Jordan Valley: Has the occupation beaten Ouda, whose wife is seriously injured, his infant daughter killed and his home razed?

Observers: 
Dafna Banai, Nurit Popper (photographing), Sharon Gamzu (acupuncturist), Tzvia Shapira (reporting) Translator: Charles K.
21/08/2019
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Morning

Jordan Valley: Has the occupation beaten Ouda, whose wife is seriously injured, his infant daughter killed and his home razed?

On the way to the Jordan Valley this morning, opposite the entrance to Mekhora settlement, we saw a herd of cows.  We wanted to photograph it on our way back, but they were no longer there.  Only a large circular area surrounded by an electrified fence, strewn with cow pats and drenched with urine, bore witness to their departure.  You rarely see cows at veteran settlements; it must be a sign of a new outpost.

We went first to Burhan, at Khalat Makhoul.  He told us of Rachel’s idea to establish a small kindergarten.  We met Sharon (an acupuncturist), from Tel Yosef, who’d come to treat Burhan’s severe back pains.

While Sharon treated Burhan, Dafna, Nurit and I drove to Yusuf and visited Najya and her eight children.  We were amazed, as usual, by the cheese and bread she makes, and Dafna arranged with her that we’ll come this Monday with guests (Swiss diplomats) who wish to learn at first-hand about the problems in the Jordan Valley.  Najya will prepare lunch, which we’ll pay for.

We left Dafna’s car near Yusuf and Najya’s tent (after Sharon had unloaded everything she’d brought them) and continued in Sharon’s large, comfortable ATV.  From Makhoul we drove up to the Hemdat settlement and then, on the road that surrounds the settlement’s security fence, we reached the new illegal outpost of Menahem, the settler.  Extensive lands that until recently were used by Palestinian shepherds for grazing had been plowed by that settler.  He’s apparently preparing to sow in anticipation of the rainy season (last week’s report noted that the same settler plowed additional land that didn’t belong to him, west of Hemdat.  That area belongs to Palestinians from Tamun.)  On the way to the new outpost we turned off the uphill road to a community of shepherds located below it, whom Dafna, and I, of course, had never visited.  In a lean-to we met the wife and children of the Yihye family, seven in number.  It took her a while to realize we weren’t settlers, and to relax.  Her husband was grazing the sheep to the east of the road, west of Umm Zuka.  She said that until the outpost was established, he’d graze the flock north of the tents, but now all that area is closed.  A month ago settlers situated themselves above the encampment and threw rocks at them.  She seemed to be in great distress, and it’s worth thinking about following up on what’s happening to them.  She told us she has a retarded son.  We saw him before we left.

From there we drove up to another new outpost, west of the Alon road, south of Ein Hilweh.  There’s a cabin, cows, trucks, a vehicle (without a rear license plate), coils of tubing (to be connected to a water source).  There’s an outdoor lounging area overlooking the glorious Jordan Valley landscape and the hills of Moab in the distance.  Well-made, unpaved access roads have been constructed to both outposts at considerable expense.  It’s obvious that the money invested in these roads comes from our taxes…

We drove south toward the Jiftlik.  At the entrance to Jiftlik we went to Ha’is’ grocery, drank guava juice, and the owner refused to take our money, thanking us for our visit.  We met there a young woman named No’al – an English teacher who speaks the language fluently.  She told us her family fled Israel in 1948, from the Kabara area.  The location, and No’al’s skin color (very dark, fleshy lips), reminded me that in the area of the Kabara marshes (near kibbutz Ma’agan Michael) lived Bedouin, dark-skinned like her, who came from Egypt and the Sudan, from the ‘Arab al ‘Awarna tribe, some of whom have lived since 1926 in Jisr a-Zarqa.

In Jiftlik we met the members of the extended Qa’abana family.  Ouda, the husband of Shara who’d been seriously injured in an accident about two weeks ago, in which their infant daughter was killed, and is still hospitalized, in a coma, in Hadassah Ein Karem.  Also present was his mother, his much younger brothers and his little son who didn’t stop crying.  He certainly misses Shara, his mother.  His grandmother seems devoted to him.

The family welcomed us and hosted us in their tent.  Dafna told Ouda we’d spoken to an Israeli attorney who specializes in personal injury, but it turned out they’d already contacted a Palestinian attorney whom they trust.  Of course, we decided not to get involved, and honor their decision.  It appears that, thanks to Ouda’s warm, supportive family he’s able to carry on in the wake of the terrible disaster that befell them.  As we see it, the occupation beat Ouda, expelled him from rich grazing lands to the Jiftlik, where many Palestinian families are crowded together with no possibility of accessing adequate grazing for their flocks.

We returned to the air-conditioned car and drove home, leaving the shepherds and their families in the oppressive heat.  All of us felt their powerful connection to the area, and that even the cruel Israeli occupation won’t tear them from these lands.