The mounting tension between Israel and Syria in the past number of days has prompted the Druze residents of the Golan Heights out of their complacency. While the Jewish residents of the Golan have continued to show restraint and relative calm in light of statements made by senior Israeli and Syrian officials, which have served to fan the flames of tension, the level of anxiety among Druze families on the Golan-which up until now had been mainly worried about their relatives who live in Syria-has spiked. Druze families on the Golan have begun to stockpile food in anticipation that war might erupt between Israel and Syria.
In addition to the security preparations, which are to reach a peak level tomorrow in a large-scale exercise that is to be held tomorrow in Majdal Shams and the emergency storerooms that were recently established there, it has become evident that an increasing number of Druze families in the area have begun to stockpile rice, sugar, flour, oil, breadcrumbs, labane and canned goods, and have amassed enough food to last for two months and even longer. “People here used to feel that if there were going to be a war then it was self-evident that the Syrians wouldn’t hurt us because we’ve always been loyal to Syria and it was clear that they were against Israel,” said A, a resident of Majdal Shams who began stockpiling food in his home in the past number of days. “Back then, people waited for the Golan Heights to be liberated, but now some of them don’t know what to expect-liberation or a settling of accounts. Because in addition to Assad’s army and the Free Syrian Army, the border near us is swarming with factions of Islamic terror organizations, each one of which has its own interests and there’s no knowing who’s against whom.”
The mortar shells that were fired last Saturday out of Syria at the Israeli-controlled Mt. Hermon also caused confusion among the residents of the Druze villages at the foothills of that mountain. “Israel says that it was a ‘spillover’ once again, maybe because it has a vested interest in not escalating tensions further,” A said. “But according to foreign reports and video footage that circulated on the social networks, an Islamic terror organization was behind the deliberate mortar shell fire. Israel operates in keeping with its own national interests, and that’s why the Jewish residents here feel protected. But who’s protecting us? We haven’t got any faith that the Israelis are going protect us, but we don’t have any faith that the Syrian regime will protect us either. There isn’t any hysteria here yet, but people here are living in fear, buying things and putting money aside for times of emergency. I’ve also now bought food supplies that will be enough to last me and my family for two months, so that we’re ready for whatever comes our way.”
Majdal Shams Mayor Dolan Abu Saleh and the village security coordinator were busy yesterday preparing for the largest emergency drill that the village has ever seen, which is scheduled for tomorrow. While the neighboring Golan Regional Council recently spruced up the bomb shelters in the various communities in the council, the Majdal Shams Council has also spent the past number of weeks preparing for a possible escalation. “We don’t have any public bomb shelters here at all,” said Abu Salah. “Only people who live in relatively new houses have a protected space in their homes. The IDF recently hooked us up to the automatic warning system, and two weeks ago a siren sounded here in real time as a result of an incident that occurred near the border. The mounting tension is what led me to send a letter to the defense minister a few days ago with a request for government assistance in building public bomb shelters. Now we’re preparing for the large-scale exercise for entering protected spaces, in which not only schoolchildren will be drilled but the residents as well.”
Like in the other Druze villages, officials in Majdal Shams have begun to make preparations to cope with emergency situations. For example, the director of the village council’s welfare services has drawn up a list of all the handicapped and elderly residents of the village. Other village council officials have prepared lists in keeping with their own professional purviews, such as a list of physicians who live the area or contractors who might be contacted to remove rubble if need be. With the assistance of the IDF’s Home Front Command, the village just recently established emergency storerooms, which contain water tanks, stretchers, medical equipment, flak jackets, flashlights and other equipment.
“Fierce and brutal battles are being fought out within touching distance of us. Assad has already aimed missiles at Tel Aviv. Israel has announced that it will continue to stop weapons shipments to Hizbullah, and we’re really afraid that this is going to reach us too,” said a resident of Masadeh yesterday. “Ever since people were requested over the loudspeaker system to enter protected areas whenever a siren sounds, more and more people have become afraid that this time it isn’t only their relatives who are in the eye of the storm [in Syria] that they have to worry about, but their own nuclear families that live here, too.”