our situation, the results of this move in Syria. We should enjoy it if it's good and we'll have to pay the price if it's bad," he said.

The way Fakhr El-Deen sees it, his own future may be at stake.

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