“We live in harmony with nature and indeed we are part of nature,” he reflected. “My ancestors lived that way for many generations, away from social pressures.”
This land’s tranquil quiet, surrounded by mountains, is broken only by a few cars, and the happy noise of children playing outdoors.
"Also, our food is from nature: the products include our own eggs, yogurt, milk, meat, and bread,” explained Eid. “The air surrounding us is clean, and the view does not get more beautiful.“
For this community, which comprises about 3,000 Bedouins, it is a sacred way of life. “We do not want to live in the cities, because we love the way our ancestors lived for thousands of years, one generation after the other,” he said. “Our life is simple, and our livelihood depends mainly on our livestock that lives with us amidst the nature.”
But the sacredness is threatened—every day, day in and day out—by attacks, eviction, and perhaps worst of all, what appears to be the indifference of much of the rest of the world.
Eid, who is the spokesperson for his community, said they won’t give up on their quest to live in dignity and peace. Every day, he monitors violations or attacks by settlers against the sheep or the people.
“I am the head of the local council, and prevented from getting employment in Israel because I speak up, and after I helped build a school for Jahaleen children,” he said. "I believe that our children’s education is so important, because the children can have a good future only if they are educated.”
Eid believes education is a human right; he also believes all religions value education.
“I am someone who wants to promote education in my community, and to improve the standards of living,” he said.
Every day, he goes to the school—which serves 200 children—to ask the principal if she needs help and to make sure the children and the 22 teachers have what they need.
He also reviews the requests and needs of his people: health insurance problems, or water and electricity issues. “I also receive solidarity groups, and I follow up with lawyers against demolition and eviction threats, especially against the school, which has a demolition order alongside the entire community,” he said.
Children bear the brunt
For the Bedouins, “occupation” isn’t a political word on a document or in the news; it involves hardship and suffering for the people—perhaps most of all, the children.
Children are terrified at night by the noise of drones, used by settlers and security forces to monitor the Bedouin community.. “At night, while we are asleep, they open torch light on us from the drones, and the children are terrified—not to speak also of the noise,” said Eid.
Settlements also divert sewage which floods the area, a huge problem during the summer when temperatures rise. “We get lots of insects, of all types, which causes illness among children,” he said.
In 2019, an organization from the United States donated playground equipment for the children, including slides and swings, Eid said. “The Israeli authorities compelled me to demolish the playground, otherwise they would demolish it themselves and impose fines on me,” said Eid. “In 2014, the Italians gave us toys for the children, and when the Israeli authorities saw that via drones, they showed up on the spot and confiscated the toys.”
Marring the sacred land
When his ancestors arrived on the land, it had plenty of water wells and natural springs. “But the occupation intervened and diverted the water away,” said Eid. “Settlement construction in the area began in 1982, and the process of impoverishing the people began.”
The number of sheep is decreasing because of land restrictions, water deprivation, and threats by settlers and security forces. “Now we are besieged in a small area,” said Eid. “We see Israeli herders in the area, and tourist sites at our expense—and we are denied access to the land.”
Further, Eid said, community members are not allowed to enter Jerusalem, where they used to market their products. If they park their cars on the main road, or even stand on the roadside, police fine them.
“Since 2009, all members of our community are denied work permits in Israel,” said Eid.
He asks for prayers that the Bedouin community regains its independence so that he and others can live in peace on their land. From the outskirts of Jerusalem, the Bedouins can hear the muezzins and the church bells. “But we cannot go there,” said Eid. “Not all Palestinians are allowed to visit and pray there because of the Separation Wall.”