It was drained of all color and vitality. When I traveled through the Golan Heights in 1983, I saw no colors. Put your printer on “grey scale only”—that’s what I saw. Scales of grey. Memorials. Bombshells. Razor wire. Death and devastation. Of course, that was my perception; my husband saw ochres, purples, and various shades of greens and blues; I did not.
Since 1983, I have been to Israel many times. However, it wasn’t until this past fall, November 2022, that I returned to the Golan. My perception of color had returned to the landscape! My Golan days were resplendent with explosive fall colors: red and gold vineyards, sage green with the last touches of lavender fields lush valleys, bright fall foliage, and various purple, blues, whites coloring the sky.
I painted the Golan—the lavender field and vineyard at Ein Zivan and the woman making fresh pita in Ghajar, some of the trees naked after the previous night’s storm.
What happened? How can I explain this? Perhaps in 1983 I sensed the pain, death, and sacrifices of 1967. I guarantee you; I still do. Perhaps in 1983, my first trip to Israel, I was still fearful from seeing the CNN 1967 images; I am no longer fearful, even if a missile lands two miles away from me in Tel Aviv, which happened in 2019. I know of no other reasons. I can’t explain the stark change from grey to color.
What can I tell you? In 2022, the Golan is lush. The Golan is productive and fruitful. Communities are vibrant. It’s a colorful place!
I visited Ghajar, an Arab village recently opened to tourists in September 2022. Ten feet to the north is Lebanon; twenty feet to the east is Syria. A brief history: prior to 1967, Ghajar was considered part of Syria and its residents were counted in the 1960 Syrian census. Post the 1967 war, Ghajar remained a no-man’s land.
Oddly, the village was divided in half: half Syria and half Lebanon. I walked the remnants of the division! The villagers petitioned the Golan’s Israeli governor to be attached to Israel, rather than Lebanon or Syria. It is now one village.
Today, the residents of Ghajar are Israeli citizens. Entry restrictions are no more. View a short video, Divided No More: A New Reality for the Unique Ghajar Village.
The village is delightful; the people are friendly. I enjoyed a limited (on my part) Hebrew conversation with some Alawite high school students who told me they were thrilled to see me! Ghajar is peaceful, quiet, and immaculate.
Perhaps my color schism is related to divisions. Perhaps my new view of color is related to unity and reunification. The history is harsh; the terrain is difficult. The beauty is extraordinary! What I do know: I cannot wait to return to the Golan, to hike its mountains, climb waaaay down to (and back up) the Banias Waterfall and the waterfall at Gamla Nature Reserve, notably the highest waterfall in Israel.
I will return to the Golan, to Israel—to paint in support of Hadassah.
For more information on Peg Elefant’s watercolor artwork and how you can support Hadassah’s life-saving work in Israel, please visit https://www.pegelefant.com