On Monday morning, June 23, 2008 MPT headed south to the cave community of Tuba in the south Hebron hills. When MPTers arrived in At Tuwani, Christian Peace Team (CPT) was glad for their presence because there had been a growing number of settler attacks. Many families and shepherds had been calling for CPT to accompany them in case of attacks; however at the time they were unable to meet the growing need.
A member of CPT was going to walk MPT through the hills to Tuba. Along the way, they stopped to meet with a shepherd who had asked for some accompaniment. The night before, he had been grazing his sheep on land that he had the paperwork to be on. Settlers had come down with slingshots and begun shooting rocks at his sheep. He had to run away quickly with his sheep. However, he was afraid that while running away, he may have lost some sheep and that they might have been killed. He wanted CPT/MPT to go back with him and if his sheep were there to take pictures. Thankfully, when they went to check, they did not find any dead sheep, though he said it was still possible they had taken some sheep.
MPT waited a while with the shepherd as the sheep grazed. Almost as soon as MPT arrived, two settlers appeared from behind the trees of an illegal outpost. The outpost is near several settlements. The two settler men appeared with a dog and it also seemed that they were masked. Phone calls were made and the cameras began rolling. The settlers did not come any closer. Soon the Israeli army arrived and watched from the top of the hill. The shepherd began backing away with his sheep and goats, even though he had the right to be grazing there.
As MPT walked through the hills, they could hear loud fighter planes, gifts from the U.S. to Israel, flying overhead. It was a weird sound to hear in the middle of the wilderness. There is a military base near by. After a long walk through the hills, MPT arrived at Tuba hidden within the hills. MPT has had an ongoing relationship with these families. Recently, this community has been experiencing settler violence and has been calling for international presence. The night before MPT arrived, two of the children were giving water to the sheep and goats when two grown men approached and began shooting stones at them with slingshots. Luckily, they were able to get it on film. B’tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, has given one of the children a video recorder in order to capture and make public the settler violence.
MPT was able to go out with the sheep twice, allowing the sheep and goats to have several hours of grazing that had been too dangerous lately. Thankfully, there were no settler incidents while MPT was there.
MPT enjoyed the generous hospitality of the families at Tuba and got to participate in the beautiful simplicity of their lifestyle. They spent a lovely night sleeping under the stars next to the caves. One MPTer was even given rides on a donkey up the steep hill!
As MPT travelled back to At Tuwani, they learned a conflict had occurred between a shepherd and some settlers that morning, though no one was injured. That night, MPT learned that there had been another attack in the area after they had left.