Accompanying shepherds in the hot Jordan Valley
Palestinian Jordan Valley
September 8, 2020
We left Tel aviv at 6 a.m. This time we wanted to accompany shepherd M. from his village near Hamra. After an hour and a quarter’s drive down the breathtaking views on the way to the Palestinian Jordan Valley, we got off the main road and continued on the open terrain until we got to the bottom of a hill where, high above us, M. waved to us in welcome.
On the previous days, settler-colonists had attacked him at the same spot and chased away his flock, so our friends of Taayush (human rights movement) who accompany the Palestinian shepherds asked us to do so that day. We wonder what he thought upon seeing us three “oldies” climbing up the hill, Daphne with her two new walking canes, Tziva with one cane and Nurit’s supporting hand, also careful not to slip down on the gravel. This sight must have been surreal but I didn’t let myself laugh, taking care not to slip too. We came up to M. who was surrounded by sheep and goats grazing on the dry grass. We continued with him and his flock up the high hill. Around us everything is dry, and still there are all kinds of thorns the names of which I used to know by heart… Now, with the efforts of climbing, I tried to spoon their names out of my memory and recalled what I used to say to my students, that not only the name of the plant is significant, but the special biology of every species as well.
Finally, after much effort, we joined M. who sat under a shady “Christ’s Thorn” tree. The view of the whole Palestinian Jordan Valley below us was marvelous. We enjoyed the light warm and pleasant breeze at the top of the hill. We spoke with M. who showed us pictures of his three children, the eldest (5-year old girl) and the two younger sons.
M. Shared with us tasty grapes and apricots he had bought at Tamoun village.
At 10:20 he announced that he was returning to his village with the flock, descended westward and disappeared from view.
We began climbing down the hill towards the pickup truck that waited for us in the heart of the wilderness… Climbing down the steep hill was not easy either, perhaps even scarier than before. We took care not to slip. Daphne was amazing with her skillful handling of the two canes, and I was helped by Nurit’s strong hands.
We decided that our next destination would be the dwelling tent of Mahdi’s father, where we had stored the tarpaulins that Buma had given us a month ago. Apparently Mahdi is ill with the Covid-19 virus, and we couldn’t see him, but we could pick up the necessary tarpaulins from the cart near his father’s tent. From there we drove back south and went to Ras Al Ahmar, to the tent of A. and R. and their children.
Usually we enjoy our visit in R.’s orderly and clean tent that is so pleasant to spend time in. This time, because of the Corona virus, we chose to be careful. They came out to us and were very disappointed at our staying outside, but understood us and were not offended. We gave them the tarpaulin to cover the sheep pen.
We took our leave and returned to the main road, and turned south to Fasil. We got there when it was already noontime, driving towards H.’s tent – our old friend who was standing outside it and greeted us warmly, but did not want us to come close. We waved back, and returned towards the tin shanty where T. lives with her family. She has been ill for a while now and is treated at the Jericho Hospital. Knowing we’d come she changed the time of her treatment there. We sat in the shade of the shanty, it was noontime and the heat was unbearable – I felt roasted in hellfire. Where do these people get the energy to live in such conditions? The shanty inside is hot and stuffy. T. said that at night they all sleep outdoors, but are afraid of the scorpions that come out of their holes at night…
We then visited the family living nearby whose tent was demolished two weeks ago. The sight is still awful, and we brought them a tarpaulin to raise a new shed for the sheep and goats. The sun seethed above, and old M. showed us her swollen foot which prevents her from moving. Her daughter-in-law D. (young and beautiful) supports the elderly woman and is always smiling. We sit next to them, I feel burning up, perspiration drips into my eyes and I don’t see a thing. The airconditioned pickup truck literally saved me.
We got home at 15:30, and I still cannot help thinking about what is going on in Fasail.
A hard day.