Apple transfer aids both sides of Israel-Syria border

This year, 12,000 tons of apples produced by Israeli Druze farmers are being transferred to Syria via the Quneitra crossing in an operation supervised by the Red Cross

Date: 06/04/2011, 9:28 AM     Author: Rotem Eliav

During a three-month period that started in mid-February, 12,000 tons of apples are to be transferred across the Syrian border by IDF (Zahal) forces via the Quneitra crossing.

The apples, grown in the Golan Heights by Druze farmers, carry a profound message: “Each apple equals assistance to Druze farmers on both sides of the border,” explains Cpt. Adham Rad, commander of the Quneitra crossing.

The project began six years ago when Israeli Druze farmers sought another market for their produce to raise prices and create a tangible connection with their brothers across the border.

“Some Druze families are separated by the border,” says Cpt. Rad, “and Israel, showing its desire for peace, works to accommodate their needs, making sure they lead normal lives.”

Israeli authorities approved the project and the Red Cross served as the neutral envoy needed to launch the project.

The Red Cross has representatives on each side of the border and supplies the trucks and Kenyan drivers that transfer the apples from Israeli to Syrian trucks. From Syria, the apples are marketed to Persian Gulf countries.

During the transfer, IDF (Zahal) forces ensure everything runs smoothly and enforce security at the Quneitra crossing.

Quneitra is a United Nations crossing and, although it separates two hostile nations, approximately 2,000 people cross it each year, including brides, reunited relatives and students. Also, deceased bodies of people wishing to be buried on the other side of the border are transferred through the crossing. All of these transfers are made possible by cooperation between the Red Cross and the Israeli and Syrian governments.

“This is a very special post, characterized by both tension and serenity” says Maj. Eyad Aktesh, a brigade engineer officer. “The countries are by no means allies, but the people share a true kinship.”

Cpt. Rad adds: “Standing at the border, it seems as if the two countries are at peace, especially during the apple transfer, which gets bigger each year.”

“Tourists visit here, UN workers cross here, and Israel realizes how important this opportunity is,” Maj. Aktesh says. “Quneitra represents Israel’s concern for the welfare of civilians, disregarding the obvious security threats posed by a border opening, especially with Syria which considers the Golan Heights to be its land.”

Red Cross representatives are responsible for the apple transfer, as well as a variety of other international activities taking place at the Quneitra crossing.