After 55 Years, the Druze of the Golan Are Choosing Israel over Syria

September 9, 2022 | Fadi Amun
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While the Druze population of the Galilee and Israeli cities serve in the army and in the government, and in general consider themselves—and indeed, are—an integral part of the Jewish state, the Druze of the Golan Heights are a people apart. Although they have the option of applying for Israeli citizenship, most have declined to do so, preferring to maintain their close ties with Syria, which possessed the Golan until 1967. That is starting to change, writes Fadi Amun:

Official government figures . . . show that over the past five years, the number of citizenship requests filed by Druze residents of the Golan Heights has [steadily increased] from 75 requests in 2017 to 239 in 2021. The number for 2022 will likely be even higher still. In the first half of the year alone, 206 requests were submitted.

Yusri Hazran, a historian and senior lecturer at Shalem College in Jerusalem who has researched trends and changes in Druze society in the Golan Heights, predicted that within twenty years, about half of the Druze residents of the Golan will hold Israeli citizenship. According to Hazran, the Syrian civil war has “smashed the idea of a Syrian nation” and severed many links between the Golan Druze and Damascus, including cross-border sales of produce and university attendance.

Mila, [a] Druze woman, said she applied for citizenship in 2021, which was swiftly granted. But her decision is a secret to most. “My parents don’t have [Israeli] citizenship, and they accepted and respected my decision. The broader family doesn’t know about it, and I assume that if they were to find out, some of my relatives would sever their ties with me,” she said.

According to Hazran, some also fear retaliation against relatives still in Syria should it become known that they received Israeli passports.

Amun notes that Golan Druze who refuse citizenship also declined to be interviewed, citing their fear “that talking to the media could make them ‘targets’ for Israeli authorities.” But one cannot but wonder if they are as reluctant to state their real fear as they are to be speak to journalists—namely retaliation not from Israeli authorities but from Syrian ones.

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