The Palestinian Jordan Valley
The settler-colonists of the northern Palestinian Jordan Valley continue to pose violent threat to the local Palestinian shepherd communities, and this time to us as well
6:00 We drove out to the Palestinian Jordan Valley in order to accompany shepherds of seven families in Al Hema who suffer severe violence exerted by settler-colonists who have erected an illegal outpost next to them, and try to prevent the shepherds from taking their flocks to graze in the region. At 7a.m., still on our way, we received phone calls from frightened Al Hema villagers: two armed settler-colonists (they are always seen with handguns in their belts) entered the Palestinian encampment and are standing at their home entrance. Throughout our journey (and hour and a half) we kept receiving more and more calls asking us to hurry – the Palestinians are afraid that the settler-colonists would harm their women, children, homes or livestock. In actual fact, the settler-colonist did nothing beside frighten everyone with their presence, but since those same people already killed two sheep in cold blood a month ago and wounded a Palestinian (see this report), even such presence is no trifle. Abu Rasma’s wife and his daughters were terrified, on the verge of hysteria. The men two were very apprehensive.
9:00 at long last a Civil Administration officer arrived on the scene, closely followed by a higher-ranking officer (lieutenant colonel). I asked them how is it that I arrived from Tel Aviv to this violent scene faster than they did, based in the Jordan Valley. The senior officer answered that it is not his place to be at the beck and call of Palestinians. “I came didn’t I?” (Calls to the police did not help, no one came). The officer argued further that since the settler-colonists did not throw stones (this time) nor physically impact anyone, then “there is nothing to be done” and required (rightly) that the Palestinians film the goings-on in real time. Abu Rasma said that none of them have a phone-camera. The truth is that they are afraid to film, for fear of being harassed, and especially that their phones would be taken away from them. The Palestinian dwellers of the Jordan Valley are defenseless in face of these dangerous neighbors.
In this talk we heard that the Administration is now about to issue new demolition orders for the Abu Rasma encampment (sounds to me like a threat for having been alerted) and that the new outpost is in the process of being regulated, given official sanction… This is how things work here – the Palestinians are expelled and the outposts are sanctioned!
We went out with the shepherds to this pasture. They make a long detour in order not to pass near the outpost, and the trail uphill is difficult, about an hour in each direction. We seated ourselves at a spot from which we could see all the grazing groups. At 12:00 a settler-colonist arrived and took his place on the hill opposite the pasture. About half an hour later two more settler-colonists joined him on horseback, surrounding the Palestinians and their herds, but keeping a distance of about 50 meters from them. They stood there for about two hours, watching them. The point was to block their way down at the end of their grazing time, so as not to make the shorter route passing about 100 meters from the new outpost.
14:00 We began to prepare leaving with the Palestinian shepherds in order to begin our way home. And then the three armed settler-colonists approached us on horseback, get in between us, galloped into the herd, and all in very frightening poses. This feels terrifying, as a horse and its rider wildly speed towards us and break off their direction in the last possible second… I called the Ariel police station and spoke with Roman. I told him we were distant from the road or any inhabited locality and feel extremely threatened by armed men who have been watching us for hours and were not galloping around us. We fear for our lives. Naturally, nothing was done. We were exhausting from the long and difficult walk, and from a whole day of stress.
20 minutes after the settler-colonists finally left on their way back to their outpost, one of us tripped and was injured in her forearm – two open fractures. An ambulance arrived and we spent the rest of the day at Ha’emek Hospital in Afula. We got home at midnight. Our friend is in a cast, and a week from now the doctors will decide whether she needs surgery. I have no doubt in my mind that the day’s events affected her condition, her fall and injury, even if these were not a direct result of the encounter with the settler-colonists’ unbridled violence.