Saturday, November 7 2009 Planting, herding and settler violence in Umm al-Khir

Today 13 Ta’ayush activists set out to the South Hebron Hills. One group accompanied shepherds in the area of the outpost of Avigail. The herding went quietly and upon completion the activists visited Umm al-Khir, where they helped in renovating a gravel road.

Most of the activists went to Susia. The planting began quietly but was delayed by a technical problem with the tractor. At this point an army jeep arrived from the direction of the settlement. Four reserve soldiers exited their polite commander asked us what we were doing there and said (pointing at the settlement) that we must leave because “they are not calm when you are here”. At that moment the tractor was fixed and the planting continued when the soldiers left the area. Less than an hour later the soldiers returned, this time with an escort of Police, Border Police, Civil Administration and several other uniform-wearers. At this point the planting was finished; after the forces surrounded us and before they had decided what to do with us, we began walking towards the ‘Givat HaDegel’ outpost. The army and police forces, looking surprised by our leaving, did not even attempt to stop us, and thus about ten of us, Israeli activists, arrived at the outpost. The place was deserted, and hence we were able to document several buildings at different stages of construction. Several minutes later the same patrol jeep followed us there, but this time the army did not try to communicate with us until several settlers began to ascend the hill. “It’s their area,” said the patrol commander, surprised to be answered by thunderous laughter. Out of embarrassment and in a gesture of reconciliation he added, “They’re Israelis, you’re Israelis…What do you want?”

-“You know that this is illegal?”

-“Forget about legal or illegal.”

Seeing us unconvinced by his answer, the commander walked towards the settlers, attempting to persuade them not to ascend the hill towards us. They did not honor his request and about seven of them walked towards the outpost. We were graced with curses and death wishes from them and one female activist was pushed by the oldest of the settlers. Within a quarter of an hour large army forces were seen approached the outpost and the settlers left the place, as did we Ta’ayush activists. After a short rest in Susia we went to a final stop, this time at the outpost of Avigail. We took a walking tour and took pictures of the new buildings in the outpost. Once again a number of settlers gathered around us and shortly thereafter security forces as well (yes, once again the same miserable patrol jeep). At the end of our tour and documentation, we headed back towards Jerusalem.