by Adi Hashmonai
Ghajar elders: We hoped to be annexed by Israel.
The village of Ghajar Photo: Ancho Gosh / JINI
A Syrian map recently acquired by the Tel-Hai College in northern Israel reveals that two years before the 1967 Six-Day War, the disputed border village of Ghajar lay entirely within Syrian territory, contradicting a decision by Israel's Diplomatic-Security Cabinet that the northern part of the village belongs to Lebanon.
"This is a map from the Syrian construction authority from 1965 and we don't know that any other such maps exist in Israel," said Shalom Tarmachi, head of the Tel-Hai College map collection.
"I think Syria took control of the village to divert [a water source], which was one of the reasons for the outbreak of the Six-Day War. At the foothills of the village lie the Wazani springs, which are one of the sources of the Jordan River."
Tarmachi said the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916, signed when the French Mandate was in place over what is now Lebanon and Syria, assigned Ghajar to Lebanon. The modern nations of Lebanon and Syria were established in 1943 and 1946, respectively. The residents of Ghajar are Alawite Muslims, as is Syrian President Bashar Assad, and at the time were Syrian subjects. A French Mandate map drawn in 1935 corroborates this.
Ghajar was one of three Alawite villages in the environs of the district city of Quneitra, which is in Syria. When Syria and Lebanon were established as separate states, this changed, and Lebanon gained sovereignty over Ghajar.
"They [the residents of Ghajar] always had economic ties to Lebanon, but the Lebanese never liked them, because they were different. They were Alawites, and there are no Alawites in Lebanon," Tarmachi said.
"Until 1967, they [Ghajarites] were in Lebanon, but this map from the Syrian building agency from 1965 shows that the village actually belongs to Syria."
Prior to the war, Israel was not aware that Ghajar had been transferred to Syrian rule. IDF maps from 1967, which were apparently based on British maps, showed Ghajar as part of Lebanon, which did not fight against Israel in the Six-Day War.
In addition, according to testimonies from village elders, Israel had never occupied Ghajar – residents of the village waved a white flag in the hope that Israel would annex it.
Three years ago, blogger Shlomo Man, whose Naamoush blog is devoted to events on the Syrian Golan Heights in 1967, wrote a post that addressed questions about the nation to which Ghajar had belonged prior to being taken by Israel.
Man's article raises the possibility that the Syrians took control of the village prior to the Six-Day War.
"The Syrians wanted to divert the Wazani stream, which flows below Ghajar, to prevent it from reaching Israel," Man wrote. "The Lebanese were afraid of getting involved with Israel and threw the hot potato to Syria."
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