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Accompanying the accompaniers

The phone ringing at 6 a.m. would not bring me even the news of winning a literary prize.

It was the calm voice of D.: Get on the Whatsapp group.

I wake up fast. Look at the message group. Activists are being urgently summoned to the Jericho Valley. A colonist has beaten up a Palestinian shepherd boy. Later the colonist called up his armed buddies from the illegal outpost (all the colonist outposts are illegal…). They are now coming threateningly close to the shepherds and accompaniers.

I dial the 100 (police) hotline number. At times they are friendly and helpful. Sometimes not. Mu'arrajat, I tell the woman on the phone. On Road 449, she repeats. Stalling. Exhausts me with questions I had already answered. I feel her hostility like a toxic spread over her lazy voice.

I envision the wadi. The road passes between the few shacks and shanties of the Palestinian shepherds and the wadi in which they graze their flocks. The boy, his arm hurt, climbs up from the wadi. The flock has scattered all over. The activists try to help the shepherds gather it. Sun begins to shine over the wadi’s bright ground. I have no idea whether our activists see the child, or if some of them are waiting for the police on the road in order to direct it to the spot, on the ground. No street names and house numbers here. It’s hard to locate a “violent” event between the two slopes.

In the photo: a survivor in the Jericho Valley

Once I was there on a tour, between spring and summer, and until a cloud rose rapidly from the south and emptied a short bellyful of rain, the sun pursued us persistently. It’s a fascinating piece of land. Desert hills softly wind their way, growing stones and scant, yellow grass. A land of dry summer and a tough mountainous horizon on the east. Only the tough survive here. The Palestinians who have been here for generations, and the evil colonists who have been harassing them for three generations. The latter are funded by generous foundations and receive municipal support. The Palestinian shepherds have nothing but their flock, the dry grazing ground and the perseverance of holding on to their land.

Two hours go by, I drink bitter coffee in my air-conditioned room, far from that road which now is already white-hot. The violent, tense air comes from there, penetrating my home.

The police has arrived, say the activists. Then they also let me know that H. and S. have been taken to the Binyamin Police Station. Two more activists were left on the ground in this hot morning, without any vehicle that would take them back to Israel. I cut up an apple and have a hard time chewing it. The two women activists left on the ground are my pals. A. loves the summer heat, but S. is suffering over there. And I am here, in my air-conditioned room, listening to the phone, reading messages. D. writes that he is driving out to get them. I wait for him to get there.

H., detained at the police station, was clubbed a year ago by a colonist, a young strong thug with murderous eyes that would not acknowledge that he was cracking the skull of an elderly woman, special and determined but thin and fragile. H. was privileged to have a rest at the hospital, bandaged in her head and hands. When recovering a bit, she immediately returned to accompany shepherds. This is S.’s birthday, three hours of which he will spend at the police station. When he finally meets his questioning officer, the latter would wonder that he was even detained. But that’s what the policemen on the ground do. They do not detain the violent colonist, but rather the attacked Palestinian or the activist whose presence shields the Palestinian. That’s how it works.

In the early evening I heard that the injured shepherd boy was bandaged at the hospital and got back home. I want to find some solace in that news.

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