Hamra - accompanying shepherds

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Orly (shepherd accompaniers), Rachel A. (report), Tal Haran (translate)

We got on our way early and took the long way to reach our destination – the scattered community near Shibli by the Hamra Checkpoint, the Al-Kursh family. The way was difficult and muddy, but bearable. We got there in time for breakfast and were welcomed to share it – warm tea and flatbread baked by the first wife who is proud to tell us about it, introducing us to the second wife. It’s hard to reach them so we left our car with another family and reached them on foot. The place is on the hill slopes and overlooks an amazing landscape. The fresh green of the valley marks the areas that Israel likes to call ‘state land’.  That is where a settler-colonist outpost was erected over a year ago, owned by Moshe Sharvit and his wife. According to what I was told, the green area is rented out by the occupier to the Palestinian who tends it. As we shepherd the flock and overlook all that beauty, the Shibli village lies at our feet with its gold-domed and high-minareted mosque, fields and hills, and further to the east, the Israeli settler-colonists village of Hamra. During the morning we hear drilling and construction works at the outpost, and report to the relevant bodies.

The family reached the area a generation or two back, from Samu’a in the Hebron region. The father was a classmate of Yusri, our friend from Combatants for Peace. The father told us that as a schoolboy he would go to school in Samu’a and return to the Jordan Valley during vacation time. It sounded like those talks about the pre-State military (Palmah) or the kibbutz. Where are you from? Do you know x… ? Sure… And thus we became friends. He has two wives, one embracing ten children, the other three. Mu’ayen is the eldest, shepherding the flock for his father. He has a wife and three children. The married daughters moved to their husbands’ communities. The eldest daughter left at home is studying for her master’s degree in psychology at A-Najah University (Nablus) and sees herself working in that field in the future.

After all those introductions, we went out with the flock. Ascended, walked a flat bit, and then descended and ascended again. And sat. The sheep and goats don’t stop eating, ever. Never mind what. Little white flowers just sprouted out of the wet ground. The landscape was charming. Mu’ayen does not have dogs to help him, and gathers the entire flock himself, in a language of cries and whistles that is understood by all except ourselves… He is super-quick to get from one place to another as if he had wings. We couldn’t understand how for one moment he is here and now he is on the other side of the hill. In addition, there was another flock belonging to a family relative living not far away. Two children on donkey-back herded the flock and tried not to mix. They helped themselves to some of the fruit and Homentaschen we brought along.

During the morning news from Bourin began to arrive and we shifted our attention to it.

Around 2 p.m. we returned from grazing, while Mu’ayen and the flock stayed until 4 p.m. as the father ordered. During this season the grazing hours are long, the weather good and food – plentiful.

We then drove to Makhoul to fill the larder there. On our way we were charmed, seeing entire families enjoying their Friday afternoon picnic out in nature. We felt uncomfortable taking their pictures, but the sight just did not suit the narrative in which we live. They were nicely dressed. Kites were flying above, and they looked rather happy.

In Makhoul we also met a large family who was interested in us, and said they were having a nice time visiting friends. “And who are you?”

In the evening Mu’ayen sent me videos from today’s grazing, from the outpost settler-colonists visit (Sharbit) in which we see a settler-colonist couple and two dogs wandering very close to their flock. There was no violence.