The Jordan Valley: the army, the police and the settlers - all against the Palestinian shepherds

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Daphne Banai (report), Tamar Berger (photos)




The lust for revenge has taken over the Israeli army and police force – and is practiced on all Palestinians and Israeli activists, who “help them massacre us”.


We first drove to the Fasail springs in the Palestinian Jordan Valley, north-west of Jericho. As expected at this time, the ground is already covered with a green grass plumage and several flocks grazed in peaceful delusion as we entered the springs area. The hills above are green too, but devoid of grazing sheep. All 30 flocks belonging to the Palestinian inhabitants have been chased away by Elhanan, of the Angels of Peace colony, which was an illegal colonist outpost erected on the West Bank hill range and received ‘kosher’ colony status from Ben Gvir and Smutrich.


From a distance one already sees that the ditch is blocked, the entire area is muddy and water flows in all direction. The faucet of the pipe that served to water the flocks has disappeared. We met Jamal ‘the waterman’, and his two sons, working hard to remove rocks from the ditches which the colonists had stuck there in order to block the flow into the pipe leading to Fasail. They managed to remove the smaller rocks, but not the big ones.


We drove to the village, and as we do every month, took Maryam whose sight was rescued (after she actually became blind) by the monthly injections she gets in her eye, at the Turmus Aya Eye Hospital. At the end of the treatment, we sent her home by cab and returned to our vigil.


Gitit Checkpoint – unmanned this week again, on our way there and back, but one of the lanes was blocked by a gate.


On the Allon Road (578) near ‘Gitit’s Bathtub’ (an area confiscated from Aqraba village and became a military zone in the 1970s, and is now rented mostly to Palestinian farmers) – we saw two colonists stretching a barbed wire fence along the Allon Road almost to Mekhora colony. This is no new sight. Colonists from the nearby outposts stretch long fences in the entire valley, along both Allon Road and Road 90, rob lands unhampered and appropriate tremendous stretches of ground (tens of thousands of meters) including firing zones, nature reserves etc.


Hamra (Beqa’ot) Checkpoint is manned. A long line of Palestinian cars stretched from there in both directions. When we got back in the afternoon there was still such a line.


13:00 ‘The water checkpoint’ opposite Roi colony – soldiers inspected cars going west. On the western side of the checkpoint, a truck bearing a water tank waited, and on the eastern side of the checkpoint stood two water tankers, connected to Humsa villagers’ tractors. Since the State of Israel denies them water, they are forced to drive through this checkpoint to ‘Atuf, in the Palestinian Authority area, and get water (that is why we call it the ‘water checkpoint’). Almost daily, the checkpoint does not open at the designated time and they wait for hours.

Today the gate was opened on time and 5 transit vans filled with workers from the West Bank with work at Roi and Beqa’ot colonies waited to get back home. Every van unloaded many workers (many more than the law allows) who lined up beside the vehicle. An armed girl-soldier looked them over, took their IDs and passed them on to another soldier. 10 minutes later the IDs were returned and the workers went back to the vehicle and passed the checkpoint to the west. One van was delayed on the side for another inspection and remained there when we left, about 20 minutes later.


During the time we watched this checkpoint, we were called by phone and informed of the arrest of a shepherd from Al Hadidiya and his minor nephew, near the entrance to Hemdat colony. We drove there right away. About 10 soldiers, including the security official of Hemdat and two policemen, surrounded a figure wearing a white undershirt, sitting on the ground, blindfolded and shackled. We wished to understand whether this was the minor or his uncle, but the soldiers kept us distant, drawing their long pointed weapons. This happened near the chicken coop fence of the colony, about 200 meters from the colony itself. The security official explained that one of the shepherds touched the fence. The version of the shepherd was that one of the sheep wondered from the flock to the chicken coop and the shepherd ran to retrieve it.

The soldiers blocked our field of vision with a pickup truck, and two of them were placed to watch so we wouldn’t come near the ‘event’, God forbid. One of them preached to me: “Why do you help those who massacre us?” After explaining to him that the inhabitants of the Palestinian Jordan Valley have never massacred an Israeli, that for decades none of them ever carried out a terrorist attack, he continued: “Surely they came close to the colony to observe it and pass on precise information to the Hamas”, and emphasized -
“Even where the children sleep!” From their own point of view, the soldiers had prevented the massacre of Jewish children.

Nearly all the soldiers were skullcap wearers (religious) and showed overt animosity both to Palestinians and to us.

Finally, another police van arrived, accompanied by a jeep filled with soldiers, and the two Palestinians were taken to the Binyamin police station. A policeman demanded our licenses and IDs, and threatened to charge us with trespassing ‘because we entered a private road (of the chicken coop owners)’. Then he let us go.


In the evening we found out that the two detaineesinfo-icon were released at night, and had to make their long way from the Binyamin Police Station near Jerusalem to the Palestinian Jordan Valley.