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And the flocks are grazing

How peaceful are the meadows of the southern Palestinian Jordan Valley. How majestic and magnificent is the primeval landscape. How serene are the goats and the sheep, wandering slowly, licking the last visible roots, and the summer has not yet begun. 

The land of the southern Palestinian Jordan Valley suffers from overgrazing. The pasture lands must be divided into paddocks, and the herds must be moved from paddock to paddock when the grass is consumed, so that the land can recover. So by the time we enter the last paddock, the grass had already regrown in the first paddock, and we can start over. It works. Do not take my words for it. Any Kiwi shepherd will tell you that. But it does not work in the southern Palestinian Jordan Valley. It cannot work there. 

You may say that it rains more in New Zealand, and less in the Jordan Valley, and you would be right. But that is just a bonus. Many places around the globe suffer from low precipitation, but only in a few places worldwide are the herders pushed, intimidated, persecuted, and denied access to lands and water resources. And that is why the small pieces of land they still have access to are suffering from overgrazing. 

But who intimidates and persecutes the shepherds, who denies them access to land, who drives them away from water resources and why do they do this? 

These are the Hills Rioters and the Terra Robbers, also known by the silent majority in Israel as "Settlers” or "The hills boys", and self-defined by their own words as “Colonists.” And why do they do it? Well, the short answer is that they can, and the long answer is that ethnic cleansing is being carried out in the southern Palestinian Jordan Valley, under the patronage and backing of the security forces, and with the tacit consent of Israeli governments for generations. 

After the Hills Rioters were successful in their efforts to expel most of the shepherds’ communities around Allon road and southern Hebron Hills, they now focus on the southern Palestinian Jordan Valley. The colonies in the area prevent the flocks from accessing their wider "jurisdiction" area, not to mention grazing close to their enclosure.  

Illegal outposts, which no one does anything to dismantle, block access to pastures, harass the shepherds day and night, often violently, steal their sheep, burn their hay, shoot their mobile water tanks, and invade their homes where they live. And the army, the sovereign on the ground, does nothing to stop the abuse. Neither do the police. Everyone, the rioters, the army, the police, and the Israeli government as well, are waiting patiently for the communities to pack up their belonging and run for their lives. 

We, the Human Rights activists who accompany the Palestinian shepherds, know that we cannot win this "war". The support the rioters enjoy is stronger than any action we may take. Sometimes we find ourselves, at the end of a day of accompanying, detained at a police station somewhere, while a hills rioter who beat and broke the hand of a young shepherd boy, or stole a mobile phone and beat one activist or another, returns to his illegal outpost as happy as a clam at high tide. He won. 

So do not let the pastoral and peaceful images fool you, an entire culture is disappearing before our eyes, but still, for now, the flocks are grazing. 


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