Some Good News  (16.8.2014)

Dear Friends,
    In light of the grim, indeed savage situation in Israel-Palestine this summer, I have decided, on principle, that my report today will include only good news. As a result, it will be rather short.
     However, there are the following not insignificant points.

1. Umm al-'Amad. Many of you will remember the long struggle to reclaim this fertile valley, the Maraga Lands, for their rightful Palestinian owners, after 12 years or more in which they had no access to them. The wadi at Umm al-'Amad is situated just beneath the large, cruel settlement of Othniel, whose settlers are sitting on the lands of Umm al-'Amad and neighboring villages; these settlers have done whatever they could to drive the owners away, often attacking them physically and subjecting them to the usual regime of insult and terror. The owners had given up on ever setting foot again on their lands. For over two years we went with them week after week into the wadi, fighting the soldiers step by step, meter by meter, to extend their grazing grounds and cultivated plots and to achieve access without having to coordinate with the Occupation authorities. Today the owners have access to the whole long stretch of the valley, extending for hundreds of dunams. The army has also issued an order forbidding Israelis (meaning above all Israeli settlers) to set foot there. It was thus with deep satisfaction that we watched from a spot halfway up the slope as our Palestinian friends grazed their goats and sheeps and started clearing one large chunk of land of rocks and weeds in view of sowing a crop when the heat diminishes.  This is an achievement: one spot where the remorseless processes of expulsion and land-theft have been reversed, partly through our efforts. When I got up before dawn to leave for South Hebron, as always the skeptical, weary voice inside me was rehearsing its insidious phrases:  "It feels so futile, look what we're up against, look at the system that crushes us again and again, we are hardly more than a pin-prick in that harsh reality, why keep going down there?" And so on. At Gan Hapaamon, before we got onto the transit, my friend said to me: "Off we go again tilting at windmills." But for today Umm al-'Amad has put to rest such doubts. One acts without thinking much about results, one acts because it is the right thing to do, and every once in a while there is something tangible and good and durable that happens after all.

2. Tekoa V.  Two weeks ago we went with the Palestinians of Tequ'a to the site of their stolen lands, where settlers had erected the new (of course illegal) outpost of Tekoa V and put in place the first caravans and water tanks and flags. It was, they said, the "appropriate Zionist response" to the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers six weeks ago. For some people, violent theft-- or worse-- is always the appropriate response. I am happy to report that Tekoa V was demolished on Wednesday night by the Civil Administration, with apparent backing by the Supreme Court. The lands revert to their true owners. It's an unusual-- almost unique-- exception to the general rule.

3. Harrassment. The crude soldier who made obscene gestures and sounds at Zohara and Neriya two weeks ago at Umm al-Ara'is was hauled before his commanding officer, interrogated, and, we think, rebuked. OK, it's not much. Still, the complaint wasn't simply ignored or whitewashed. I know, this micro-incident pales when compared with the massacre of innocents, and so on.

4. I think we can include with the good news the cool mist that clothed the hills at 7 AM, before the sun got serious about burning everything alive, and then there's the gentle soulful sound of the bells tied  to the sheep as they graze over the slopes, wandering from thorn to thorn in the stillness-- what could rival that music?
    Blessings to all of you, David

David Shulman of Ta'ayush and The Villages Group


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