Bridget Palmer | Syria Blogger United States
May 23rd, 2007

Re: ‘Syria's Occupied Golan Heights

The Golan means a lot of things to a lot of people, but here’s what it means to me.

First, it’s the home of Majdal Shams, where separated family members talk to each other across the Israeli/Syrian divide by megaphones. If my own husband hadn’t witnessed this and shown me pictures of it, I donā??t think I would be able to bring myself to believe such an absurd event really took place.

Next, the Golan is the lovely view afforded from the ruins of Omm Qais, Jordan. Ostensibly, I go there to catch a glimpse of the Sea of Galilee, even half-obscured by haze. But each time I’m there, I find my eyes drawn just as often toward the imposing Golan hills, dotted with watchtowers. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been to Omm Qais four times and plan on going again soon.

Then there’s Quneitra. My husband and I jumped through multiple hoops of Syrian and UN bureaucracy just to get a permit to go there, then suffered the presence of a non-English-speaking “interpreter” during our entire visit. That February day at the bulldozed city was freezing cold, intensified by a bitter, unrelenting wind. I was nauseated with early pregnancy and desperately in need of a bathroom. It was obvious that I wasn’t the only one: it seemed that almost every crumbling corner of the shot-up hospital had been used for that purpose.

Perhaps these factors colored my visit, because in my memories of that day, Quneitra remains a cold, bitter, forsaken place, full of Syrian propaganda that left a bad taste in my mouth, and evidence of Israeli destruction that left an even worse one.

Finally, there are the apples. Near the end of our year in Syria, the government allowed a few truckloads of Golan apples to come through to the markets. I didn’t eat an apple any day after that without wondering where it had come from.

So after forty years of Israeli occupation, annexation, acquisition, or whatever you want to call it, that’s all the Golan can mean for me: a megaphone, a view, a derelict hospital, and a few apples.

The Golan means a lot of things to a lot of people: the church their parents were married in, the town where they earned their livelihood, the home they wish they could go back to.

What does the Golan mean to you?

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3 Responses to the Article

Alex Says:

Dear Israeli visitors,
I would like to hear from those of you who do not want to return the full Golan to Syria (keeping a small part of the Golan in Israel’s hands) what that part means to you in comparison to opening up the doors of the Arab world to Israelis.

Francesco Says:

Alex, probably I’m not entitled to answer your question since I’m not an Israeli, but the presence of the Baniyas (with all the benefits that controlling an upstream area involves) and part of the Jordan river could be a good reason….

Alex Says:


Since no Israeli wants to answer the question, I’ll accept your answer : )

If water is the only issue, the near future will bring us affordable water desalination technology that will make the unlimited sea water a good backup to the Golan’s water if Israel is worried about it.

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