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.

March 4, 2013 19:30
1 minute read.
Israel's export program for Syrian Druze makes Syria the only export destination of Israeli apples.

Israel's export program for Syria. (photo credit: Ram Shadmon)


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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 output.

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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.

The 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 Agriculture Ministry.

“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 state.

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.


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