Jordan valley: Shepherd escort and community visit to Ras Al Ahmar
I met with Omer K. at the train station and we left for the Palestinian Jordan Valley. At the junction to Hemdat Jewish settler-colony we met with Daphne and Jude who came in Daphne’s car. We drove together to the gravel track near Hemdat turning south, after a short drive. We met Hamude and Tahsin who grazed their flock on the southern side of the road this time. Daphne and I remained there to accompany Hamude and Tahse, while Omer and Jude drove on to accompany someone else at Farsiya.
Accompanying the shepherds waspeaceful, we did not run into any settler-colonists or soldiers. The two flocks walked side by side, the weather was pleasant, and our experience very positive. After being treated to breakfast by the shepherds, we continued to climb up and down the hills around. We heard the sound of a kid and realized that a she-goat had given birth to a little kid, brown with a white woolen ‘tassel’ on its skull. Tahsin gave the kid to its mother, to lick it, and then placed it in a sack on the donkey’s back. Around 12 noon we called Omer and Jude and met them where we had met Tahsin and Hamude.
After a short drive, near the entrance to Hemdat, we split up again – Omer and I continued to Ras Al Ahmar and Daphne and Jude continued to Hadidiya.
On their way to meet us, at 7:30 a.m. Daphne and Jude found the Hamra Checkpoint manned by four male soldiers and one woman-soldier standing in the front concrete block, weapon pointed. A long waiting line stretched west of the checkpoint. (On their way back home again, they met a similar scene at 2:45 p.m. – and then too the checkpoint was manned and long waiting lines of cars were seen especially from Nablus to the Jordan Valley.)
At Ras Al Ahmar we convened in Ru’aida’s tent. We brought Najia a laptop – she had registered for studies in Nablus. The laptop was donated by Nina. Sitting in the encampment we found it that Najia’s father had decided she would not study, and found her a bridegroom who does not allow her to pursue her studies.
I felt as though someone had knocked me out. I realized how great the cultural gap between us really is. I asked Najia, “Are you happy?” She smiled and said yes, but I felt that her eyes were very sad. So far her father had ruled her life, and from now on she is handed over to the future husband who will rule it for her. She has no voice, no say in the matter. Mother Ru’aida explained that this was an opportunity, for the bridegroom has money and a house of concrete rather than a tent, and possesses many sheep, and Najia will help him tend them. The mother hurried tosay that Raneen will commence studies next September. I decided to ask them to return the 7000 shekels I had given them for Najia’s university registration.
Ever since, I cannot help thinking of all that we encountered at Ras Al Ahmar.
We returned to the Rosh Ha-Ayin train station at 15:30.