Al Mufaqarah; Shepherds in Palestine Struggling to Exist

This series comes from a friend on the ground in Mufaqara, Palestine. We wish to share his writings and photos in order to give an in depth look at a lived experience in a conflict-affected area, delving into the issues around food and agriculture as appropriate.  Enjoy!

Part 1
Introduction to the little village that wouldn’t give up.

This map shows the location of Mufaqara. It has no label in Google Maps.

Mufaqara is a small village in West Bank, Palestine. Surrounded by the hostile Israeli army and aggressive, armed, Israeli civilians, the village of shepherds is putting up an unusually determined fight for its existence. For those of us familiar with the story of Asterix and Obelix the comparison is unavoidable.

Mufaqara at sunrise
Mufaqara at sunrise.

The village has only 16 families and somewhere between 160 and 180 people. Mostly, people live in dug caves. There are a few scattered above-ground buildings. There are some tents, more permanent cinderblock construction and even some Temporary Portable Structures from the UN.

I’ve come here for one month to live with a family of shepherds and write about life as a farmer under occupation. I’ve been invited here by the richest family and de-facto mayor. They are usually happy to see foreigners here because they want the world to hear their story. Also, their attackers are a bit more shy when foreigners around. Especially foreigners with cameras.

They are fairly isolated out here in the South Hebron Hills, with the small amount of purchasing power typical of rural traditional farmers and few modern amenities. The village has no collective electricity, running water, or sewage system. The only water available is rainwater (about 300mm a year) and expensive tanker-delivered water. There is a school to which the children walk about 2 kilometers and catch a bus the rest of the way. Children normally attend school until they are 15 years old. There is, fortunately, cellphone access in the village.

Twisted metal of a destroyed power pole
Twisted metal of a destroyed power pole.

Mufaqara has begun a concerted effort to install a power grid, either in co-operation with a nearby village or with their own central generator. A few families have outgrown their caves and would like some simple cinderblock buildings above ground. Also, they would like to have a community mosque. Such community expansion is quite expensive, but they are organized, motivated and able to make these changes in their lives. Unfortunately, the Israeli military, through their liberal use of bulldozers has destroyed their mosque, power grid, generator and generating house, and new houses.
The village mayor in front of the first house of the new campaign
The village mayor in front of the first house of the new campaign

Like the indomitable and lovable Gauls, Asterix and Obelix, Mufaqara has no intention of giving up. They have recently begun a campaign to build 15 new, very modest, houses. In fact, that’s how I found out about this place. They began the campaign by inviting international visitors for a work party to build the first house.

I invite you to join me, dear readers, by reading the stories I will record as I live with Mahmoud and his family as they pioneer their methods of popular resistance to endure and overcome the unwelcome advances of an invading army.

-Early June, 2012 – official blog of the campaign.

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