AT-TUWANI: Hard Day near the Village

26 February 2005

AT-TUWANI: Hard Day in At-Tuwani
by Art Gish

21 February 2005, about twenty shepherds from from
around At-Tuwani met Israeli officials on the hill
above the town of At-Tuwani. The Israeli officials,
all armed with M-16 assault rifles, along with a dozen
soldiers also armed with M-16s, had come for a
conversation about where shepherds would be or not be
allowed to graze their sheep. Twenty settlers, some
also heavily armed, observed the conversation.

The Israeli authorities informed the shepherds that
they are forbidden to graze their sheep on vast tracts
of their own land. There was no proposal from the
military as to how the shepherds can now feed their

I asked the military official in charge why the
shepherds cannot go on their land. I received no
answer. I tried to point out that the Israeli
government keeps taking more and more Palestinian land.

After the soldiers and settlers had left and the
shepherds and their flocks were making their ways
home, shepherds noticed two settlers walking on the
road above them toward their village. When the
settlers approached the village, they circled a field
near the village, and then returned the way they had come.

Two hours later, villagers discovered that one hundred
fifty young olive trees had been uprooted the night
before in the field which the settlers had encircled.
Those olive trees were donated by the YMCA in
Jerusalem and had been in the ground about three months.

At-Tuwani villagers then learned that another hundred
olive trees that had been planted just two days
earlier were also uprooted.

Israeli soldiers came to investigate. I asked them
again what the shepherds were doing wrong, why they
couldn't be on their land and why they couldn't have
olive trees. The soldiers did not answer my

When asked what this means for the village, one
shepherd said, "What the soldiers and settlers did
today is what we expect. They destroyed our olive
trees, but we will plant more olive trees." Another
shepherd said, "We will keep going back on our land even if they arrest us."


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