Beginning March 2, apples grown by Druze citizens of Israel in the fertile Golan Heights will be exported into Syria. The export, which will take several weeks, will take place at the request of the International Red Cross, and is in keeping with the orders of the Israeli government.
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will escort and secure the crossing of the trucks along the Syrian border, which will unload the produce through the Kuneitra crossing.
Over 30 trucks will carry around 10,000 tons of apples. Some of the Druze farmers were citizens of Syria prior to the 1967 Six-Day War in which Israel reclaimed the land from Syria. Israel proceeded to annex the Golan in 1981.
Most of the Druze population has accepted Israeli sovereignty, serving in the army and in major government positions. Druze traditionally are loyal to whatever governing power controls their villages, enabling their survival as a small minority in the area. Thee Golan Druze have also held demonstrations in which they declared that the Golan belongs to Syria, but this was seen as a safeguard in the aftermath of political debate on whether the Golan might be returned to Syria.
While the apple export has taken place peacefully since 2005, two Druze men were convicted of spying for Syria after taking part in the apple transfer in 2006.
A cold spell which hit northern Israel in early February may mean good news for apple farmers, who say apples are larger and more plentiful after a cold winter.