(The Golan Heights is a range of mountains and high hills that borders Israel, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. During the war after the creation of Israel in l948, Syria used the Golan Heights to send bombs and missiles down on Israel. Israel captured the territory, it was fought over in l967 and again in l973. During the fighting many of the people who lived in the Golan fled to Syria and Lebanon. Israel put the remaining people into six villages, then later turned one of those six into a military camp. Majdal Shams is the largest of the remaining villages, and it is where I met S., the young woman whose story appears below.)
S. 15 I'm a member of a theatre company. We've been training for a few months. At first it was really hard. Now it's getting easier, but we are still doing easy things. I'm sure it will get hard again.
This theatre workshop is made up of teenagers from the Occupied Golan Heights. We are occupied by Israel. We really belong to Syria, but Israel took the area from Syria in the Six Day War in l967 and they have refused to give it back.
I know the history. We all know it. Our parents tell it to us. We were under military rule until l981. We could not hold demonstrations, could not fight for our rights. It was just not allowed. Even now, we don't have Israeli citizenship. It was offered to us. The Israelis tried to make the occupation look attractive so that we would forget we were occupied and think being Israeli was normal. But there was a big meeting and everyone decided to shun anyone who accepted this citizenship. No one would take to them, no one would buy from them. This was in l980. I know the history.
I know that there used to be 139 villages in the Golan. All but six of them were destroyed. There was a photo exhibition here. People took photos of the destroyed villages. Most of the villagers ran into Syria when the Israelis came in l967. When the war ended, they were not allowed to go home. So they stayed in Syria or went to Lebanon.
In the October War or l973 (the Israelis call it the Yom Kippur War) Syria and Egypt attacked Israel. People in Israel were with their families, it was a holy day, even the soldiers were at home with their families. So Syria and Egypt should have won. But they didn't. The Israelis were only 40 km from Damascus when the war ended. Then the United Nations came in and created the DMZ (demilitarized zone). The UN keeps one thousand soldiers there. I don't know what good they think they can do if there is another war.
There are landmines all over the Golan. Every field, almost, you will see the landmine signs. Cows use these fields Many Golani people have been killed by stepping on a landmine.
I know so many people who have resisted the occupation. My brother spent two years in an Israeli prison for going to a demonstration This was a long time ago, when I was first born. Others don't have their whole families with them because some are in Syria.
I think my life would be easier now if the occupation hadn't happened because then I would have the identity of belonging to Syria. I think it would be easier to be part of Syria instead of being occupied by Israel, even thought there is a war going on in Syria now. Some say that when the government changes in Syria, Israel will give the Golan back to them, and we will be Syrian again. But I don't think that will happen.
Some of my friends think we would find life harder in Syria because we are used to freedom here in Israel. And it's true. Even under occupation, we can be who we want to be here. We can dress like we want, think what we want, speak what we want. But I don't care if my life is hard in Syria as long as I have an identity.
I meet many Israelis. They are good people. I don't have any problem with the Israeli people, only their government. And I don't like that the Arab villages were destroyed while Israelis built settlements in the area. But I see Israelis all the time. They come here to ski. They live here. It's normal for us to have friends among the Israelis. I don't hate Israelis. I hate Hitler and the Nazis and what they did to the Jewish people.
We will always fight against the occupation, but we won't use violence, because that fixes nothing.
I don't like to take it easy. I like to dream big because dreams are supposed to be big. I know I won't have an easy life, but it will be a hard life for a huge reward.