Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Shepherd Snapshot

K., from the village of A-Tuba, had kept his flock out an unusually long time this morning. The sheep and goats were probably happier than usual because an inch of grass has grown in some places because of the recent rain. Although, the grass is just short enough that the sheep have a tough time eating it. It reminds me of eating a pomegranate. It takes so damn long to get those little kernels out, and after you eventually get them all out and eat them, it doesn't even put a dent in your hunger. You probably lose calories eating a pomegranate.

So after some hours of grazing, some of the goats found shade under rocks and some of the sheep found a cozy spot in the dirt to lie down. K. tied up his donkey to a fence post and took some items out of the bag that hung off the donkey, a sort of makeshift saddlebag.

K. scoured the area for dried brush. Once he had a sufficient amount he searched for stones. Assembling the three stones in a triangle, he placed the brush in the center of the triangle. Out of K.'s sack next came the corner piece to this puzzle, the tea kettle. The rest of the process was pretty straight forward. Cistern water in a canteen was poured into the kettle, along with a healthy Palestinian amount of sugar, and finally the tea leaves. K. lit the brush and manicured it to keep the flame under the blackened kettle. Once the tea was ready, K. called Sean and I over. We had been accompanying him and his flock this morning and he graciously insisted on sharing his lunch with us.

We feasted on hard-boiled eggs, freshly picked olives from K.'s recent harvest, fresh bread, dried goat cheese, with tea to wash it down. Throughout the meal, K. urged, "kull," meaning, "eat!" This is very common in Palestinian homes. Hosts will insist that you eat, eat, eat, until you assure them several times that you are full. Offering a humdulilah (praise be to God) will usually terminate the playful negotiation.

K. packed up lunch and told us he had kept his flock out so long because he was going to milk them today. I gathered that the strategy was to graze them a long time, feed them well when they get home, let them rest, and then milk them. I can't make sense of this, but I fully trust K. to get the best out of his flock.

This is what shepherding in the South Hebron Hills is supposed to be, it at least seemed closer to normal than is often the case. K. wasn't harassed by settlers or chased off the land by Israeli soldiers. In fact, as we sat to eat lunch in the cooling November air, it seems that we momentarily forgot about the outpost and the settlement behind us. Instead we enjoyed our surroundings, the food, and the company of one another.


Praise be to God.

2 comments:

Karen said...

Thanks for the last few stories. You expand my world view. You help me remember the importance and value of the individual. You connect me to more than my four walls, the town I live in, the country that I love. I feel myself broadened with the sense of how much more there is to do and be but how much we share with all of God's creation, For God so loved the world that He sent His only son... what is the greatest commandment... love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and your neighbor as yourself.

Keep writing!

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