ByÂ OREN KESSLER, Jpost.com
|A day has passed since Majdal Shams found itself the unlikely backdrop ofÂ an audacious cross-border penetration that left one Syrian dead and dozens wounded.|
A smattering of TV crews clustered at Shouting Hill, where for decades relatives gathered on either side of the Syria-Israel disengagement line to communicate by megaphone.
On Monday the spectacle was new: A few dozen Israeli troops repairing the fence breached the day before, when around 100 Syrians â€“ many of Palestinian origin â€“ suddenly charged the border separating Syria and the Golan.
In the distance, a handful of Syrian security forces watched the goings-on from an army lookout point boasting a giant portrait of President Bashar Assad surrounded by Syriaâ€™s tricolor flags.
Hamad Awidat, 27, is a television producer and curator of the â€œMuseum of the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights,â€ which opened last year to showcase Druse heritage in the Golan. That heritage, heâ€™s quick to point out, is an inseparable part of Syriaâ€™s own.
â€œA historic day,â€ he said proudly, sitting in his office near one of the villageâ€™s two statues of Sultan al-Atrash, the Druse military leader who fought to free Syria from Ottoman, and later French, control.
â€œThe people here threw riceâ€ at the infiltrators, he said. â€œEveryone here was in favor of what they did.â€
Awidat rejects any insinuation that the Golanâ€™s Druse â€“ few of whom have taken Israeli citizenship, and most of whom travel abroad with laissez-passer documents â€“ suffer from identity issues.
â€œOur situation is easy as pie,â€ he said. â€œWe know who we are. Weâ€™re Syrian Arabs.
The situation today in the Golan â€“ everything you see around you â€“ we did it, not Israel.â€
Awidat said he had no problem with his Israeli co-religionists who serve in the IDF. â€œThey believe Israel is their nation, and I believe Syria is mine,â€ he said.
Among most in Majdal Shams, support for the institution of Syriaâ€™s government is unconditional â€“ but doubts persist over whether its current president may have overstayed his welcome.
â€œBashar Assad I donâ€™t like, personally,â€ said one man in English. â€œYou canâ€™t stay in power for 40 years,â€ he said, referring to the Assad dynasty, begun by the current presidentâ€™s father. â€œWe need new blood.â€
Recently returned from nearly 20 years in South Africa, the man said Israel refused to grant him either residency papers or citizenship. Despite the slight, he insists he admires Israelâ€™s democracy.
â€œThe actual democracy of Israel I respect,â€ he said. â€œI just donâ€™t like what they did to me.â€
Indeed, Majdal Shamsâ€™s Druse insist their Syrian identity is non-negotiable.
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