Accompanying shepherds in Al Uja: Always grazing with fear

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Michal Wiener (report and photos) Nurit Budinsky, Eti Yehieli

We arrived at the southern part of the Palestinian Jordan Valley at 6:10 a.m. opposite Omar’s eatery. The three flocks of Abu A., his son A. and Umm R. – who had already left home and N., and walked about 3 km. in the dark – were already there. They did not cross the road leading to the memorial of the 54 Israeli soldiers who had been killed there.

There was still grass on this side of the road, and every shepherd went in a different direction. The sheep grazed peacefully and were hungrily consuming both the dry grass and the thorns. We spoke about the situation in Arabic and Hebrew, about the settler-colonist Omer who has been expanding his ranch in every direction and planting irrigated groves that shine far and wide as evergreen against the background of the yellow desert and dry grass that is left for the sheep of Auja.

At 8 a.m. the heat was already difficult for the sheep, and the shepherds began to move back home.

The day ended quietly and peacefully as far as the absence of Israeli army and settler-colonists goes. However, even on a day like this, we felt the depth of the shepherds’ and our anger, stress and fears, especially coming back to our home in our “parallel universe”, so different, where one can still plan and know what the morrow brings without fear of the unknown that might come up at any moment.