NOTE: This is a late post. My experience before in Palestine. But I post it here in REMEMBRANCE OF MY 3 MONTHS STAY and REMEMBERING the Aggression of Israeli in Gaza beginning in July 10, 2014.
I never had any experience in shepherding of my fifty years of existence in this world, not till I come into South Hebron Hills. First experience, second experience, and the next one were all somewhat exiting, interesting and fun until yesterday…
Shepherding is a way of life for the Palestinians in the villages. Most farmers also raise sheep and goats, chicken and ducks beside planting olives, grapes, figs, vegetables, barley, wheat and others that grow in the valleys and hills. They have bee-heaves as well. In short, there is abundance for every Palestinian family not counting the big houses sprawling in the hills and valleys in villages, municipalities and cities. In fact, I am one month now here but I have never seen a beggar.
This week, we receive calls coming from shepherds in different villages asking our presence during the afternoon shepherding. Our four-team members responded the requests through prioritizing which one needs our immediate presence. Shepherds sought international presence during shepherding for the following reasons:
Settlers’ harassment: One or two or more settlers come with their dogs to the shepherds with their sheep and goats peacefully grazing in the fields/valleys. The settlers let loose their dogs to run after the sheep and the goats, terrorizing the animals and owners as well. Some of them come with their guns and forcibly push the shepherds away from the grazing lands denying the sheep and goats to be fed. Settlers may come riding a horse or donkey and intrude the sheep and goats grazing peacefully or driving away the shepherds from the grazing areas by firing them. But with internationals’ presence, they keep at bay or they cannot be seen in the vicinity.
Soldiers’ presence: They come by two’s or four’s or a jeep-load/car-load and/or with settlement police and drive away the shepherds from the grazing lands. Most of the times, they come for the settlers and not to protect the people from the settlers. In others words, they are part of the “settlers’ guards.” However if there will be non-Palestinians or internationals’ presence, these soldiers behave and appeared to be protecting the Palestinians from the settlers.
The problem of the shepherds started when settlements (Israeli-created villages for Jewish community coming from abroad with full protection from the army, military post, full supply of water and electricity, good roads, fences, security, etc…) were illegally built in Palestinian lands/areas near to their farms/fields or villages. Settlers do not respect boundaries. They have much power and sometimes if not most of the times, soldiers always follow to their senseless attack to the people.
In Israeli Law the settlers are not allowed to come near to Palestinian lands/areas but these settlers who are illegally occupying the Palestinian lands never stop. They do what they like. Similar to the Israeli State, settlers intentionally or subtly continue to occupy the Palestinian lands through planting trees in the fields owned by the Palestinians; harassing and terrorizing the people, driving the peace-loving Palestinians away from their lands or sometimes used their guns, claiming Palestinian lives.
Internationals’ presence for years are able to help minimize violence and ease the daily problems temporarily because not all the times they are able to accompany the shepherds in the villages. In other words, no one can tell when the next harassment will be. Prioritizing for accompaniment is always based on the immediate need like how long the people were being harassed.
As I said, shepherding maybe fun being with the shepherds in the fields, watching the sheep and goats happily grazing around and walking them across fields and valleys and hills … but yesterday was never fun at all. Quarter to seven in the afternoon/evening (sun still up), we said goodbye to Nael with his sheep and goats going back to his tent-house as we went uphill to locate a road nearby. We could not go back with him for it is far already, that was why my teammate decided to go and looked for a road. We were glad to find a good road (asphalted) after a ten-minute walk uphill and we started to go downhill for the road. We walked comfortably, especially I felt my feet relaxed walking in a flat road. Looking forward, far down the road we saw a military car with other white cars owned by Palestinians. Then the team’s driver called us: “Do you want to encounter the soldiers? Get out from the road. I cannot fetch you because the road you are walking is going to a settlement and there is a military checkpoint ahead.”
Whoaaa, we stepped out from the road and started walking to a field then downhill. When I looked back the military were going down nearer to where we walked and then I saw police car coming behind. I walked fast following my teammate and asked him: “Did they follow us?” Truly that time, I felt some fears and told myself, never I would like to meet the police or IDF (Israeli Defense Force) officers and be interrogated. Though, after that experience, we continue to do shepherding and acompanying the shepherds in the fields.