If the bones are strong enough, the flesh will grow again
An interview with Ali Muhammad Mahmoud Jabareen from the village of Jinba. The original interview can be found in Arabic here (2016).
In the name of God, the most gracious, the most merciful.
My name is Ali Muhammad Mahmoud Jabareen. I’m from Jinba. I was born in 1962, here in Jinba. Back then there was no Israeli occupation. When I first opened my eyes to the world, I was living under Jordanian rule. During the 1950’s Israelis came here and took over large parts of this area and destroyed many village including an important and large village, Ilgariteen, and Bayyud.
Masafer Yatta is a very large area and includes many villages, . All these places are connected to each other and they are all in South East Yatta. It is called “Masafer”. it starts from Ras Bir el-Ed mountain and goes all the way to Tel Arad and Kseifeh and all the way to the Israeli settlement of Arad that was established in the 1960’s. From there it goes all the way to the Dead Sea.
If I had to choose between here and Tel Aviv, I would choose here, even though all of Palestine is beautiful and precious to me. If I am sick and I come here, I immediately feel better. It is very beautiful, especially during Spring.
My father was born here in 1940 and he lived in this land with his sheep until he passed away last year, on December 18th, may he rest in peace. For 75 years he lived here and never left, so did my grandfather before him. We are staying on what is left from our land. My father told us to stay on this land, to live in it the same way he lived here and died here.
He used to tell us to remain steadfast. He has gone through harder times than what we are going through today. His sheep were taken more than five times. The last time it happened was on March 23rd 2003. They confiscated 250 sheep that belonged to my father, they slaughtered them in a slaughterhouse in Israel. Thank God we have sheep again and we are still on our land. My father used to say “If the bones are strong enough, the flesh will grow again”. It might be hard for one or two years, but if you’re patient then things will get better.
Israel offers people money and whatever they want to make them leave, but everyone refuses these offers. It is our land and none of us wants to leave it. In 1967, these villages were bombed and destroyed. The people returned and rebuilt them. They stayed until the 1980s and in the 1980s all the people who lived here were expelled. On February 2nd 2016 there was a demolition, and since then they have demolished more than 22 houses in Jinba and other places.
My father, may he rest in peace, and the generation before him did not have weeds growing in their land. But look at the land today, it is full of weeds because it is not being cultivated properly. In the past, our grandparents used to plant corn for one year, cotton for one year, barley for one year and wheat for one year, and this way they kept their land fertile. Now we plant barley for 15 years, so no matter how much rain there is, the plants are not in a good condition.
The new generation is not good at looking after the land. They want to plow quickly and harvest quickly. They want to do everything in one day and don’t want to make any effort. We work all the time, we work on our land and we work in Israel, we never stop working. Working with metal and building materials makes your hands tired. People like you, people who don’t work with their hands, have white hands. If I don’t work for a month, I’ll have white hands too, but I work with metal and cement and it ruins my hands. It doesn’t matter how many times you wash, you can never totally scrub it off.
We all work hard in this area. Most of the people here work in Israel. They work in construction and many of them are masters at it. They all have the same rough hands as me because they work a lot. My children work with me right now, they help me with the sheep and work the land with me. They don’t work as well as the older people, but they are good, thank God. Sometimes they work in Israel too. There are also people who study, and I hope they finish their studies successfully and I pray to God that the younger generation will study because it’s better than farming.
In the 1980s there was no media nor television. We had radio rarely, but luckily today there is television and internet, there are many helpful things today that didn’t exist in the past. The people who lived before us were better than us and they were more eloquent and told stories better than us. If my father was alive he would tell you many stories that I don’t even know how to tell, and also my grandfather and my uncles. All of the elderly people in this area can tell you great stories.
Thank God for everything.