Residents of the Golan Heights awoke Sunday to the serenity of one of Israel’s most isolated regions, but also to the uncertainty of fighting that has inched closer to Jewish communities adjacent to the Syrian border.
For more than two years, residents of towns such as Alonei Habashan, Merom Golan and other Jewish towns on the Heights have become accustomed to the sounds of artillery and tank fire emanating from the eastern side of the border fence. The booms have been so common that even small children can readily identify the sounds made by a variety of heavy weaponry.
Until now, Golan residents have successfully detached from the sounds of Syria’s civil war, secure in the knowledge that with rebel groups trying to topple the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad, and with Assad himself fighting for his life, the fighting was unlikely to spill over into Israel.
Today, however, amidst reports that radical Islamic groups have seized territory adjacent to the Syrian side of the border, including the Qunetra border crossing, residents of the area say they have suddenly woken up to a new reality. But with faith in the IDF and a deep connection to the Golan region, residents say they have no intention of leaving their homes. “We are ready, from the point of view of bomb shelters, security areas and a community security detail,” said Yaron Dekel, a resident of Moshav Alonei Habashan, located just 500 meters from the border fence. “We all served in the army, in combat units,and we all know how to defend ourselves if need be. There’s an IDF outpost on the hilltop right next door, and will ensure that the fighting in Syria does not spill over into Israel.”
Speaking to the Hebrew-language 0404 website, Dekel and his wife, Yiscah, admitted that the new reality has brought with it a significant dose of nerves.
“Our warning time (in the event of a missile attack) is zero,” Yiscah said Sunday. “As soon as we hear a Code Red siren, it means a missile has already landed on the moshav. There is no time for us to take cover.”
The Dekels added that several children in the community have been treated for shock – happily and sadly, they said their homes have not been battered with missiles the way residents of the south have, meaning children here are far more likely to react badly to army fire and to warning sirens.
Still, Yiscah Dekel said that with nearly all residents of the yishuv having served in the army, and with many of the community’s men having served in combat roles during Operation Protective Edge, residents here maintain a strong sense of faith in the IDF.
“Every Friday we go up to bring food to the soldiers at the outpost right next door,” she says. “At the end of the day, we know they will protect us.”