At-Tuwani: Heroes of the South Hebron Hills

 

by Joy Ellison

You won’t see these shepherds and farmers in their red keffiyehs and mud-stained boots on the evening news.  But while Israeli politicians ignore the activities of extremist Israeli settlers, these Palestinians from the South Hebron Hills are successfully resisting settlement expansion without violence.

“I haven’t been to this valley in three years,” Issa* said as we stood overlooking the Havot Ma’on settlement outpost.

Lately Issa and other Palestinian shepherds have been bringing their flocks to portions of land where they had not been able to graze since settlers established the outpost.  By showing the Israeli army and settlers that they intend to continue grazing there, Palestinians have successfully regained access to land previously usurped by Israeli settlement.  Right now, the shepherds of Tuba and Mughayir Al Abeed are at the forefront of this dynamic nonviolent movement.

Since they began this campaign, the shepherds have repeatedly proven their strength.  Israeli soldiers have kicked the sheep, demanded to see IDs and threatened to arrest the shepherds.  They have pulled off their pants and “mooned” the local Palestinians.  Settlers have thrown stones and opened fire on the shepherds and their flocks.  Just to graze their sheep on land they have farmed for generations, Issa and the other shepherds risk arrest and violent attack.

But day after day, the shepherds keep coming back to their land and showing their determination.  When angry soldiers ordered two young shepherds to leave recently, the boys responded by sitting down.  When a group of settlers came out of the settlement and threw stones at the shepherds and the volunteers accompanying them, the shepherds simply stood their ground.  Soon, their lack of fear drove the settlers away.

Everyday, the shepherds of Tuba and Mughayir Al Abeed prove that their nonviolent resistance is stronger than the might of the Israeli army or the hatred of Israeli settlers.  They are the heroes of the South Hebron Hills.?

*Not his real name.