|Israel Resource Review
||14th March, 2000
This Hallowed Ground:
Personal Insights Into the Golan
At a time when the Golan Heights is so widely discussed, I decided that the
time has come to discuss the Golan Heights and Israel's security in clear,
human terms. So here are some of the "Golan" selections from the diary that
I have kept since I arrived in Israel as a student tin 1970.
Kibbutz Merom Hagolan. Summer 1971. My first kibbutz experience. My friend
Shaul Weber from the Hebrew University, a founder of the Kibbutz, had
invited me to join him on the Kibbutz for a few weeks. After each day in
the field, Shaul took me walking - through the abandoned Syrian Army camp
in Kunetra, which was adjacent to the nascent kibbutz. And we went riding
in the Kibbutz jeep, from one bunker to another. The Golan, barely four
years after being wrested from Syria, still looked like one great
abandoned Syrian army camp.
My first night on Kibbutz was my longest. I was treated to my first
artillery barrage. Shaul was up in a guardpost somewhere. I will never
forget the night in the Kibbutz shelter, listening to the Israeli record
"Ish Chasid Hayah", and sitting with Shaul's wife Yael and their three
little kids. Yael, who had grown up in a kibbutz at the foot of the Golan,
mentioned to me that she had grown up listening to hasidic records in her
shelter, which she would listen to whenever
the Syrians would let loose a barrage on her kibbutz in the Galilee. Now,
Yael told me, her kibbutz "down there" was out of range, and Merom Hagolan
was in range. And until the cease-fire that Israel signed with Syria in the
aftermath of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Merom HaGolan remained within
range of the Syrian gun.
On my last day on the Kibbutz, Yehudah Fichtman, the kibbutz secretary,
spent some time with me, explaing why he had come to live in the Golan
Heights. What Yehudah said to me has remained with me ever since. He
explained that he had fought for the Golan, and that he wanted to raise a
family in the place where he had risked his life. "We fought for it. Now we
will live for it", said Yehudah. Yehudah was killed in an artillery
barrage while he was working in the field a few months after I left. His
wife and three children never left the kibbutz. His grandchildren now serve
in the IDF on the Golan.
The sudden attack on the Golan Heights in 1973 hit home for me in a strange
way. I had been having terrible stomach problems my first few years in
Israel, always quite nervous about the Israeli reality that I was living in.
On the first day of the Yom Kippur War, the man whom I called "my tummy
doctor", Dr Moshe Ramon, the former Dr. Murray Raymond of Seattle, lost
his oldest son. I remember walking into his living room which doubled as a
waiting room where I had been writhing in pain a few weeks before. I would
never again feel the stomach pains that I had felt before. I said to
myself, instinctively, that Moshe would have more pain than I ever would.
There were his son's friends from their Nachal kibbutz describing the
sudden Syrian attack, how the Syrian soldiers had scaled the fence of their
settlement and mowed down the young and surprised Nachal soldiers, young
men and young women, with automatic machine gun fire, snuffing out fifteen
lives in a matter of minutes. To this day, by the way, it has never been
publicized that the Syrians killed a group of young women soldiers.
After the initial ceasfire, I decided to hitch up to the Golan Heights and
file a news story. It was there that I witnessed the enormity of the Syrian
advance. Rows of Syrian tanks and ever possible vehicle stopped in its
tracks, strafed and bombed and left for any photographer to use his
imagination as to just close the Syrians had come to conquering the Golan
Heights. Yet they had mysteriously stopped in their tracks. After visiting
the Golan, I went to stay in the mystical city of Tzfat for a few days. It
was there that I met a Rabbi HaLevi who told me a story that he later put
in writing, which was that as soon as he had heard of the Syrian attack on
the Golan Heights that he had organized a special group of women to chant
from the book of Psalms and to invoke the memory of Channah and her seven
sons, who martyred themselves rather than convert from Judaism.
By legend, Chana and her seven sons are buried on a slope just below the
Old City of Tzfat.
We associate the act of Channah and her seven sons with the Chanukah story
and the war with the Hellenists. Yet there is an additional part of the
story that is mentioned in the talmud, which is that Channah and her seven
sons ask God for a favor in their merit. They ask that, in the merit of
their self-sacrifice, that God save a Jewish city under siege. Well, the
first time that Rabbi HaLevy had asked for a group of women to
invoke Channah and her seven sons was when the 2,000 member
Jewish community of Tzfat was under siege in 1948 from an army
of more than 12,000. The withdrawal of that army had no rational
reason. So now in 1973 the women had prayed again. The Syrian
army stopped in its tracks, for no rational reason. Why the
Syrian army stopped its advance remains one of the unknown
factors of middle eastern warfare that is discussed today in war
colleges around the globe.
It was in February, 1974 that I offered the Jewish Student Press Service to
write about the spirit of the people who returned to the Golan Heights
after their kibbutzim had been overrun in the war. Kibbutz Ramat Magshimim,
on the southern tip of the Golan, seemed to be a logical place to travel
to. Their kibbutz had been the first to be overrun. After ascending to the
Golan with the one bus that got there on a Friday morning, it took me
seventeen different rides until I got to Kibbutz Ramat Magshimim, where my
postcard had gotten arrived the day before. They had no way of calling me,
but I knew that this was the nation of miracles and I hoped that it would
work out. Moshe Ben Tzvi's family with their four children welcomed me to
their home. The kids seemed to be regular kids. During the Shabbat meal,
two of the kids began to cry. Moshe called me aside and said that they had
cried almost constantly every Shabbat, since that terrible Yom Kippur in
1973, also on a Shabbat, when the families had been told by the regional
IDF commander in the middle of the night to suddenly abandon the kibbutz
because of the sudden advance of a Syrian tank column. The family came
back to a badly damaged home, and Moshe explained that the kids were still
Possibly the nicest and calmest moments on the Kibbutz Ramat Magshimim was
the gathering of many of the families in a modest, improvised "moadon"
clubhouse on Saturday night. The children, all the children, sang popular
Israeli folk songs at the top of their lungs, while a young mother, Esther
Ben David from Los Angeles, was playing the accordian, and I left on the
bus back to Bar Ilan University the next morning where I was studying at
the time with a "song in my heart", so to speak. Esther told me that she
was determined to wipe the tears from every nervous kid on that kibbutz.
Now that is a good Kibbutz mother, I thought. On Monday morning, following
one of my classes at Bar Ilan social work school, I walked by the Bar Ilan
mensa cafeteria. I heard the lunchtime newsreel on the radio. An artillery
bombardment had hit suddenly hit Kibbutz Ramat Magshimim. After the dust
had cleared, Esther Ben David was found dead in a ditch near the baby
clinic that she had just emerged from, where
she was getting medicine for her baby boy, whom she was clutching in her
Esther was struck with a direct hit, yet had the presence of
mind to hold that boy so that no harm would come to him. No harm
did come to that baby, who was found cuddled in Esther's
lifeless arms. Esther, who brought so much happiness to the
children in her kibbutz, had saved the life of her little boy in
those terrible seconds of an artillery barrage. That little boy,
saved in a ditch on the Golan while his dying mother hovered
over him, lived to marry a neighbor of mine last year.
It was only recently that I went to interview the man who was credited for
persuading the Israeli government to capture the Golan Heights. Yaakov
(Yankela) Eshkoli, the man who led the delegation of Upper Galilee
residents to lobby Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and the Israeli
government on the fourth night of the Six Day War.
Eshkoli, now 88, was elected four times to be the regional mayor of the
Galilee, and served in his position from 1955-1971
Speaking with remarkable resilience and a clear memory after 20
years of severe heart disease, the aging Eshkoli, with his
ninety year old wife Yaffa at his side, cannot keep repeating
how pleased he is that he has lived to tell his story, while
talks with Syria get under way and while the future of the Golan
is indeed on the agenda.
Eshkoli says that he is always eager to relate the role that he
played in persuading the Israeli government to take the Golan in
the midst of the 1967 war.
As Eshkoli told it, by the fourth day of the 1967 war, it was
clear that Israel had delivered a solid defeat to Jordan and
That left Syria, which had been raining a steady stream of
rockets into the Hula Valley below, leaving the residents of 31
settlements in the Upper Galilee region in Eshkoli's
jurisdiction to spend those glorious days of 1967 in deep
underground bunkers, glued to their transistor radios.
Leaving his kibbutz in an army jeep, picking up Kibbutz leaders from other
settlements in the region, while every kibbutz member was ordered into the
shelters because of the continuing Syrian artillery bombardment, Eshkoli
remembers that he had the feeling that his Hula valley was burning while
the rest of the country was dancing in the streets
Eshkoli was given five minutes to speak to the Israeli cabinet. "The
longest five minutes in my life", Eshkoli remembers. His appeal was simple
and clear, when he reminded Eshkol that he and every Israeli leader who had
ever come to visit him in the Galilee after Syrian rocket attacks had
promised them that if there would ever be another war, that they would use
that opportunity to remove the Syrian threat, once and for all.
Eshkoli reported that there was one Israeli minister to oppose the idea:
Moshe Dayan, the former Israeli commander in chief who had just been
appointed to be Defence minister. Dayan had given the veto to his northern
regional commander, "Dado" Elazar, whom he forbid to attack Syria on the
Golan, "lest this cost us 30,000 dead and risk a war with the Soviet
Union", which had just pushed through a cease-fire in the UN Security
Council. Dayan the war hero from the 1956 war with tremendous popular
following, also made a great impression on the cabinet.
Eshkoli recalls that he then thought to himself: "Will I be responsible for
world war", and then said that " I could only think of my wife and the
children of the kibbutz who at that moment were in the shelters". It was
then that Eshkoli made a threat, which he says to this day that he meant
with all his heart, which was that if the IDF does not remove the Syrians
from the Golan then he would recommend that all Kibbutzim pack their bags
and leave, and that the people of Kiryat Shmoneh would follow.
Silence followed Eshkoli's emotional appeal to the Israeli cabinet.
As Eshkoli turned and began to leave the meeting, Israeli Prime Minister
Levi Eshkol grabbed his hand and proclaimed that "The words of Eshkoli have
entered the heart of Levi Eshkol, and they will play a crucial role in what
we decide to do on the Golan Heights".
Eshkoli could not know when he left the government meeting, heading back
north, whether he had succeeded in his mission. Would his words hold
greater weight than Moshe Dayan?
Heading back to Kfar Giladi, Eshkoli stopped off at the bunker of the IDF
Northern regional command. By then it was 5AM. "Dado", General David
Elazar, the northern regional commander, was slumped over his desk, next to
a bottle of half-empty scotch.
Eshkoli reported to "Dado" what had happened at the government meeting. And
while they were talking, "Dado" received a call from the Israel Defence
Moshe Dayan's resonant voice was on the line with an order - "Take the Golan
and Succeed" were Dayan's words, and they were repeated on the 6 a.m. Voice of
Israel radio newsreel.
"Dado" loudly said to Eshkoli that Eshkoli had succeeded with Dayan where
he, the IDF northern regional commander had not.
Indeed, Dayan's vote in the government was the lone voice in the government
to vote against the Golan attack . . . .
Dayan never forgave Eshkoli for besting him at the government meeting. Eshkoli
shows me a yellowing news interview from 1976 with Moshe Dayan with the
Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Aharonot, where Moshe Dayan could only
recall Eshkoli and his delegation with anger and resentment, characterizing
them as "Dado"'s agents, claiming that, anyway, "the provocation's of the
Galilee farmers and fishermen in no-man's land were the cause of the Syrian
Eshkoli looks at the picture of Moshe Dayan and starts to yell at him
"Right - All of my 31 communities provoked the Syrians from
their shelters. Our provocation against the Syrians is that we
live and prosper here in the Galilee, which the Syrians see as a
province of their country".
Asked about the current negotiations that might bring the Syrians back to
the Golan Heights that face down on his kibbutz, Eshkoli could only raise a
trembling hand and point to the hills and say that to "bring back the
Syrians would be suicide for us".
Returning on the bus to Jerusalem, I met another prominent Galilee kibbutz
leader, Muki Tzur, from Ein Gev, on the shores of the Sea of the Galilee
and meters away from the Golan Heights and what might again be Syria.
Muki reached into his briefcase and showed me an article that he had written
In the Kibbutz magazine, the monthly publication of the Kibbutz movement.
Tzur, the 1967 author of the best selling book known as the Seventh Day:
conversations with Fighters from the Six Day War, wrote in his article that
Jewish and Israeli history have taught us that any peace process with Israel's
adversaries will be long, hard and complex, and that no decision can be
made under the pressure of an immediate desire for peace. The price of a
mistake in the peace process in the North would be guns in place once again
on the Golan, trained on the 31 settlements of the Hula Valley in Israel's
lush Upper Galilee region.
That is why the guns in the Golan were removed, and that is why 33 Israeli
settlements replaced 15 Syrian army camps on the Golan Heights.
When I covered the recent peace talks in January, 2000, in Shepherdstown,
West Virginia, the state department spokesman James Rubin spoke kept
referring to the Golan Heights as a piece of land that Israel would use to
trade land for peace.
The word "land" has often been dismissed as if it it is only real estate
that can be traded as a commodity. People forget that a piece of land can
have a greater significance than "real estate" on the market.
Americans should know better. Not far from Shepherdstown, the West Virginia
Chamber of Commerce guided some of the media to visit the battlefield of
Antitem., where 25,000 American soldiers from North and South died in one
day of fighting. That land is rendered "hallow ground" by the US National
Parks Authority, and viewed with reverence by every American citizen who
visits there. Americans paid for Antitem with their blood, and with
memories of those who fell there.
That is how many in Israel feel about the Golan. It is the place where IDF
soldier fell in two wars to protect Israel's northern region. It is the
place where Yehudah Fichtman and where Esther Ben David fell while they
were raising their families.
There is an Israeli lullaby which was written in 1967 for the children of
the Upper Galilee who had been sleeping most of their youth in the
sheltters of their kibbutzim and moshavim.
That soothing children song goes:
"Rest my children, rest and relax. The flickering lights that you see on
the Golan now are our lights . . ."
On the plane home to Israel from the Shepherdstown talks, I read
a sensitive and touching feature in Newsday about
children of the Golan and the psychological crises that they may
go through if they are asked to leave their homes as the result
of an Israeli pullout from the Golan Heights.
And what kind of psychological crisis will the children of the Galilee cope
with if they are forced to live under the Syrian gun once again?
Or, as I asked the guide of the West Virginian chamber of commerce, "Would
you trade the Blue Ridge Mountains for peace"?
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NATO's Campaign of Deception in Kosovo?
by Ron Paul
U.S. House of Representatives
Citizens of a free country ought to expect they won't be burdened with the
kind of propaganda barrage that has come to be associated with Nazi
"interior ministers" such as Josef Goebbles or Soviet "media spokesmen" like
Vladimir Posner. However, the more information that comes out about the NATO
war in Kosovo, the more evident is the fact that NATO made an apparent
"policy decision" to lie about Serbian atrocities. It seems the western
democracies "stole a page from the play books" of their former totalitarian
adversaries in Germany and the Soviet Union.
Writing recently in Liberty Magazine, David Ramsey Steele points out that in
Kosovo we were told before the bombings that there was mass genocide
occurring, the figure of "100,000 or more" was tossed around even though
there was no evidence to back-up this claim. One media pundit suggested the
number would be a quarter-of-a-million dead. NATO even gave a name to this
"campaign of mass genocide," it was dubbed "Operation Horseshoe" but, as
Steele says, the factual basis for the existence of such a genocide is
spurious at best. In fact, Steele likens it to the Bryce report that
reported falsified claims of genocide in Belgium in World War I.
Later after the NATO bombs began dropping, the official NATO claim was
dropped to around 10,000 as it became clear no mass graves or killing fields
even existed. The actual number of people found in the reported mass-graves
totals slightly more than 2,000, a far cry from the hundreds of thousands
that we were told originally. The loss of 2,000 lives is a great tragedy,
but there are more Americans than that killed domestically every year and it
hardly warrants the kind of violent response we saw in Kosovo. In fact, Mr.
Steele states that Kosovo was safer than any major U.S. city prior to the
NATO bombing. Moreover, as Steele shows, it is hardly evident that each of
those bodies was killed as a result of a campaign of genocide.
Finally, Steele points out that the stories about Kosovo came not only from
NATO officers but also from officials of the United Nations as well as from
our own government. However, a few sources closely followed developments and
seemed to get the story about right. Pablo Ordaz of El Pais magazine, Audrey
Gillan of the London Review of Books and even two members of an inspection
team sent to Kosovo for the purpose of investigating purported mass graves
all challenged the stories of the propaganda machine.
Steele also shows that while we were told of ethnic cleansing and Kosovars
who were being forced from their homes, the truth of the matter is they were
being forced from their homes because of the danger and destruction being
caused by NATO bombing in the region. If anything, this so-called ethnic
cleansing appears as a direct result of NATO action. In fact, as Steele
states, now that NATO and the KLA have control of Kosovo there have been
widespread reports that the people we were supposedly protecting, the
Kosovars, are now engaged in a murdering spree against the Serbians.
Instead of hearing the truth from our leadership, we were fed emotional
tales of mass killing that were entirely blown out of proportion in order to
justify force and violence in the region.
The sad trail of lies in Kosovo merely reinforces two facts. The first is
that our republic depends upon a press that will question the claims of our
leaders instead of just accepting them. The second is that Congress has
shirked both its Constitutional responsibility to declare war before U.S.
troops are sent into battle and its oversight responsibility to closely
monitor the administration in its carrying out of foreign policy.
Dr. Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas in the United States
House of Representatives.
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Pope's Planned Visit to UNRWA Refugee Camp Portends Disaster
The Pope's planned March 21 visit to the UNRWA refugee camp of Deheishe,
just south of Bethlehem, portends disaster.
The Pope's intention in his visit to the camp is rooted in his genuine
identification with any and all human suffering.
However, Palestinian Affairs correspondent Danny Rubenstein of HaAretz has
written extensive reports on how the Catholic Church's Latin Patriarch of
Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Michele Sabbah, in coordination with Yassir Arafat
and the Palestinian Authority, has organized buses to transport thousands
of Arab refugees to participate in a rally that will be held in the
presence of the Pope that will call for the "right of return".
Indeed, the PA has erected a three-story monument outside of Deheishe in
the shape of the full map of Palestine, and dubbed it the Palestinian "Yad
Vashem", to equate the plight of Palestinian Arab refugees with that of the
Jews who were murdered during World War II.
It is no coincidence that the Pope will visit the real Yad VAshem the next
The demand that Arab refugees return to their 1948 villages is in
accordance with the biennally ratified UN resolution #194 that continues
to confine 3.5 million Arab refugee camps to "temporary shelters" for the
past fifty two years, under the premise and the promise of their
"inalienable right of return" to villages which have been supplanted by Tel
Aviv, Tzfat, Haifa, Ashkelon and more than two hundred kibbutzim and
Interestingly enough, the Catholic Relief Agency helped to construct more
than 1300 homes on a hill near Nablus for Arab refugees to move into during
the mid-1980's. That hill of homes stands empty, because of a 1985 UN
resolution that forbids Israel from moving Arab refugees out of their
since this would violate their "inalienable right of return" to the homes
that they left in 1948. UNRWA placed guards at the foot of the hill to
prevent these homes from being taken by UNRWA refugee camp residents.
The hope and vision of the peace process was that the Palestinian Authority
would absorb the refugees in their state-in-the-making.
Instead, the PA's first act of legislation in 1994 was that UNRWA refugee
camp residents must be absorbed in the pre-1967 boundaries of the state of
Israel, and that the PA would deny any assistance to the UNRWA camps to
help them in the improvement of their deteriorating housing, since all Arab
refugees must be absorbed in the places that they left in 1948. The
Palestinian Liberation Army has meanwhile established bases in each of the
UNRWA Arab refugee camps, to prepare refugee residents to take back their
homes by force, if necessary.
These preparations have been made with the logistical support and
encouragement of the Palestinian Authority and the Latin Patriarch.
The campaign for the Palestinian Arab refugees to return to their homes
will therefore be launched in the presence of the Pope, and convey the
impression of sacred Papal endorsement for the Palestinian Arab program for
the "right of return".
In short, a genuine Papal Pilgrimage that was planned to express deepest
empathy for human suffering will be used by Michele Sabbah and Yassir
Arafat to advocate the dismemberment of the state of Israel.
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