The Israeli settlement of Metzadot Yehuda has encroached right
up to their property line, backed up against the fence. Last January
settlers threw rocks that broke some of the solar panels Comet
had put up. The culprits were kids, Mahmoud Abu-Qbeita told
me in simple English, while troubling a string of prayer beads
in his hands outside the community’s electricity shed. What he
didn’t mention was that his son Osama had been struck in the
head by one of the rocks. Elad was checking the copper coils of
the transformer in the shed for heat loss. He reported that the
damaged solar panels weren’t producing as much energy as he’d
hoped. While he continued to check the system for flaws, Mahmoud and I talked on his terrace.
I felt saddened by the poverty of our surroundings. An oil
drum filled with trash. An upended rusty grocery cart. Plastic
jugs. A deflated soccer ball. A blue wash bucket. Astroturf. Ra-
madan lights strung in a thirsty-looking fig tree. Squint, and we
might have been in an Appalachian trailer park. By contrast,
the settlement on the other side of the fence looked like a well-
serviced Floridian retirement community. Mahmoud and I sat
on the back seat of a car being used as lawn furniture and con-
templated the sunbaked hills.
Mahmoud is a shepherd in his late fifties. Like others, he,
too, complained about the lack of access to his grazing area and
to water. But for him, the occupation’s biggest aggravation was
the checkpoint — the daily indignity of having to show a permit
to go anywhere or to come back again. The Kafkaesque proce-
dure wore on him. It could take fifteen minutes or three hours
to pass, he said, depending on the whims of the soldiers on duty.
There were over a hundred di=erent categories of permits. A per-
mit to go to the doctor, to the mosque, to study, to visit family.
Di=erent permits for women, for men, for the elderly, for the
youth. A separate permit for your tractor, for your goats. They
could take your permit, if they wanted to, without explanation,
because bureaucratic evil is random.
“This racist treatment angers me most for my children. I worry
how it will a=ect them,” Mahmoud said soberly. As the mother of
black children in America, I thought I knew what he meant. I worried about how structural racism would screw with my own kids’
a caravan of camels searches for water in the South hebron hills. the region receives less than nine inches of rain each year.