Yaakov Selavan

While you were busy denouncing Israel

We were at work aiding refugees: An insider’s look at IDF efforts to address the humanitarian crisis in Syria
A displaced Syrian girl from Daraa stands in a makeshift camp in Quneitra, southwestern Syria, near the border with Israel, on June 22, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Ahmad al-Msalam)
A displaced Syrian girl from Daraa stands in a makeshift camp in Quneitra, southwestern Syria, near the border with Israel, on June 22, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Ahmad al-Msalam)

By Saturday afternoon, it was already part of the scenery. Birds tweeting, dogs barking, kids playing, and the Russians and Syrians bombing.

Over the past 10 days, as we hear the non stop explosions, more than 320,000 Syrians on the Syrian Golan Heights have become refugees; hundreds of people killed, including many children.

Hearing the world’s concern for the poor people of Gaza, reading about If Not Now activists quitting Birthright due to their worries about the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, I was sure I would  hear a deep concern from Jewish and international human rights organization, while we watch a bloody massacre just a mile away from Israel.

I guess I was naïve. The only effort made and moral voice heard was of the Israel Defense Force – sending in over 100 tons of food, clothes and medical aid for the new refugees, alongside 500 tents. 6 wounded Syrians were taken in to Israel, including 4 children suffering horrible injuries, and worse- the loss of their parents. With these children, we have exceeded the number of 6000 Syrian civilians treated in Israeli hospitals.

The Golan Heights border’s skyline has been changing dramatically, as every day more and more tents are built by refugees on the security fence. The people of Syria, who were taught for decades we are the devil, are coming to our border understanding we are the only ones they can trust.

Golan Heights border skyline – every colorful dot is a tent built by refugees, just 200 meters from the border

Last week I had a rare opportunity to visit the headquarters of Operation Good Neighbor, the IDF unit established two years ago to handle the humanitarian crisis across the border in Syria. The trucks were loading constantly, soldiers running around, and I had a chance to speak with key figures of the operation.

Although I myself took part in this unique effort as an operations officer serving in the Golan, and although I have addressed hundreds of groups regarding these matters, nothing prepared me emotionally to hear the horrifying stories first hand.

Together with the tourists I was hosting as part of the Slingshot program, including a key-figure in the Hollywood entertainment industry, we asked one of the operation’s officers to share with us the most emotional moments he has experienced.

“Four months ago, I had a night home, and I sat with my 8-year old daughter, whose is in second grade,” he began. “I asked her ‘sweetie, what is your dream? What do you want to be when you grow up?’ ‘Daddy, I want to be a dancer.'” A day later, he was called to the border and was taking care of a 12-year old Syrian, who was brought into Israel for medical treatment. “I was trying different ice-breakers to make him feel comfortable, and so I asked him the same question, what is your dream when you grow up?”

“Sir, your question is not relevant. I do not have dreams, since I won’t grow up. I have a year, maximum two, to live and then I will end up dying in the war.”

The absurdity of it cries out! While Russia is hosting the World Cup, the Russian army alongside Syria and Iranian militias are committing mass murder.

The residents of the Syrian Golan are mostly uninvolved in the war. They shy away from terror and focus on trying to live a normal life. Israel reaches out and offers them much needed help. I ask myself why are we the only ones who care? Where are all the human rights organizations we’ve been hearing yelling about Gaza? Where is the famed Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)?

Well, maybe we should say a word about Gaza. Hamas was elected in democratic elections by the people of Gaza; they participate in terror acts against Israel; they squander billions of dollars in world aid to fund a terror infrastructure, while terrorizing the Israelis living behind the internationally recognized border. And the best part – Israel’s acts of self-defense are constantly being condemned by the ‘deeply-concerned’ human-right caring international community. I would laugh if it was possible, but I am too busy choking from the smoke, as once again, hundreds of acres of farmland and nature reserves are burned to the ground all around Gaza.

What is the message we are imparting, dear ‘human rights’ organizations? Yes, JVP, the question is aimed at you too.

Choose terror – we will support you! Stay uninvolved – go to hell?

As Israel reaches out and does its best to protect the innocent victims, while managing to keep out of the bloody civil war without taking sides, it is time to call upon World Jewry to stand up and demand a humanitarian solution for the people of Daraa and Quneitra!

Darfur attracted worldwide attention in the beginning of the millennium, a lot thanks to the strong moral Jewish voice which was heard worldwide. It is time that World Jewry once again speak out for those who are in need. 

“For, behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples… And nations shall walk at thy light, and kings at the brightness of thy rising.” (Isaiah, 60:2-3)

Drawing by a 9-year-old Syrian treated in Israel, thanking an IDF commander in Arabic
Israeli Golan Heights children making packages for the new neighbors (photo: Naomi Dolev, Moshav Yonatan)
About the Author
Major (Res.) Yaakov Selavan is a strategic affairs expert and IDF motivational speaker for soldiers and draftees. He is a social activist invloved in several NGOs. A Golan resident and an IDF Tactical Command College alumnus, Major (Res.) Selavan is a popular speaker in Israel and abroad and a leading Golan international spokesperson. Through Slingshot Israel, he draws upon military experiences to instill values and encourage social action.
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