Over the years, thousands of Israeli soldiers have pitched their tents on the barren hills of the Golan Heights, ready to deflect an attack by Syria.
Now a group of Jewish women from the area have set up a “peace tent” to demonstrate their desire for peaceful relations with their Arab neighbors.
Overlooking the Syrian village of Ibanid, the tent was the brainchild of the Women’s Forum, a non-partisan group of local residents, both religious and secular.
Two weeks ago, 75 women and their children gathered at Moshav Eli Al, near the Syrian border, to pitch the tent. One of the participants, megaphone in hand, addressed the crowd in Hebrew and Arabic, as brightly colored balloons and a flock of doves were sent over the border.
Since then, the women have been posted at the tent on a rotating basis.
The decision to erect the tent, was “a spontaneous action by the women of the Golan,” said Debbie Atoun, who helped organize the event. “We are trying to show people everywhere that the Golan is part of Israel, and that our presence is not an obstacle to peace.”
Atoun called the tent “an attempt to extend the hand of friendship” toward their counterparts on the other side of the border.
“We are calling on women in Syria to make similar efforts in an attempt to help create an understanding between both sides,” she said.
“We would like to meet them and see if there is a willingness for peace,” she added. “We hope that they saw the balloons we sent over and heard our words of friendship over the megaphone.”
But the doves, Atoun noted wryly, “refused to fly over the border.”
In addition to setting up the tent, the women have joined forces with other Golan activists in an attempt to press for continuing Israeli control of the region. They have demonstrated in front of the Prime Minister’s Office and appealed to Knesset members through a letter-writing campaign.
“We are trying to do something to save our homes and to show Israelis what the Golan means to them,” said Atoun. So far, there has been no reaction to the tent from the Syrian women, said Atoun, “but that won’t stop us from trying.”