It’s cold. It’s raining. Aziza serves us hot tea.
She shows us the baby goats, some only a few weeks, or days, old.
And then it is time to take the flock to graze . . .
under the huge settlement, Otniel. Ahmad, her son, is with us.
Walla, Ahmad’s sister, who has been seen here before, is everywhere
Eventually, we see that, up on the hill, four soldiers have apparently been assigned to keep an eye on us.
After they leave, we almost forget them. Ahmad, who is studying at the Polytechnic in Hebron, talks about his exam in electricity tomorrow. He studies Hebrew there, too, and takes the opportunity to discuss with Li those pesky Hebrew nouns that are masculine but have feminine plural forms.
So we don’t notice them again until they are close.
The soldiers tried to make conversation.
But when they try to talk to Elisheva, she starts to sing. Soon others are singing, and after they exhaust their two-song repertoire of protest songs, they fall into a sullen silence.
To Ahmad: “I have your picture; I know where you live. Today you come with these people and you are safe but tomorrow what will you accomplish?”
Ahmad says he does not want the children speaking to people who have guns.
“Perhaps it would be better,” I cannot resist suggesting, “if the gun were not actually pointing at the child.” He ignores me.
In answer to Ahmad he says, with no trace of irony, “What kind of values are you teaching this child?
We are on the other side of Al-‘Auja from Mevo’ot Yericho where we were Friday. On Saturday in South Hebron, it was cold and wet. Two days later, in the Jordan Valley, it is dry and hot. Today, when our presence seems sufficient to keep settlers from showing up to harass shepherds and scare away the sheep, and no police have come by to investigate . . .
the four of us finally have time to ask the important question:
What can these sheep possibly be finding to eat? This rocky mountainside is nothing like the lush meadow grass we saw Saturday in South Hebron.
Perhaps they are being nourished as I am, simply on texture and light.
Kettles are placed on fires, and we make the rounds of compounds, sipping tea and tasting cheeses, fresh vegetables and eggs.
The talk is mostly discouraging and only occasionally hopeful, all of it anxious. Everyone knows that today is just a reprieve. Many of the families are tired of constant harassment by settlers and indifference, or worse, from the police.
At one stop it is a woman who gives us tea. She impresses us with her seriousness about our shared mission and goals. As we leave, she thanks us one by one and looks especially closely at the two oldest among us.
“I fear for your children,” she says. In her experience, when a family member opposes the occupation, the whole family has to pay for it. I wonder if she has that in mind or whether this is her usual way of speculating on the future. It is moving but also surprising. Looking at me, she adds, “I am a mother, too.”
text and photographs margaret olin © 2018
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