Palesitnian Jordan Valley

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Rachel A.

The usual heavy morning traffic from Ramat Ha-Sharon to Rosh Ha-Ayin is replaced by primeval landscape beauty on the Allon road, devoid of any “civilized” stains, if one manages to ignore the deserted Gitit checkpoint. No sign of cars or anything and one is alone in the world, engulfed with happiness, unexplainable but for the view and what one feels in it, or rid of what has been left behind.

The region is yellow now after the fields have been harvested, the hay dried, and only an occasional blooming bush by the roadside adds a pink touch. I wanted to stop and take a picture for you, but didn’t. And then another blue blooming stain, and thus the road winds on in beauty and Fairuz sings of her longing for her grandmother… and I am steeped in pleasure and wondering whether this is in keeping with our (Machsomwatch) shift rules, and what our  “road doctor” would make of it…

No vehicle came my way until I passed by the entrance to Kfir army base, perhaps a single car drove in the opposite direction. Nothing at all. Why dwell on it? Because this thought of the vast, open spaces does not add up with the reports of land-grab and oppression and devastation and ethnic cleansing. Why? Lack of space?? It’s crazy. So we listen to Fairuz and enjoy the flowers and the world looks different.

I unload my cargo at Smahar’s encampment and sit with them for breakfast, a Jordan Valley omelet, sherry tomatoes and cucumbers from Ramat Ha-Sharon, learning their daily schedule: at 4 a.m. they milk the sheep and goats, sit directly with the milk and turn it into cheese; at the same time the herd goes out to graze in the now-arid fields, but the  morning walk is good the animals who need some exercise before feeding.


Then the troughs  are prepared with wheat and barley, in skilled large hand movements the way pizza used to be thrown for the awe-struck spectators. When everything’s ready, the herd will arrive and arrange itself  in sixes and eights, then drink their fill, then return to their yard like a herd of sheep and suddenly I realized how apt  this herd/flock metaphor is. They really follow one another without complaining nor asking questions. One of the sheep was confused and left the trough for no reason at all and the owner explained that she was wounded. Who knows.


In the time that is left until they go out to graze and be milked again (second shift) I learned of the costs. What quantities of water it takes to keep the flock, to maintain the  family, for life, how much it costs, what quantities of feed are necessary for the flock in this hot, uncompromising place. The costs are sky high. How can a single family bear such expenses that require an entire village…

Into all of this suddenly, a morning helter-skelter: a group of chicken fought with a pigeon over a free grain of wheat and had the women not arrived to separate the opponents, the hens would have killed the pigeon without any remorse. So later I realized that my fears about life in nature, the strong and the weak, take very concrete form here. The wheat and barley sacks attract common field mice who puncture the sack, and the holes signal the snakes of the fresh supply of mice and the feast that might follow and therefore  the stick waiting on the  side to smash the head of the snake, and if we add the watchful soldiers on the hill to this saga – or perhaps we just won’t. Better to cross on a high cart and not step on the encampment ground, for one might run into the red or black snake, and not in one’s dream…


Coffee? This was the sign that the visit was over and the next assignment awaits. So the shoes I brought, all sorts and sizes that are no longer serving Jewish feet brought much joy to this encampment and the next one, in spite of the fact that traipsing barefoot in this wild landscape under the vast sky is simply pleasure supreme.