| 24 July 2024, Wednesday |

Lebanon-Israel tensions rise, but life continues in disputed Ghajar

From the hills of Kfar Chouba, a village in southern Lebanon that overlooks towns in the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan Heights, the disputed village of Ghajar is fully visible.

Originally considered a part of Syria, Ghajar currently lies on a line of demarcation drawn by the United Nations between Lebanon and the Golan Heights, and has been occupied by Israel for most of the past 65 years.

Although Ghajar is split into two, its lush green landscape and ice-capped mountains extend as far as the eye can see, seemingly uninterrupted by the complicated geo-political history of the region.

Residents of Ghajar rush every morning to attend to their work, with many men employed by a growing number of factories and shops that dot the village.

With Israel eager to integrate occupied Ghajar into its economy, the town has seen a significant rise in the number of facilities producing food over the past few years, as well as shops selling everything from canned products to fresh zaatar, labneh, and olives.

These are “Syrian foods”, the villagers tell Al Jazeera by phone from across the border, explaining that their products are mostly sold in Israel because residents of Ghajar cannot cross into Lebanon or Syria, while Syrians and Lebanese cannot enter Ghajar.

Unlike the men, most women do not work in food production. Instead, they fill roles in Ghajar’s booming tourism industry, with new ski spots on Mount Hermon and trendy cafes and restaurants popping up across the town every year.

During the winter months, Ghajar’s mundane pace of life transforms as thousands of skiing and hiking enthusiasts from Israel and beyond visit the town to enjoy its scenic slopes and leafy trails.

Shops selling ski equipment stream with tourists as the town’s service sector peaks during the winter season, said Abu Nidal, a 68-year-old resident of Ghajar, who despite the prosperity of his hometown, felt disappointed and believed his people have been forgotten.

“What does it matter if we have these thriving businesses, but cannot connect with our neighbours in Lebanon and Syria,” he says.

“They [Lebanese and Syrians] are not able to visit us, nor are we able to visit them,” he adds.

Although Abu Nidal does not plan on giving up his Israeli citizenship, he said the town falls within Arab lands and should come under Syrian or Lebanese authority.

  • Aljazeera