Palestinian Jordan Valley: The situation gets worse

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Daphne Banai, Nurit Popper and Rachel Ilan Guest: Dr. Yossi Guterman (Taayush)

It was a long day. We left  Tel Aviv early in the morning and at 9:30 a:m we already met Yosi and Guy near the Hemdat settler-colony, Palestinian Jordan Valley. The two had escorted Palestinian shepherds since dawn, as the settler-colonists of Umm Zuka have lately begun to chase away Bourhan and the Hadidiya shepherds. The settler-colonists have erected an outpost in the heart of the military zone/Umm Zuka nature reserve, east of Bourhan’s home.

From donations we had raised, we purchased 10 lightweight folding shades that are very quick to put up. Guy Hirschfeld of Taayush went especially to Tel Aviv with Ezra’s pickup truck and brought us the shades. We borrowed the pickup from Guy and drove from one community to another, distributing the shades that were, of course, very warmly received.

After a visit at Makhoul with Bourhan and Najia (Yusef’s wife, who just a few hours later gave birth to a son), we drove to Tyassir Checkpoint and proceeded from there to Toubas town to visit Mohammad, ill with cancer. His tests have been good and we are hoping for the best. Even his hair has begun growing again and he looks good. In the meantime he still requires quarantine and receives treatments at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital. I received generous donations and gave him a sum of money during my visit, to cover trips in case they don’t work out with the Israeli volunteer organization “The Road to Recovery”. Angel hearted Ezra Nawi who drove him to the checkpoint every time is now abroad, so more transport possibilities are needed. Mohammad’s father, disabled as a result of stepping on a mind, has sold his flock and moved to live with his wife and younger son in a room beneath Mohammad’s room. We don’t quite know how he will make ends meet.

There have been more Palestinians leaving this area this year, both because of the heavy drought and their inability to finance feed for their flock, unable to graze sufficiently, and because of the pirate illegal settler-colonist outposts that have sprouted next to Palestinian communities and the frequent violence exerted by those settler-colonists upon the locals.

The army base “Tabatz” opposite Hamam Al Malih on the way to Tyassir was evacuated two days earlier, and there was serious concern that it will be handed over to the settler-colonists, as has already happened several times in the past. If the latter were to settle there in this area, densely populated by shepherd communities, it would constitute a heavy blow for the Palestinians. We drove there and found a renovation contractor from Yatta, a town in the South Hebron Hills. He said he is employed by the Ministry of Defense, to renovate the place and have the army return. We were relieved…

We heard that beneath Hemdat, the settler-colony east of Bourhan’s home, the settler-colonists of Umm Zuka have erected a structure serving as a cowshed and placed a solar panel. In the heart of the army’s target practice area we ran into a young settler-colonist, about 17 years old, grazing the Umm Zuka outost’s cattle. Seeing us from afar, he sped on his motorbike towards us to inquire what we were doing there. Although we introduced ourselves as Machsomwatchers he was not hostile, and a conversation ensued about the fact that he and his buddies were taking over lands that are not theirs, and about the human rights of the legitimate local residents – the Palestinians. This was a sterileinfo-icon and superfluous argument, for he is convinced that the Almighty has granted him and his buddies the entire countries, and the Palestinians have absolutely no rights here. Human rights? What’s that?

We saw the water pipe running from Hemdat settler-colony to the Umm Zuka outpost, and now to the new spot that settler-colonists have taken over – another outpost or a cowshed for cows in their grazing area? Time will tell. May it be noted that ever since the new spot was established, the settler-colonists have been violently chasing away Bourhan and the Al Hadidiya shepherds from the area that used to be their traditional grazing ground. In such a drought year as the present one, every grazing ground is previous, even the smallest of them. The settler-colonists’ taking over more and more areas is catastrophic for the local residents. Taayush and other organizations try to accompany the Palestinians to pasture every day, and indeed – the settler-colonists don’t approach the Palestinian shepherds when these are escorted by Jews…