The Israeli occupation of Palestine is largely reported in the Western media, if it all, through the lens of the West Bank and Gaza. These areas contain millions of Palestinians whose lives are controlled by the Israeli army and hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers. The Jordan Valley, situated in the West Bank, is given less attention within that press coverage. It’s almost invisible in the Israeli media (with a 2011 poll finding that most Israelis didn’t even know the Jewish state was occupying the area). There are nearly 65,000 Palestinians living there along with 11,000 Israeli settlers.
I’ve recently spent time in the Jordan Valley reporting on the nightmarish situation for many Palestinian shepherds and residents in the face of constant Israeli army attacks, arrests and abuse. Extreme settlers, working with the military, are literally trying to push Palestinians off their land.
The following photo essay documents one day in the life of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley.
Traveling from Jerusalem to the Jordan Valley is a short drive past countless Palestinian villages, Israeli checkpoints and illegal Israeli settlements. (Photo: Antony Loewenstein)
Israeli activist Guy Hirschfeld works every day in the Jordan Valley to defend Palestinian shepherds against the Israeli army and settlers. (Photo: Antony Loewenstein)
The calm before the storm in the beauty, stillness and roughness of the Jordan Valley. (Photo: Antony Loewenstein)
Palestinian shepherd Ahmed arrives with his sheep and is soon surrounded by the Israeli army and told to leave because it is a closed military zone. (Photo: Antony Loewenstein)
An Israeli army jeep crisscrosses the Jordan Valley, on daily patrol in the area. (Photo: Antony Loewenstein)
Palestinian shepherd Ahmed is told by Israeli soldiers that he must leave the area. (Photo: Anthony Loewenstein)
Hirschfeld tells an Israeli soldier that she has no right to block Palestinian freedom of movement in the area, but the military says otherwise. (Photo: Antony Loewenstein)
Hirschfeld constantly films and photographs his actions in the Jordan Valley, posting them on Facebook, to document the daily abuses committed by the Israeli army and settlers. (Photo: Antony Loewenstein)
Near the end of the day, Palestinian shepherd Mohammed is detained and put in restraints by the Israeli army after refusing to stop grazing his sheep. His keffiyeh was pulled over his eyes, and he was put in the back of an Israeli army jeep and taken to a nearby base where an image of Batman is painted on the outside wall. Mohammed was later released soon after he was detained, following Israeli commanders seeing Hirschfeld’s Facebook live-stream of the arrest. (Photo: Antony Loewenstein)
Israeli activist Guy Hirschfeld argues with Israeli soldiers. He explains that they’re doing the work of the settlers by kicking Palestinian shepherds off their land. (Photo: Antony Loewenstein)
An Israeli soldier guards the Palestinian shepherd, Mohammed in the moments before he is taken to a nearby army base. (Photo: Antony Loewenstein)
Hirschfeld shows an Israeli soldier photos and videos he’s shot throughout the day, documenting the actions of the army in the Jordan Valley. (Antony Loewenstein)