On the Footsteps of an Elusive Peace

 In Antisemitism, Honesty, Compassion, and Respect

Three days ago, my dad, our tour guide, and I drove up to the Israeli border with Lebanon, a town called Metula. We listened to stories from a man named Yaniv who lives in the northernmost home in the country. His father sleeps with grenades and an armed gun by his bedside. I ask Yaniv why he doesn’t move away from this vulnerable town. “I feel safer here than anywhere else. It’s hard to understand, but it’s because I know who my enemies are,” he replies.

 He drives his red jeep barefoot and jumps out to grab us nectarines larger than my fist, of vibrant reds and yellows, sweeter than honey. He shares stories of how his once beloved neighbors—like family—became the enemies he fears day in and day out. It is these enemies that scrutinize his every step atop the slopes of Metula’s hills. It is these enemies he fends against as war after war ravages his hometown that his family has inhabited for generations. 

Yaniv is Metula’s shepherd. Every change and every move is a sixth sense, and he commits to guarding this village with his life. Just a few years ago he smelled something fishy in the village, suspecting the infamous tunnels dug by Hezbollah: “The army thought I was crazy, they thought I had PTSD. They thought I was
paranoid. No one believed me.” We stop by the recently excavated tunnels where Yaniv can prove his doubters wrong, then drive up to a mountain peak on the northern tip for a complex view from above. We watch Lebanese farmers cultivate dry lands pinned by Hezbollah and PLO flags below, and peer ahead to see Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan in the near distance. A small country indeed— and that’s just a fragment of the north.


 After our adventures with Yaniv, we are welcomed into the humble home of Mona, a Druze woman living in a quaint village in the Golan Heights. My mouth waters as I smell cumin, za’atar, and fennel seeds at the entrance. A meal of a dozen dishes— spicy rice, Fattoush salad, pickled eggplant, varieties of fluffy breads coated in spices, hummus, labneh, and more awaits us.

We indulge in a cuisine and culture so rich, where Mona joins in to share the complex flavors of Druze traditions, history, and daily life. It is a religion whose holy place needs no holy land. Why can’t all religions adopt this? An antidote to peace, perhaps. “The home, with family, is the holy place. There is no other,” Mona adds. 

The simplicity of home as a holy place is rooted in Druze origins. Temples once disguised as residential houses to protect against Islamic persecution are now their worshiping grounds. Although the Druze need not fear today, their modern temple—the Khelwa—looks no different than any other home in the village.

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