Shahar Azani
Storyteller, Strategic Consultant & Former Israeli Diplomat . A Jew.

The Middle East is about more than apples and brides

The Syrian Bride is an Israeli film, made in 2004, by the well known Israeli director, Eran Riklis, which tells the story of a Druze wedding (the Druze are a monotheistic religious community, mainly found in Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan). It touches upon the bureaucratic implications of the unresolved politics between Israel and Syria on the personal lives of those involved, as a community divided between the Israeli Golan Heights and Syria.

There is another interesting reality, connecting the Druze communities in Israel and Syria: Apple trade (and no, I don’t mean the iPhone one). About a decade ago, Israeli apples (product of the Golan Heights) made their way to Syria, with help from international intermediaries. This export, which many viewed as another manifestation of hope for better days in our region, is facing a real threat of extinction due to the fact that rebel forces seized control of the Quneitra Border Crossing between Israel and Syria. Beyond posing a direct security threat, this new reality may also have a negative impact on the economy and the locals’ means of living.

And yet, the border between Israel and Syria represents today much more than apples and brides. It has become the literal line between life and death. A major concern has been expressed in the last few days by members of the Druze community in the Golan Heights for the safety and security of their families across the border, after news broke of ruthless Syrian rebel forces attacking Druze villages in Syria. Indeed, on Saturday morning (June 20), thousands of people: Druze, Jews and others, went to the streets to express their concern and sympathy with those Druze communities under attack in Syria.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has been preparing itself for the eventuality of such a humanitarian disaster, and already announced it will provide such assistance and protection for those who may need it and will be in proximity to the Israeli border. Also worth noting is that the IDF has been implementing such policies for a while, since this bloody and horrifying war started in Syria: so far, almost 1,700 people entered Israel based on medical need for treatment and aid. IDF soldiers patrolling the border every night, allow for such people to enter Israel, based on humanitarian needs, while taking a huge risk every time, since they do not know for sure who are those who wish to enter.

So what is my point? As people who stand up for Israel in different forums and arenas, we witness the simplicities, which are thrown out there to discuss the complex geopolitics of the Middle East. A rough chalk is used (where a fine chisel is what’s really needed) to draw a line between black and white, hero and villain, creating a distorted view of reality which not only inhibits the ability to promote a solution, but sometimes even damages the chances of moving forward.

Such is also the Israeli-Palestinian issue: too many, within the nefarious BDS movement and others, rush to place all of the blame on Israel for anything and everything wrong. And yet, more and more different voices are starting to emerge who choose to tell a different story.

Such voices focus, for example, on the damage caused by the boycott efforts to ordinary Palestinians, who sometimes can’t make ends meet and even risk losing their jobs. All, as a result of shortsighted efforts by those who live outside of the region, and are left unaffected by their own misdeeds.

It’s clear that not all of those who over-simplify the situation do it out of malice. However, as we all know, the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions. It is time we acknowledge these regional complexities and address them with much needed humility.

The region, and its inhabitants, deserve nothing less.

About the Author
Speaker, Author, Strategic Consulatant. Past Northeast Executive Director of StandWithUs. A Former Diplomat for Israel's Foreign Ministry in London, Jerusalem, Nairobi, Los Angeles and New York. A Storyteller, who's passionate about people, culture and politics.
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