May 17, 2019 Khirbet Humsa. Report by David Shulman

חיילים תמיד מתאמנים לאחת המלחמות״

“Soldiers are always training for one war or another,” says Yehuda Amichai in one of his poems. For the Bedouins of the Abu al-Kibash clans in the northern Jordan Valley, several times each year, the Army’s training exercises on their lands means forced evacuation. The arbitrary declaration of military “firing zones” in the Valley is an instrument for mass expulsion of Palestinian Bedouins. A large percentage of all the lands of the Jordan Valley belong to this category. There is no attempt to hide the final goal.

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September 21, 2018, Autumnal Equinox: Al-Hamme. Post by David Shulman

2018-09-21 06.44.20Shirat Haasavi.

Shirat Ha-Asavim. Photograph: David Shulman

Once there was just the firing zone, largely fictive. It spreads over thousands of acres in the northern Jordan Valley, and it’s been in place, on paper and plastic-wrapped military maps, for maybe forty years. This is not the only one in the Valley; a huge percentage of the land here has been declared either a military zone or a nature reserve, or both. But until recently, Palestinians were still grazing their herds in the firing zone just west of al-Hamme. On the two or three days in the year when the army was about to carry out training exercises there, the soldiers would let the Palestinian residents know a few days in advance, and for those days the shepherds would keep away. Continue reading

June 22, 2018 Al-Auja, Khan al-Ahmar. Post by David Shulman, Photos: Margaret Olin and others

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Mhammad and his flock last month. photograph: Margaret Olin

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Today the shepherds wanted to set out at dawn. In summer, here on the outskirts of Jericho, by 9 or 9:30 in the morning it’s already over 38 degrees (100 Fahrenheit)—too hot even for goats. So we leave Jerusalem at first light, and by 6:30 we find Mhammad deep in the desert, close to the fenced-off date-palm grove of the settler Omer, who calls all the shots. Mhammad greets us happily; he’s in a good mood; so far things are quiet. “Soldiers? Have you seen any soldiers?” he asks. “Not yet,” we say. Continue reading

May 14, 2018: Al-Auja, Turmus‘ayya. Text by David Shulman; Photos: Margaret Olin

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First, today, there was the madness and the dissonance, sharp as thorns. Early morning in the Jordan Valley:  still cool. We step out into the light. In the distance, the soft, convex mauve of the hills. Closer to us, they turn beige, then white, billowing like waves. Closer still, it’s all yellow and brown and thick with jagged pebbles. About two hundred yards away, scattered over the slope, are black and white goats and disheveled sheep. I recognize one of them, from long-standing acquaintance; her fleece has been dyed a spotty red. There’s a donkey, too, down in the wadi. Two young shepherds—Ahmad, whom I know well, and Mhammad. This hill and the wadi are also, by now, old friends. Continue reading