Khirbet Makhul

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Nurit Popper, Keren Aviram and Daphne Banai (reporting)

Since I have been absent for three weeks, these were mainly visits to get a current picture of the situation of our friends in the Palestinian Jordan Valley.

Mahyoub (Samara, below Umm Zuka) – this morning Mahyoub went out with two activists of the Northern group (not the Northern group of Machsomwatch. This is a group of which I too am a member, including activists of various organizations who go out to the Palestinian Jordan Valley on various actions – cleaning water holes, accompanying shepherds, helping out in construction). This is Mahyoub’s first time to take his flock out to graze since June – because of the settler-colonists’ harassments and threats, as well as the great summer heat.

Mahyoub himself was in Toubas with his wife. All their children stay there all week with relatives, since there are no schools in this part of the Jordan Valley. Israel forbids building them (in August of 2015 Israel demolished a single-room mud structure in Samara, serving as a schoolroom-kindergarten for children 5-6 years old).

We had tea with his elderly mother, who told us she had a heart condition and underwent surgery that was only partly successful. She said that in the morning, while her son was out on the grazing grounds, a settler-colonist came and roamed about between their tents. I find it horrible that he could bother the weaker members of the community, who remained in the encampment while the men were out with the flocks. Later I found out that the grazing went well, but in the afternoon settler-colonists from the illegal outpost in Umm Zuka came around on their mini-tractors and threatened the Samara villagers. Mahyoub was alerted immediately but had been held up for a long time at the Tyassir Checkpoint, and by the time he arrived at the village, the settler-colonists were already gone.

Um Jamal – We visited the family that we had taken to the En Sukut spring, owners of the tractor that the army wanted to confiscate illegally. We were greeted very warmly. They told us that settler-colonists from Rotem and Mekhola harass them daily, as do soldiers: the shepherds are harassed and threatened with confiscation of their livestock on grounds that they are too close to the Allon Road, or Road 909. M. swore that they keep their distance from the road, but if the army decides to confiscate the flock – how can he prove this? Every such confiscation means an impossible expense for the impoverished Palestinian Jordan Valley dwellers.

Makhoul – Bourhan and Abu Khalaf speak of new winds blowing in the Palestinian Jordan Valley. The previous PA governor of the area is deceased, may he rest in peace. The new governor has been listening to their hardships and claims he would stand by them and help in cases of demolition. We’ll see. He fired the former person responsible for the shepherds in the area (Aref) and appointed an 8-member committee that includes Abu Saker, Mahdi, Mahyoub and Abed Madir of En Sukut. These are all leaders among the Palestinian Jordan Valley communities.

Yaacov Manor and Rina are leading a donation campaign for the youngsters of the area, especially women, who wish to study in the university but have a hard time financing such studies. Bourhan from Makhoul encourages all of his daughters to study and does not let them marry before they do. To that end, he has been sending his children to live with relatives in Tamoun, where the older girls take care of the younger ones. As we have reported, there are no schools in the vicinity of the shepherd communities of the Palestinian Jordan Valley. Bourhan’s eldest daughter has finished her BA studies with honors and is volunteering at the Red Crescent. He cannot afford to have her continue towards the aspired PhD, as two more of his daughters have begun their studies this year. This is a heavy load for a shepherd who makes his living from selling his goat- and sheep cheeses. We offered to help as best we can so that she doesn't drop her studies. And he, from sheer happiness, burst into tears.