Golan Heights Cowboys

This is an oddity from Saturday’s i paper:

With his wide-brimmed hat, Wrangler jeans and ornate belt buckle, Yehiel Alon could easily pass for one of the Montana ranchers he once worked with. But the 53-year-old is an Israeli cowboy on the Golan Heights bordering war-torn Syria, where frontier-life takes on a whole new meaning.

“It’s probably the only place on earth where you will see cows alongside tanks,” he says with a smile, a cigarette dangling from his lips.

Herding cattle in these parts is no job for greenhorns. Mr Alon has got to keep them from stepping on decades-old landmines, wandering into military bases or being shot in nearby firing ranges.

Israel’s Prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, recently drew renewed attention to the Golan Heights by vowing to forever hold the land Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 war from which an Israeli withdrawal was once seen as key to regional peace.

That same week,Mr Alon and 3 other cowboys rounded up some 650 cattle during a major Israeli military drill, in which helicopters hovered above and explosions were heard i the distance. Just over the ridge lay the greatest threat of all – the Syrian civil war. The cowboys dismiss the Syrian fighting as background noise, and say they aren’t going anywhere.

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