Giulio MeottiThe writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a twice-weekly column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book "A New Shoah", that researched the personal stories of Israel's terror victims, published by Encounter and of "J'Accuse: the Vatican Against Israel" published by Mantua Books.. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary.
Could the rumor ever be true that Prime MInister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were, like Yitzhak Rabin and Moshe Dayan before them, really thinking about giving up the Golan's mountain ridge, which enabled the Israeli army to fend off the surprise offensive of Syrian tanks during the 1973 Yom Kippur War? A land Israel did not "conquer" in 1967 but liberated in a defensive war and to which the Jews have an incomparably greater right than Syria?
Is Israel thinking about turning 20.000 Jewish civilians who live in the Golan into unemployed refugees and destroying 33 communities? Or is Israel so schizophrenic as to leave the Jews at the mercy of "international forces", which like during the Holocaust, certainly won't protect any Jew?
Because Israel would not be able to exist without the Golan, I thought it was right to share with readers what I saw in the Golan when I went there with a friend a couple of years ago.
The higher you climb up in the Galilee, the more palpable the security needs of Israel. Even the large water reservoir named after Eskhol, bearing the name of the former prime minister, is a treasure protected by electrified fence, cameras and armed guards. The terrorists could poison the water.
On the Golan you feel the strategic weakness of Israel physically. If Jerusalem gives these heights to Damascus, the Syrians would be able to look down into Israel. And what if instead of the Assad regime, secular and despotic, an Islamist government with genocidal intentions towards the nearby Jewish State comes to power?
I drove right up to the edges of Quneitra, found myself walking in an old abandoned Syrian military base. Syria is right over there.
The Golan is a gigantic memorial. At the moshav of Neveh Ativ stands the memorial to the Egoz brigade. Then there are thirty-bronze plaques engraved with the name of the fallen. The kibbutzim below me were repeatedly evacuated during the war. And then Gamla, overlooking a series of craters and valleys of basalt. At the bottom of the ravine there are the remains of a Jewish village conquered by Emperor Hadrian. Here the Great Uprising against the Roman Empire featured a battle which was as heroic as Masada.
Will Gamla fall again?
The Jewish town of Katzrin is a pearl of modernity, efficiency and futurism. The red-roofed houses and palm trees divide the main street. The houses are cheap, since the future here is always uncertain. Trucks full of bottles of the famous wine of the Golan, boycotted by half the world, leave the factories all the time. Jews plant new vineries. The Syrians had no boutique wineries while they were here.
Before 1967, when Israel controlled the edges of the lake of Galilee, the Jews had planted a row of trees along the roadside to protect the motorists. Those trees are still there, silent witnesses to a false truce.
I went to Ein Gev. In 1948, Syrian forces stationed themselves on the top of Mt. Sussita and mercilessly shelled the kibbutznikim just below them. Life became so unbearable in the town that, despite a shortage of manpower and arms, kibbutz members attempted to remove the Syrian threat. In a surprise night attack, after hiking the wadi south of Sussita and climbing the ridge on its eastern side, the Jews succeeded in taking the hill. After the Golan was captured during the Six Day War, Sussita became an integral part of Israel.
I then reached a military post, the most eastern position on the Israeli line during the 1948 war. Above the post is the Roman city's eastern gate, made of chiseled basalt blocks. Deep within the Golan and right next to Moshav Nov stands a seemingly empty field. Only those visitors who get out of their vehicles and walk through the scraggly plants next to the highway discover the truth: in spring the weed-covered meadow is studded with thousands of yellow flowers, each lovely blossom swaying on a single stalk. Though the stockade provided protection within its walls, constant assaults made it hard for the settlers to till their fields before 1967.
Ein Gev, the first Jewish settlement on the eastern shore of the Galilee, could be reached only by sea for several years. Like other settlements assaulted during the War of Independence, Ein Gev had its share of heroes. When the Syrians attacked from Sussita and the kibbutz was under threat, the children were evacuated by sea. A member who concealed her pregnancy in order to remain and defend the kibbutz died in battle.
I am thinking of that woman and other countless of unknown Jewish heroes, farmers and fishermen, now that the slogan "betraying the Golan" has returned to Israel's agenda.
From Beit El to Katzrin, the Jews are not for sale as beef is on the market. The only beef I saw in the Golan was the herd of stubborn cows at El Rom kibbutz. The Islamists would not have any pity on them either.