We are in the shepherding community of Khirbet Samra listening to local shepherd Fawsi recount a recent encounter with a settler from the nearby settlement outpost. His story is familiar. Herding communities like this one have grazed their sheep and more recently, as their traditional migratory way of life became untenable, cultivated fields in the Jordan Valley for generations. They now face severe access limitations to their land; forcing many to pack up and move to nearby urban population centres such as Tubas.
Situated in the northern Jordan Valley on land designated Area C under the Oslo Accords, Khirbet Samra was once a thriving community of 50 families. Now, little more than a handful remain. The rest were forced to move by the combined loss of land to surrounding military bases and regular harassment by settlers from the recently built Mzoka outpost.
The feeling of injustice in Fawsi’s account is palpable. He and his brothers are only able to safely graze their flocks with the regular protective presence that EAPPI and our Israeli partner organization, Ta’ayush, provide them.
Overlooking a cultivated field, now claimed by settlers
On our previous visit to the community, the shepherds were approached while out on the hills by five men and a boy from the outpost. They brought dogs with them and proceeded to aggressively chase the flock back to the ‘Palestinian side’ of the access road which links the outpost to the nearest military base. The road has become a de facto demarcation line in the ongoing struggle between the Palestinians and settlers over who has the right to graze the land. The settlers say that they own the land and often try to prevent the Palestinian shepherds from entering it with their flocks. Fawsi’s father has legal proof of ownership of the land and the family have filed multiple legal complaints but to no avail. This harassment goes largely unacted upon by the Israeli authorities.
Settlers watch from road to ensure Shepherds don’t try to cross again