Halet Makhul: Accompanied by sheep and hide-and-seek games

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Ella, Ariel Freedman (reporter and photographer)

Ella and I arrived  at 7:15 at Burhan’s. We joined him and Samaher in securely covering several tons of newly bought feed with plastic sheets in advance of the first rain – a project involving breaking ground and carrying stones, the heavier the better. As we began, Burhan’s closest neighbor was leaving to attend a funeral in Tammoun, where most of Burhan’s children live during the week. Burhan explained that a young man, hometown Tammoun, had been shot by the Israeli army in Tubas the day before, apparently because of his resistance to an operation that was being carried out. We fed the animals, and took them out at 9 for a short walk close to home, during which Burhan told us his understanding of the events in Tubas, asking, ‘Until when will we live like this?’ As the conversation wandered, he recalled a number of incidents over the past 15 years where he had been beaten and traumatized - once badly enough to end up in a hospital with memory loss - by groups of soldiers. We returned home, fed and watered the animals again from a different type of feed, and paused for breakfast. I learned that all the feed had come from Israel, bought at a price of 1000 and 1500 ILS per ton depending on the type, because there is not enough water available to the Palestinians to grow hay in the Jordan Valley. As Burhan put it, ‘We don’t even have enough water for us to drink.’ We swept the animal pens to collect their dung for fueling the taboun, the underground oven in which Samaher bakes bread. The work was punctuated by a few thrilling rounds of hide-and-seek with their youngest daughter, a toddler, as well as our best efforts to follow her very specific directions as she played photographer with dad’s phone.