TRAVEL
Are villagers Israeli, Lebanese or Syrian?

GHAJAR (pronounced Rajar) is the only Alawite village, in Israel. Well, sort of in Israel that is!

Although all 2,800 residents carry Israeli identity cards, the locals will tell you they are Syrians who have ended up, through no fault of their own, stuck in a sort of not here, not there triangle, straddling borders between Syria, Lebanon and Israel since being taken over by the latter during the 1967 Arab-Israel war.

Prior to 1967, the people of Ghajar village held Syrian citizenship and the men served in the Syrian army.

With roots in Shia Islam, the Alawites represent around 12 per cent of Syrian citizens, but are a powerful minority with the late Alawite Hafez al-Assad and nowadays son Bashar al-Assad having ruled the country for more than 50 years.

The story behind the unbelievably complicated situation residents of the village of Ghajar have found themselves in over the years, prompted a recent visit to the Israeli northern border.

On top of everything else, the area has been deemed a closed military zone by Israel.

Although Iíve visited Ghajar on a number of occasions in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the confusing dilemma has further deepened, especially since the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon in May, 2000.

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