A pile of mattresses and bedclothes lies on the dusty ground in the seething heat of August, mixed with parts of sheds and tires. Seven brothers are taking apart the compound their grandfather built 43 years ago. In this heat, they take down metal sheets from the sheep pens and load the tractor wagon. The youngest brother takes out the flock to graze for the last time. Tomorrow, they will leave for their new place where there is no ample space to graze. They will have to sell most of the flock and look for another source of livelihood.
The father, who arrived here as a boy, is absent. He cannot watch losing his home. The women, too, are absent. The home is no longer a home. The neighbor is also getting ready to leave. He is selling his goats and is left only with his sheep. Traders take advantage of the situation and buy cheap. He has not been eating for three days, living on coffee and cigarettes. His daughters and sons invite us to share their meal, a wonderful Palestinian dish (Mansaf) eaten out of a joint tray, sitting on the mat. The food was prepared by the women who are still there, the tray is passed to the women’s tent after the men have finished eating and there is still some left.
The daughters want to fight, the father tells us. They do not want to leave, but there is no choice. We sit outside the tent. It is getting dark and a pleasant breeze is blowing. In excellent Hebrew the father and one of the sons mourn the loss of home, of a whole lifestyle. In spite of the poor appearance and fundamental material culture, for these people nothing can replace the freedom of life in the open.
“One of the times the children from the colony that overlooks us went into the tent, I called the Israeli police”, the father says. “Did anyone get hurt?” asked the woman on the line. “No, not yet.” An army officer came, I showed him videos. “Were you hurt?” he asked. “They entered my home, came into the tent of my wife and daughters. Threatened, took telephones, kicked furniture, threw stones at the sheep. What would you do if this happened in your home, if your wife and children were harassed?” ‘I’ll look into it’, said the officer. He took the videos and left. Since then, he has already finished his reserves duty. I called up my acquaintance at the Civil Administration. “I’m on leave”, he said.
I shall not stay here and let my children and wives be hurt. Their aim is obvious. First, they only harass the flock and grazing ground. Then they enter residences. If we do not leave, the next phase is clear. No one protects me. When you (human rights activists) are here, they do not come, but you cannot be here all the time. The colonists want to chase us out, and the army is with them. There is no one to talk to. No choice.”
The human birds of prey watch us from the hill. Occasionally they fly a drone. Send an ATV for a triumphal round on the dirt track next to the residences. It’s Sabbath Eve. They wear white shirts. Between praying and the festive meal. They do not enter for we Israelis are there. They’ll wait for the right time to hurry up those late to leave. Complete the ethnic cleansing. For we are the Chosen People, Chosen by God.
The next day I visited the deserted schoolhouse of a nearby community that left under similar circumstances several months ago. All the doors and windows are broken in. The tables are smashed. Study materials thrown on the floor. The wall sports a poster describing a traffic light. Red yellow and green. Red red red.