Life in Golan Heights Returns to Normal, After Weekend of Escalation on Israel-Syrian Border

Tensions rose following an Iranian drone infiltration and the downing of an Israeli jet. By Sunday, everyone was going about their lives as usual

Touring the Golan Heights on February 10, 2018.
Gil Eliahu

Life in the Golan Heights seems back to normal on Monday, following a tense weekend on the Israeli-Syrian border.

On Saturday morning, the Golan Heights was thronged with visitors despite the reports of escalation. Through the day, Israeli army forces with heavy machinery were observable throughout the Heights, and some areas by the border were declared closed military zones. By afternoon the stream of visitors were petering out.

By Monday though the residents of the Golan Heights were going about their lives as usual, though blueberry and grape grower Galit Bot says the children’s nerves were wracked over the weekend by missile alert sirens.

Throughout the weekend and on Sunday, the Hermon ski resort remained operational as usual.

Although the atmosphere is back to normal, says Keren Tenenbaum Elgam, owner of a gas station convenience store, they see the forces building up in the Heights. She and her life partner had left central Israel after Operation Protective Edge in 2014 and moved to the Golan Heights for peace and quiet, as she puts it. In the center, people have about 40 seconds to find shelter after a missile siren sounds. In the Golan Heights they have less time, Elgam said, but “trust our soldiers blindly.”

Military vehicles can be seen positioned on the Israeli side of the border with Syria, near the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Israel February 11, 2018.
\ AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS

Oz Elimelech, 14, says that he stayed in bed when the siren went off on Shabbat morning. He says he wasn’t afraid and that at school the children were told that an Iranian drone had penetrated Israel (on Saturday morning); that it had been intercepted; and that they shouldn’t be fearful because fearful people have no life. “You can’t live in fear,” Elimelech said. “It’s part of life. I trust in the Israel Defense Forces and today’s technology. The truth is that I like this atmosphere of tension and alertness.” Otherwise, he said, life there is “quiet and good.”

On Saturday morning, an Israeli F-16 fighter jet responding to the Iranian drone infiltration was shot down by Syrian artillery. The pilots ejected into northern Israeli territory and survived.