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Hanukkiah purchased in Nazareth Arab market. all photos by Rhonda Spivak

Eyal Dayan at Gan-Guro with kangaroos at Kibbutz Nir David

Early Morning, in Golan Heights

Minefield, Golan

Empty Military baracks, Golan Heights

Nimrod's Castel, a Crusader Castle on the Golan Heights

Israeli wind turbines on the Golan 5 km south of Qunaitra. There are plans to develp more:

The Golan with Mount Hermon in the background

Editor's Report: A Hanukkah Story-A Hanukkiah, Oil and the Golan: In Memory of Eyal Dayan

by Rhonda Spivak, November 29, 2015



As Hanukkah approaches this year, I have been thinking about last visit to the Arab market (souk) in the old city of Nazareth in 2010 when I went with my daughter by taxi with our driver, Eyal Dayan. Eyal, an Israeli of Moroccan descent in his mid-forties, who had worked as a border policeman in Jerusalem, and who always had interesting stories, had been my regular driver for several years.



Before going to the Nazareth souk, we had gone to Gan-Garoo in Kibbutz Nir David, the only place on earth outside of Australia where you can pet and play with Kangaroos roaming freely. On our way back, Eyal asked if we wanted to stop in at the Arab market of Nazareth. I hadn't been there for over 15 years and it seemed like an opportune time to visit. Eyal, of course, added that it was a good idea to go with a strong guy (himself) around. "I'll help you bargain with the shopkeepers, if you want," Eyal, who spoke Arabic, offered. "I'm not sure Eyal, when they see you with me, they might drive up the prices," I jested.



As we wound our way through the market, past the variety of scarves, Christian artifacts and souvenirs, books, exotic spices and sweets, a Hanukkiah in an antique store caught my eye. Eyal approved, "This is a really nice one, a real antique, and they are hard to find. Don't expect to find another one like this again. "Switching into Arabic, he bargained for me, until we arrived at what Eyal determined was a fair price.



About a year and a half ago or so, I lost contact with Eyal. When I landed in Israel, and tried his telephone numbers, they weren't working, and I never managed to find out why. He had disappeared. I'd always wondered what had happened, and thought maybe he had moved out of Netanya or found a different line of work. I asked a couple other cab drivers, but they too said they hadn't seen him around. It never once dawned on me that he had died.



But one evening several months ago, I was searching the name Moshe Dayan on the internet for a piece I was writing and I came across a post from a man who I realized was Eyal's brother in which he posted one of Eyal's favourite songs in his memory. I learned Eyal, in his mid forties, had died of cancer.


Since that time, I have been thinking of my last day trip together when Eyal and I went to the Golan Heights, after the raging civil war in Syria had commenced.



On our way, Eyal told me how he had spent two years in the IDF laying mines in the Golan Heights, a process which began shortly after the Six Day War, and he pointed out the area where his army base had been.  



As we drove, he told me a story that he did not share often, if at all. It was about the day he almost lost his life in the Golan while in the army, a riveting tale that I have never forgotten. It was in the winter, and Eyal was sitting in the front passenger seat of an army jeep when suddenly the IDF soldier who was the driver of the jeep slouched down, with his head on the wheel. He had lost consciousness, due to a reason that was not clear. Turning his head around, Eyal quickly realized that the Bedouin tracker in the back seat had jumped out of the jeep - "He sensed something was wrong before it happened and got out and saved himself. He had a sixth sense," Eyal told me. The jeep had now entered a minefield and "in a split second my life flashed before me", as Eyal realized if he couldn't stop the jeep before it went over a mine he'd be blown up. Eyal explained that he immediately grabbed the wheel from the slouched driver and began steering away from the mined area in front of him. He managed to slam his foot on the brake and luckily stopped the jeep just in time, inches away from the mined area. He then radioed for help, and the army told him to sit tight and not move an inch until they found a way to rescue him. 



I've been thinking about Eyal's story ever since I learned in October 2015 that there has been a huge discovery of oil in the Golan Heights. In other words, shortly before Hanukkah, Israel has found oil, enough to make it self-sufficient for many years to come. And I know that on the day we visited the Golan, Eyal, like so many other Israelis I know, said that it is a "miracle" that Israel never returned the Golan Heights to Syria's Bashar Assad, as if it had ISIS would now be occupying the Golan, attacking Tiberius and the nearby Kibbutzim and threatening to poison Israel's water supply from the Kinneret. Eyal would have loved to hear that Israel has found large quantities of oil in the Golan.



When I bought the Hanukkiah with Eyal in 2010 I never realized Eyal’s "light" would be stamped out so soon-far too soon.  But each time, I light that Hanukkiah, I will think of him, his army service and the day he almost died on the Golan. 



Note: Dr. Yuval Bartov, Afek Oil and Gas chief geologist told Israel's Channel 2 News recently about the oil find, "We are talking about strata which are 350 meters thick and what is important is the thickness and the porosity. On average in the world strata are 20-30 meters thick, so this is ten times as large as that, so we are talking about significant quantities. The important thing is to know the oil is in the rock and that's what we now know."



However, the cost-effectiveness of extracting the oil has still to be investigated. Environmentalists and local residents have been campaigning against the drilling because they fear that it will damage the Golan's natural landscapes, flora and fauna. Also, Netayahu has recently hinted to Obama that the US ought to recognize Israel's annexation of the Golan given the ongoing war across the border in Syria and the jihadist militias and Iranian-backed forces slowly taking over the country,

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.