Bringing food to communities in Jorden Valley under siege

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Nava Toledano, Dan Shayish (of the Accompaniers), Daphne Banai (reporting)

We had calls from the Palestinian Jordan Valley, asking for food. Not only are the shepherd communities attacked by reckless settler-colonists every single day hidden from the public under its attention to the Gaza Strip, making these communities transparent – the Israeli army has literally declared war on the West Bank, and all its villages are blocked. Farmers cannot harvest their olives, people cannot go to work, and the rest are caged inside their villages and towns.

We made a big purchase of vegetables and dry goods, loaded the pickup truck that belongs to our dear Shlomo Shapira, and got going.

Our roads were unusually quiet, we saw no Palestinian cars all through that long day – not even on Road 60 which is usually densely traveled. We brought food to about 20 shepherd communities that affirmed to us that they have none. There is only one grocery store in the entire Palestinian Jordan Valley, in its northern tip, and it too is empty. The track leading to a larger community, through which water and food are bought and brought, is blocked by a gate manned by reserves soldiers. During the first week community members were not even allowed to get water through. One of the Palestinians said that to this day he didn’t know they were allowed water, so they drink much less. Water!

To our happy surprise we saw the water tanker go through the gate twice without being delayed. But others are not allowed through. One of the shepherds’ flock is struck with illness and his sheep are dying every day. There is no medication because the vet is not allowed to come, and in order to treat the animals a sample must be taken from an ill or dead sheep in order to diagnose its illness.

The merchants who usually buy their cheeses and sheep are not allowed to come, either, and these shepherds have practically no more food left.

The worst of it all is the terrorism under which Palestinians have been living. The white pickup truck we traveled in resembles a vehicle used by the colonists and the army, and every community we reached was empty at first. For a moment we thought they had left, but gradually frightened eyes appeared behind their tents, and when they recognized us, they came close and said they had been afraid we were colonists. We witnessed horrible fear in their innocent faces. Moreover, during the last week, 4 communities left the northern part of the Valley, and another 3 from the hills. At Al Hadidiya we stood with the women and children by the pen and talked. Suddenly 2 cars popped out beyond the corner, and 3 men leapt out of them with pointed long rifles. I don’t know what they were looking for, but they were surprised to learn that we were Israelis. After we explained that we were bringing food to these communities, they turned hostile. However, after a sentence or two they turned around and left.

The shepherds have bravely withstood their Valley’s harsh conditions – the extreme heat, water denial, home demolitions. But the takeover of land, denial of access to grazing grounds, and attacks on their homes day and night have broken them. It is heart-rending to see the deserted villages – medicines and eating utensils thrown about with nylon sheets no longer needed. The smell of the outdoor-oven still fills the air.


For, dear friends, while we are facing Hamas in Gaza, an ethnic cleansing is taking place in the West Bank, and people – including children and the elderly – are expelled from their homes, one village after another. And in spite of the fact that the colonists are the ones carrying this out, it is the state and its armed forces that are behind this expulsion, so that anyone who is not mobilized to prevent it is responsible!

We try to keep protection vigils going 24/7, but do not reach enough activists. Whoever is willing to come and protect the shepherds – please write me on Messenger. We need yo