An Apple a day to keep Syria at bay?
Over the next three months, Israel will export 18,000 tons of apples to its northeastern neighbor, Syria.
Israel's export program for Syrian Druze makes Syria the only export destination of Israeli apples. Photo: Ram Shadmon
It may not be Rosh Hashana in Syria, and the civil war has ensured that the
country lacks the sweetness of honey, but Israel will be providing the country
plenty of apples regardless.
On Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., Israel will
begin apple exports to its northeastern enemy, renewing a scheme that started in
2005 to help Druze farmers in the Golan sell produce to their co-religionists in
Syria. Last year, as in 2009, the operation was halted due to low apple
Over the course of the next three months, Israel will load some
18,000 tons of apples— about 15 percent of the annual crop, and four times the
amount transferred in the original operation —onto trucks and, with the help of
the Plants Production and Marketing Board, IDF and the Red Cross, help them
cross the border into Syria. The Golden and Starking Red Delicious apples slated
to cross the Purple Line were part of a bumper apple crop in 2012.
operation of transporting the apples 300 meters includes packaging them with
special cooling equipment to help them keep and loading them up onto Red Cross
trucks, says Amir Antler, who manages the Galilee-Golan region for the
“The Ministry of Agriculture has advanced this
export for several years now, and the issue has become a special tradition,” he
adds, marveling that Israeli produce will be enjoyed in an enemy
The operations haven’t always run smoothly. In 2009, two Golan
Druze were sentenced to prison on charges of spying for Syria. Yusef Salah Shams
of Majdal Shams and Ata Najib Farhat of Bukata first made contact with Syrian
authorities as part of the apple transfer in 2006, where they agreed to pass on
information about IDF troop movements.
The two men, who agreed to a plea
bargain, said their intention was not to harm Israel.