Random Stopping: A Day in the South Hebron Hills

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Umm Al-‘Ara’is. We must see at least twenty soldiers. The first few are friendly. They say they’d been stationed in the territories for four months. When Zev asks them to describe their duties, one of them answers, “stopping people randomly from going to work.” This sets a pattern for the day.

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Take our picture! Umm Al-‘Ara’is, October, 2022

“Why are these children so wild?” the soldier asked me.

“Could it be because their father has just been arrested?” I answer.

“And do you know why he was arrested? Because he was in a closed military zone.”

“But he was on his own land.”

“You are making me laugh.”

“So who’s land is it?”

“Have you never heard of Abraham? When he was here thousands of years ago, there weren’t any … Palestinians.” The pause before the word “Palestinian” seemed to express a certain distaste.

I am with the `Awad family again. I wanted to visit beautiful Umm al-Amad, but Guy told me that Sa’id’s worsening situation needs documenting. He was right.

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Photographic Empowerment. Umm Al-‘Ara’is, spring and summer, 2022

Remember Sa’id and his many children who accompany him every week to the fields? I hadn’t seen them for nearly three years, but I could recognize them at a distance from Jibrin’s pastures (if you can call a rocky patch with a few scrubby thorns a “pasture”) as they arrived for their weekly visit on the ridge far above us. Then they descended into the next wadi and disappeared.

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The Destruction of Masafer Yatta, June 7, 2022

Fakheit, Masafer Yatta, South Hebron Hills, Occupied Palestine, June, 2022.

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The laundry gets to me, its bright colors neatly arranged by size. French theorist Roland Barthes might have called it a “punctum.” That’s the heart-stopping detail in a photograph whose personal connection pierces you and holds you. And who doesn’t relate to laundry? But the “punctum” is not limited to photographs. To walk through these ruined households is to feel the same combination of dismay and recognition over and over again.

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Slogging on: Dir Jarir, Turmus’ayya, May 24, 2022

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Everyday drudgery has its own kind of beauty, heartbreak and even suspense, especially when it comes to facing down the occupation. Today as we pass Taybeh’s quarry on the way to the lands of its neighbor Deir Jarir, darkness lifts almost enough to show us the dull glow of the earth we have come to protect.

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April 22, 2022. ‘Auja. Text: David Shulman

The hills of ‘Auja in January. Photograph: Margaret Olin

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Abu Isma‘il calls at 7 in the morning, in a panic. Four or five settlers are lined up to block the shepherds’ path to their grazing grounds. What to do? Still half-asleep, I make some phone calls and learn that two of our activists are on their way. I let Abu Isma‘il know. I can hear the relief in his voice. In the end he and the other herds take a long, roundabout way into the hills, and the sheep get to eat their fill. Enough for one day.

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