Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Heroes of the South Hebron Hills

Reprinted from Christian Peacemaker Teams with Permission

At-Tuwani Reflection
Joy Ellison

No one will call the shepherds from Tuba and Magher Al Abeed heroes. You won’t see these Palestinian men in red kefiyas and mud-stained boots on the evening news. But while Israeli politicians turn a blind eye to the activities of extremist Israeli settlers, these farmers from the South Hebron Hills are successfully nonviolently resisting settlement expansion.

“I haven’t been to this valley in three years,” Issa* told me as we stood over looking Havot Ma’on settlement outpost. Over the past month, Issa and other shepherds have brought their sheep to pieces of Palestinian land they have not been able to graze since the establishment of the illegal 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 Magher Al Abeed are at the forefront this dynamic nonviolent movement.

“The people of Tuba and Magher 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 proven their strength over and over. 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” 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, 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 Magher Al Abeed prove that their nonviolent resistance is stronger the might of the Israeli army or the hatred of extremist Israeli settlers. They are the heroes of the South Hebron Hills.

*Not his real name.

No comments: