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Wadi Tiran: The Struggle for Shepherding

13 February 2024 | International Solidarity Movement | Masafer Yatta

Settler sheep herding onto Palestinian oat field on January 12. @ISM

In the secluded village of Tiran, two shepherd families report increasing harassment by settler shepherds from the nearby outpost “Havat Yehuda”. Tiran is one of many hamlets south of Al Khalil (Hebron), known collectively as Masafer Yata. Like other villages in the area, Tiran is surrounded on all sides by both established settlements and vigilante outposts (usually a mobile home or bus with military escort) – illegal under international and technically Israeli law.

Though very used to settler harassment, the head of one family (who asks to withhold his name for safety), reports that harassment has increased dramatically since October 7th. Every morning, the settlers shepherd a large flock of sheep on the Palestinian land, and often onto his and his brother’s land, grazing their animals on the oats crop and stealing valuable grazing time needed for the Palestinian families’ own sheep and goats. This is part of a larger pattern, observed by Palestinian shepherds and solidarity activists in the area. Numerous encounters have been reported with military and sometimes settlers dressed in military fatigues. They tell Palestinian shepherds that they are not allowed to graze their animals on their own lands, and produce photographs of alleged ‘grazing permission’ and other military and court documents. Even when the military sometimes gives in, the shepherds lose valuable Spring grazing time in a typically arid environment while waiting for the settlers or soldiers to act.

Today, January 13, solidarity activists escorting children to school encountered a settler shepherd (pictured in film with ארץנו, “our land” sweatshirt) with her flock of sheep, waiting behind a hill and out of site of the villagers. After the kids passed, the sheep and sheepdogs turned onto the road and ran after the children quickly. When activists pointed out to the settler that her herd and dogs were chasing the children, she responded, “I know” and ran after the herd. In the included video, she is heard to shout, “!ללכת ,ללכת” (“go, go!”). After several minutes, the animals stopped and she shouted back “ok?” Activists stayed until the children were safely inside.

Apart from this shepherding interference, the head of household reports that settler violence and harassment of the two families’ homes have also increased since October 7th: the settlers came in the night, threatened to kill the families, damaged their water tank and farming machinery, entered their homes to take photos of family members, and completely destroyed the only road leading into the village with earth movers. Solidarity activists observed drones sent in during the day which the families say happens often. Like many rural Palestinian families, they say they are afraid of what will happen without solidarity activist presence; settlers have already driven another family who used to live close by from their home, as well as the entire village of Zanuta.

Sheep and dogs from Israeli settler chasing the children going to school. @ISM