Ein El Hilwa in front of Maskiyot settlement
We went out to the north of the valley to accompany Muhammad from Ein Al Hilwa, as he grazes in front of Maskiyot settlement. It was already raining on our way from Tel Aviv. Liora and I came prepared, dressed in layers, with warm coats and hats.
The sky was covered with gray clouds in the valley as well. Asking Muhammad apprehensively: “Is it going to rain?”, as go went out to the pasture, he replied “Allah Karim and Inshallah." Seems happy about the possibility of rain. Less than a quarter of an hour passed when light rain began to fall. We took the coats and hats out of our backpack, and so did the 3 new friends from Jerusalem who joined the escort. Luckily the rain stopped after a few minutes, but not the howling wind.
We continued to climb in a long caravan up the mountain with Muhammad the shepherd, the flocks of sheep and goats, 2 donkeys, and a bunch of dogs.
A little north of us we saw the Asael outpost, from which regularly emerge the troublemakers towards the Ein Al Hilwa shepherds.
By noon we had both climbed and descended the mountain trails, and also stopped to rest and let the flocks spread out in the field and nibble the grass lustfully and incessantly
We enjoyed the view and the rich bloom now at its peak. Anemones, chrysanthemums, white-broom shrubs, and carpets of purple irises in an abundance I’ve never seen before. We were even privileged to discover a few Mountain tulips.
Towards noon we sat down for tea spiced with hyssop, harvested nearby. Three adjacent stones, topped with dry twigs, and atop them a sooty kettle with the hot and delicious tea. Bread, which Muhammad singed for us and some vegetables, completed the modest meal, while he told us stories about his family (which originates from the southern Hebron Mountains). Turns out our Jerusalem friends who are very active in the southern mountain know some of them.
During our break, Muhammad kept a close eye on the outpost. Suddenly he pointed to a man who had come down from there, concerned that he might appear riding his ATV. Thankfully it did not happen.
A few children arrived nearby equipped with sacks slung on their shoulders and large scissors and searched for the local Gundelia plant that is now abundant.
After Muhammad finished the noon prayer he suggested that we go back to our encampment and our cars, and so we did. He stayed in the field with the herd, with the promise that if trouble arrives he should call and we will try to help.
Fortunately, the rest of the day passed quietly and without any clashes. We also stopped at the encampment to buy Labaneh from Muhammad's wife, Umm Mohand, and also semana (Ghi) and Jibna (cheese). Quite content, we then parted with our Jerusalem friends.