Accompanying shepherds from Samara, north of the Jordan Valley

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Doron Meinert, Mickey Fisher (Reporting)

We reached Hemdat Junction at 7:45 a.m. We didn’t come to the encampment, fearing contact with the herds that might be suffering from the ‘foot and mouth disease’ that has killed many sheep, and the area’s flocks have not yet gotten over it.

At 8 a.m. we saw two shepherds arriving, A. and F. and their younger sons (out of school because of a teachers’ strike) and joined them. The heat began but a nice breeze was still in the air. We helped the shepherds to have the herd cross the road, as a week ago a speeding colonist car nearly ran sheep over.

First we grazed in their privately owned lands. The sheep scattered quietly and munched the stubble that had remained after the grain harvest. The wheat this year was meager, for the colonists’ cattle had often invaded their fields last winter, along with the shepherds from the nearby illegal outposts whose herds finished the wheat that was still green.

At 10 a.m. the shepherds decided to go over to another privately owned field located near the Kfir Brigade training base. The army often chases away Palestinian shepherds and their flocks, although no danger awaits anyone from a flock of sheep struggling over the rest of the grass and stubble still left.

On this side A., was waiting for them, another brother, with a water tanker. The entire flock was watered for an hour and a half, in the heat that kept rising and reached 33 degrees centigrade. We continued to herd the flock until 1:30 p.m. on this side. The sheep occasionally scattered in the largest field around and munched the yellowing grass, while at certain watery spots they even found green grass. Occasionally they crowded to rest and while away in each other’s shade, because of the heat. There were no harassments this time by the army or colonists – apparently the heat bothered them too. The soldiers did not trouble themselves to even get out of the base structures, looking totally deserted.

Besides a short struggle between he-goats over dominating the flock and the females – ending in a draw – grazing proceeded quietly. We left to check the possibility of building a small water reservoir that would serve to water the cattle of En Al Hilwa. The shepherds grazed until 2:30 p.m. and went hope in peace.

Heat and quiet dominated the scene, but underneath lies much tension and the fear that returns every day – would the colonists or soldiers appear and chase away or even arrest the shepherds, and disrupt the desert silence that has ruled here for centuries, even before the State of Israel and all its governments decided it must act in every way possible, built colonies and outposts in order to steal the livelihood of the indigenous population, evacuate them of the Jordan Valley and have messianic Jews settle there instead. All of this in preparation for another illegal annexation of occupied territory and completing the puzzle of the Larger Israel.