"Let's go" I say to Fadi, and we start crossing the road with the herd.
At that moment, a settler appears out of nowhere riding an off-road motorcycle at full speed. I quickly move to block him but he overtakes me and charges into the herd. The sheep scatter all over the place in panic. He rides on, turns around and charges back at us. I block him again, this time more effectively, and he comes to a screeching halt right in front of me.
"You’re threatening me with your stick" he shouts angrily.
"No, I'm just an old man with a walking stick."
"You’re a despicable old man" he replies.
"I'm a human being, just like you, if you cut me don’t I bleed? (I don’t know why I started quoting Shakespeare) and just like you I eat and shit. We're all human beings. And so are they." I point to the Palestinian shepherds, "They also want to live, just like you do."
"You’re different" he says.
"What do you mean?"
"You're talking to me. None of you has ever talked to me before."
"There is always the first time" I said and held out my hand to him.
He hesitated for a moment, shook my hand, turned the motorcycle around and rode off.
We see countless video clips on the net of martial artists demonstrating applications. The student attacks – and the teacher/master blocks: elbow strike, dodge, kick and topple. And the audience applauds this hard-earned skill.
But no such battles exist in real life.
In reality, we are all under constant attack here. Teetering on the brink of an ecological social, and moral precipice. Drowning in verbal and physical violence – corruption, pollution, right/left, left/right; and the only guardians of environmental, social and human rights are the activists, some of whom work day and night, year after year, in a Sisyphean struggle.
And where are the martial artists?
Martial arts calcified a long time ago, they have lost their meaning, their fighting spirit. The only fighters today are the activists. The martial artists hide in their training halls. Isn't it time for you, men and women who have dedicated your lives to these arts, to come out of your training halls? To use the skills you have acquired, not to get into fights, but to join one of these struggles and give your best? After all, you have the self-discipline, the restraint and the determination to defuse heavily charged situations. So why continue training when it's time to fight? Why continue performing for Youtube and Facebook clips?
Training time is over, it's time for applications.
Because in the end, it’s about facing yourself – facing the fear and violence in you – and in the person in front of you.
It’s ironic that we came to connect so deeply with the shepherding communities in the Jordan Valley only because of the abuse and harassment they are enduring. With people who are still in tune with the earth and the cycle of nature, and live exactly like our biblical ancestors.
To deprive them of their land, in the name of some messianic zeal, and prevent them from grazing in the place where they have been grazing for generation after generation, is to destroy a delicate natural and human fabric that has developed over thousands of years.
And we, despite the great effort we are investing, feel fortunate to taste this way of life, which was lost to us, Westerners, many years ago.
Activism in the Jordan valley
The indigenous world: Palestine 2022