Border communities remain nervous as fighting between Israel and Hezbollah intensifies

Eight months after the start of the latest Israel-Hamas war, tensions continue to rise as attacks are exchanged between the Israeli military and the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Some farmers living in the border area think a full-on invasion of Lebanon is inevitable.

The World
Updated on

Eitan Davidi calls his home of Margaliot — a farming community facing Israel’s border with Lebanon — one of the most-peaceful places on Earth.

But as talk of escalation between Israel’s military and the militant Lebanese group Hezbollah ramps up, Davidi said he only sees one solution to keeping the peace: “We must have an all-out war.”

Davidi said he believes a war with Lebanon is the only way to restore peace to the Israel-Lebanon border.

Tensions have been rising in the border area since Oct. 8, when Hezbollah, backed by Iran,  launched rockets in solidarity with the Palestinian people just a day after Hamas militants invaded southern Israel, taking more than 200 people into Gaza as hostages, during which about 1,200 people were killed.

In early June, Hezbollah launched more than 200 rockets — its most ever in a single day since the fire exchanges began — after Israel killed a senior Hezbollah commander in a targeted strike. 

As the US, France and other nations try to defuse tensions between Israel and Lebanon, Davidi and others living along Israel’s northern border say that would be a mistake.

“[Hezbollah] has to understand they cannot feel free to attack the civilian community in the north of Israel, and we have to teach them a lesson once and for all,” he said.

The 54-year-old said he feels frustrated after months of attacks on his land. He is also annoyed with the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), whom, he said, just stand idly by. 

More than 80,000 people from Israel’s north have been displaced; precious agricultural land has been set ablaze; and the local economy is in shambles.

Davidi, fed up with the situation, said he even kicked IDF soldiers out of his community recently to send them a message.

“They came here and did nothing,” he said. “I’m asking the government to take responsibility and to send the army inside Lebanon to defend us.”

That may be Davidi’s take on the situation, but other people in northern Israel say they are more fearful about the prospect of an all-out war with Lebanon than anything else.

Schachar Gleiser, a sommelier at an upscale seafood restaurant in Akko’s old town, says he’s prepared to move in with relatives further south in the event of a full-on war with LebanonRebecca Rosman/The World

For weeks now, sirens have blared in Akko — located 15 miles from the border. But 38-year-old Shachar Gleiser, a sommelier at the upscale seafood restaurant Uri Buri, said they’re hardly audible from the old town where the restaurant is located.

“The sirens don’t really work here,” Gleiser said. “So, you don’t feel the stress.”

A self-described peace-loving Rastafarian, Glaiser said he isn’t optimistic about what’s to come. He revealed he has already prepared to move in with relatives in Caesarea, a town about 40 miles further south of Akko. 

In the old city, merchants at the local souk, or shopping area, are also fearful of what’s to come.

Mohammed Husan Abu-Dabus has been running a fruit and vegetable stall in Akko’s old town for 44 years.Rebecca Rosman/The World

Mohammed Husan Abu-Dabus has run a fruit and vegetable stall in Akko for 44 years. 

The 65-year-old said he heard an explosion just above his house the very same morning that The World spoke to him. It was a suspicious aerial target that was intercepted and landed in the Mediterranean Sea.

“You just get used to it,” he said.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country is prepared for “very intense action” in the north. He added that the government is gearing up to send more troops bordering Lebanon once the fighting in the Gaza Strip winds down. 

Some of his right-wing Cabinet members have demanded a proactive strike, while the United States, France and other mediating countries hope they can curb an Israeli conflict with Hezbollah.

Many people in Akko, however, say the last thing Israel needs is another war on its hands. But, like Abu-Dabus, the local fruit vendor, many feel it’s inevitable.

In Uri Buri, kitchen worker Mohamed Hadad said that several weeks ago, he spent 12 hours helping put out a fire after a Hezbollah missile hit a nearby town.

Uri Buri restaurant in Akko.Rebecca Rosman/The World

“It’s scary,” Hadad said, adding that he hopes everything will be over soon and people will be able to head back to their normal lives. 

Yet, that’s not what he said that he expects. If there’s another missile strike, he said he’ll be ready to run straight toward the fire.

Related: As Hezbollah buries its fighters, supporters say they are defiant

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