AT-TUWANI REFLECTION: Heroes of the South Hebron Hills

28 February 2008
AT-TUWANI REFLECTION: Heroes of the South Hebron Hills

by Joy Ellison

You won't see these shepherds and farmers from Tuba and Mughayir Al Abeed in their in 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* told me as we stood overlooking the Hill 833 settlement outpost. Over the past month, Issa and other shepherds have brought their sheep to pieces of Palestinian land where they have not been able to graze since the establishment of the Israeli settlement outpost. By doing so, they are showing the Israeli army and Israeli settlers that they plan to continue grazing on their land.

Using this strategy, Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills have successfully regained access to land previously stolen by Israeli settlement. Right now, the shepherds of Tuba and Mughayir Al Abeed are at the forefront this dynamic nonviolent movement.

“The people of Tuba and Mughayir Al Abeed are strong. The army has to bring three jeeps for you!” my teammates and I joke. “Yes, yes, we’re strong,” the shepherds laugh. Since they began this campaign, the shepherds have repeatedly proven their strength. The Israeli army has brought out jeeps and asked the shepherds for their IDs. Soldiers have kicked the sheep and threatened to arrest the shepherds. Soldiers have pulled off their pants and “mooned” the local Palestinians and us. Settlers have approached the shepherds carrying clubs, have fired on the shepherds and their flocks, and thrown stones at them. 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 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.