Upon Return to Israel, Druze Students Say Syria Crisis Isn't All That It Seems

Eight students cross border met by parents' hugs, kisses and tears, but few questions.

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Druze students returning to the Golan Heights from Syria said on Monday that they never saw any demonstrations, and that reports and pictures emerging from the country were not reliable.

Eight students crossed the border on Monday at the Kuneitra crossing, coming from the Syrian side of the border on a bus accompanied by UNIFIL vehicles. Upon encountering their parents, who had waited tensely at the crossing for three hours, there were lots of hugs, kisses and tears, but almost no questions.

Druze students from the Golan at the Quneitra crossing.Credit: Yaron Kaminsky

However, questions came fast and furious from journalists at the site, who practically pounced on the returning students, many of whom were taken aback.

"We're neither journalists nor inspectors," answered one female student, before getting into her parents' car. "We have nothing to say."

Others had something to say, but it wasn't what one might have expected.

"There was a feeling of uncertainty, people are very confused," said Nadar Khalabi, who studies Arabic literature.

"I went out to the street when I heard there was a demonstration, but I didn't see anyone," he said. "A large part of the pictures and reports from Syria are not reliable, at least that was our impression."

Another student, Wissam Safdy, agreed. "I went to the al-Mazzah neighborhood in Damascus when there were reports of demonstrations, but I didn't see anything," he said. "We don't know what's happening, but in Damascus things are calm, and the prevailing feeling is that in the end Syria will come out of this crisis."

Syria reportedly quelled unrest in the al-Mazzah neighborhood over the weekend, with at least 15,000 people demonstrating Saturday to protest the deaths of three demonstrators in the same area the previous day.

Six Druze women who had lost relatives in Syria were also allowed to cross the border on Monday in the other direction, so they could pay condolence calls to their relatives.

Rima Al-Akbani, a mother of four, was one of the women crossing into Syria.

"I lost my father last month and I wasn't allowed to cross over for the funeral," she said. "We submitted another request and now they've allowed it.

"It pains me that I can only see my family at times of mourning," she said. "Even when someone gets married we can't be part of the celebration."

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