Al Farsiya Jordan Valley: Relentless persecution of the Palestinian shepherds

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Shaul Witts, Michal Ariel, Hanna, Danny Borovsky, Nurit Ofer, Mickey Fisher (reporting). Translation: Danah

Friday 09.02.2024
Shaul and I, Micky, arrived on Friday afternoon to Al-Farsiya - a Palestinian herding village in the north of the valley opposite the settlement of Rotem. El-Farsiya is threatened by a number of outposts or as they're termed in laundered language "pasture farms", and a number of other settlements in the vicinity.
The previous shift reported that the grazing in their presence passed safely in all areas that Friday morning. We went around the families, talked to men and women, helped distribute the hay in the troughs, played with the children and in the evening around 8:00 PM we went to sleep in the tent of the volunteers for a protective presence (staying with the locals in case of attacks by the settlers).

The night passed peacefully despite the unbelievable noise of the animals close to the camps - the sheep bleating, the roosters crowing, the dogs barking at every movement and the cats meowing. There is no peace in the village - it’s a myth...

Saturday 10.02.2024
The next morning at 8:00 a.m. the four other volunteers appear and while we are about to divide into teams, A. the shepherd informed us that Gilad Amosi, the settler from Rotem and his flock of sheep have invaded the field sown by A. the Shepherd from El Farsia, and the herd is grazing and destroying the newly sprouted barley. This field was leased from a Palestinian resident of Tubas (we saw the paperwork confirming his legal ownership), but the Hilltop Youth from Didi's outpost claim that the area belongs to the Rotem settlement and therefore to them as well.

We left hurriedly to drive away the herd and its shepherd. In this season there is a lot of green and rich grass all over the valley, but this does not interest the settlers, they are locked in the plan to steal the little that is still left for the Palestinians, the future food with which they will feed their herds during the dry season.

We all stood in a line in the middle of the field in front of the invading sheep and tried to drive them away. But the settler shepherd continued to urge the sheep to advance across the field rather than go out into the green natural areas. At the same time, we informed the Valley’s HQ’, the police and the army about what was happening here, and after about 20 minutes, three soldiers arrived in a police jeep. They spoke with the Palestinian A and Nurit, who insisted that the settlers' sheep leave the boundaries of A.’s field.

The soldiers this time acted immediately, they approached the settler and asked him to remove the herd from the bounderies of the sown field, and at the same time they asked us to wait on the side. We waited. Gilad sent his dog to round up the sheep, but in the process a boy from another outpost arrived, who got smart and turned the herd back into the field. Then the police came. Policeman Gideon enforced his authority this time and stated that he had indeed seen the papers proving that the field is privately owned by a Palestinian. He demanded that the settler get off the field while indicating his borders. The settler who had just arrived claimed that the field was in the grazing area of ​​the Rotem settlement, according to what the Head of Security told him, but the police officer clarified that the Head of Security does not determine but the DCO, and the confirmation that it is Palestinian-owned land came from there. The policeman even explained to A. that he could file a complaint. A. knows from his experience that the complaint will not help but said that this time "he will think about it."

The outpost youth led his herd out of the field and we left and returned to the encampment.

A. decided to go to the pasture with two volunteers - Nurit and Michal, while Hanna and I stayed for a protective presence in Farsiya. After about an hour we were called to the field again. Gilad the settler is once again on the field of A. We went down immediately and when Gilad saw us he got out and walked away from the empty field. We stayed for another hour until Gilad returned to the outpost next to the Rotem settlement.

Danny and Shaul went to Khalet Makhul to accompany Yusuf. They grazed there behind the military base. At one point, a settler from Hemdat arrived, who stood and watched the herd but did nothing. They stayed there until 14:00 and then drove the sick son of one of the shepherds to the clinic in Ein Beida. At 15:00 A. also returned from the pasture, which ended safely. We stayed another three hours to wait for the night shift volunteers. Danny, as usual, repaired the children's bikes, which were lined up next to him. I engaged the children in various creative works.

It was a successful day, but the next day the volunteers reported that Gilad the settler had returned and invaded A's private field, and by the time they arrived at the scene he had managed to cause heavy damage to the field.

A disheartening Sisyphean daily struggle against the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians who have inhabited the Valley for generations. Success is not at all guaranteed.