I’m a little hesitant to write this blog piece because some people will feel triumphant when they read that the Eyn Samia Bedouin community is abandoning their homes of some forty years. – but I hope others will understand that this is also an indictment not only against those who support the occupation, but against anyone who sits at home and does nothing, for those out demonstrating only to preserve our Athenian “democracy” for well-to-do Israeli Jews, and all who declare “Our hands did not spill this blood.” We will get to what our Jewish tradition has to say about that at the end of this piece. Now that I am back home that is what I want to teach this Shavuot. My words are also an indictment of the police.
The policeman at the Binyamin station seemed happy when he asked, “What’s the problem with them leaving?” Many settlers and their supporters are of course thrilled. A new tent and sheep much closer to the Eyn Samya encampment are probably the beginnings of a new outpost. But, maybe they will move it to where the Bedouin homes once were after the last families have left. And when I ask why the settlers who gathered around us, blocked my car, and even forced their way inside on Monday acted to put out a fire in a field of wheat and barley planted by Eyn Samia shepherds for their flocks to graze my guess is that it was because they think it will be theirs soon enough. Settlers already have been bringing those sheep I mentioned to graze/steal in that field every day . So what if sometimes we succeed in getting a policeman to come and see the trespass and theft, or that both the police and soldiers arrived on Monday and spoke with settlers in the new outpost?
Wasn’t it a policeman who in a very questionable manner determined a week ago that a herd had been stolen by the Bedouin and handed it over to the settlers?
A week ago Sunday settlers came in the middle of the night and searched the entire encampment for their supposedly missing sheep. They didn’t find anything. The next day, one shepherd was grazing his flock along the main road. A police officer arrested him and handed his flock over to settlers, who loaded them onto wagons and took them. If somebody was grazing a stolen flock next to the main road near the Kokhav HaShakhar settlement and outposts when he knew the settlers were looking for them, he should have been arrested for stupidity. If the sheep had actually been stolen, this incident wouldn’t have led to an entire community to pick up and leave the place that has been their home for the past forty years.
Three of the sheep had numbers from the last time the Palestinian Authority had registered Eyn Samia’s sheep seven years ago. While I admit that I need to ask whether I have biases of my own, I hope the shepherd’s lawyer will be allowed to examine the Whatsapp exchange in which the officer allegedly sent in the numbers and received an answer that they were stolen.
At the station, I was told that the owner of the herd was invited to prove his ownership. If he can obtain proof of his registration of his sheep, he might be able to do so. But even if he does, when I asked what the chances are that he would get the herd back if he proved ownership, the head of investigations just said they would deal with that question if and when… Those sheep will never be found again. Even if there was a legitimate suspicion that the sheep were stolen, they should have been confiscated until an investigation was completed. They shouldn’t have been handed over to settlers on the spot.
The Bedouin have been suffering here from the settlers for a long time, but it was the police who persuaded the community to leave.
One sheep owner said that 5 years ago he had 150 head. Today he has 50 left, as a result of the increase in expenses. He has to buy three times the amount of food as a result of the restriction of grazing areas by all the surrounding outposts. He said he would have a 30 next year. And after that….
Against the settlers and the constantly growing number of outposts the Eyn Samia community was nevertheless willing to remain steadfast. Their feeling that the Israeli security forces were biased against them is neither new nor unfounded. But, this incident broke them. Our 24/7 presence protected the community as they packed up and dismantled their homes. Our original hope that our presence would lead to a decision to stay seems unfounded.
Yes, in Eyn Samya we heard that against the settlers, they would try to survive. But against the might of the state? Almost every day and every night, settlers walk around and take pictures. The Bedouin think it’s thanks to our presence Monday night that the settlers “only” came once. (The settler told me that he had come in the middle of the night “to visit friends.”) But Tuesday night settles shattered the windows of the community’s school. The school already has a demolition order. Far be it from the planning committee of the Israeli army’s Civil Administration to do the outrageous, and decide that a Bedouin community deserves a school. And who cares about windows in a school that has become a school without children?
In Eyn Samia they believe that if they stay, the settlers will bring the pictures they take of Eyn Samia’s flocks, claim to the police that they are pictures of their sheep taken not in Eyn Samia, but before they were “stolen,” and the police will come again and again to hand over Eyn Samia’’s flocks to the settlers when they find the “stolen” sheep in Eyn Samia. Perhaps I contributed to this concern when I showed the residents a police press release boasting about their heroic deed returning a stolen flock.
The policeman who arrived after the settlers got into my car felt pangs of conscience when he saw people dismantling their homes and the exodus of trucks and carts filled with the ramshackle remains of a dying community. He asked where they would go. Social and family ties are being rendered asunder, as everybody flees to a different location. Although one usually must to go to court to obtain a restraining order, the officer had the naïve hope that if we and the residents complained about settler harassment, the police would ask for an order. We filed a complaint, and of course were told that the police don’t do anything like that. What percentage of battered women manage to obtain restraining orders, and how many are murdered even if they do?
I told the police, “But, you have the authority and responsibility to ask the army to guard the community”.
For some strange reason, the Palestinians saw no point in coming to the station. They told the policeman about their treatment by the police over the years.
On Thursday night, we will celebrate the holiday of giving the Torah, replete with Tikunei Leyl Shavuot (studying Jewish texts) the entire night. If any of the community were still there, I had planned to invite people to join me in a Tikkun in Eyn Samia. But even if there was a tikkun there, it is unlikely that there will be takana – there will probably be no healing or repair or righting of this wrong. And then the question is, will there be takana for us? Only if we accept responsibility for the fact that our hands did in fact spill this blood, and we begin to do what is required of each and every one of us to end the Occupation, and in the meantime to protect communities. Eyn Samia is not the first instance of this human tragedy and injustice at our hands, and it is likely to repeat itself again and again if we do not put a stop to it.
In Mishnah Sotah 9, one asks why the elders of the nearest city must perform the ceremony of breaking the neck of a calf when somebody is found dead somewhere between two communities, and declare ” Our hands did not shed this blood and our eyes did not see.” Our sages asked if it is conceivable that the elders spilled the blood? But our rabbis said that anyone who did not help, did not give food, and did not arrange for an escort to a person who may not have known the way – it was as if they had spilled the blood.
This is the Torah that I will seek to teach on this Leyl Shavuot. This is the Torah we all must learn. We are taught that, while Shavuot is the anniversary of the giving of the Torah, we must decide every day whether to receive it. I hope that we will receive and act on this Torah and thus achieve takana
Khag Sameakh-For A Joyous Holiday of Receiving and Acting on the Torah We Need