by Sarah Walton
As the US and France sent ships steaming toward the coast of Syria, Russia – an ally of Syria – also sent naval vessels, creating a Cold War-like standoff, marine version.
Here on the ground less than six kilometers from the Syrian border there was all kinds of action going on, too.
There are several large army bases scattered over the northern Golan Heights, but other than the sound of tank fire at night while they do maneuvers, the soldiers at the bases were seldom seen in public.
Now the world was blanketed with IDF soldiers: a busload asked for instructions from my son, as we drove out; another contingent was offloading huge packs and equipment near a road to the border; when we went to the local market in Bu’cata we shopped in the company of an IDF ambulance crew.
The question was, at least for us living in El-Rom: why all of this sudden activity?
Israel is a dedicated ally of the United States, so maybe it means they’re going to offer ground support when and if the US actually makes a strike. Or perhaps they’ll do cleanup after a strike on Syria. The border here is less than 65 km from Damascus.
Then again, maybe the IDF is flooding the Golan because 1. Bashir al-Assad has said he’ll attack Israel is the US attacks him, and because 2. Iran has said it will attack Israel if the US attacks Assad!
Can you imagine that? It’s as if two bullies say to another tough guy: “Listen, if you attack, we’re going to beat up your younger brother!” Aaaaargh!
Meanwhile the UK, which was totally behind US action, started to dither about, saying in effect, “Yeah well, maybe this is not a good move after all.” They pulled out and the US was left standing alone until France sent ships.
And they say women are fickle.
While the big guys blow hot and cold, circling each other like a pack of wolves, we on the ground are living a reality which could explode in our faces any minute.
Just the other day at the annual Apple Festival a longtime resident of El-Rom took me aside and said she was really nervous about what might be happening,
The Apple Festival, incidentally, overlooks the Syrian city of Old Qunitra, a couple of kilometers away. All was peaceful; the sun was shining; kids were running around enjoying the various activities.
I pointed out to this worried woman that I had been sitting on the terrace of the Hotel David in Jerusalem the day Arafat started his “Second Intifada,” and watched angry Arabs burn tires at the gate of the Old City through which I had passed for five days.
I told her that I had been a mere siren’s throw away from the rockets Hamas fired into Israel when Operation Cast Lead began. The sirens went off in nearby Yavne, but we never ended up in the condo’s bomb shelter room.
I told this neighbor, whose name is Batsheva, that I had driven through the burned and destroyed fields (ironically, most belonged to Israel Arabs) of the upper Galilee two days after the 2006 action in Lebanon.
I was trying to point out that all of us live close to potential danger almost all the time. But her response surprised me: “Why, you must bring good luck!”