At first glance, the dusty dunes of the South Hebron hills appear splendidly frozen in time. Small encampments of nomadic farmers are dotted across the landscape, sparse groves of olive and fruit trees surrounding the ramshackle tents huddled together in their midst. Flocks of sheep and goats graze on the scrubby foliage under the watchful eye of teenaged shepherds; the silence of the plains is breathtaking, the only noise an occasional cautionary bark from the villagers' ever-vigilant guard dogs.
But the glorious isolation in which the rural communities seem to dwell is an illusory facade. A closer look at the way their camps are arranged reveals the true picture of modern life on the land they've tended for generations. Soldiers stand guard in pairs at strategic spots on the hillside, enforcing the no-entry zones surrounding the rash of settlements spread across the region, the mini-towns growing bigger by the month, swallowing up more and more of the Palestinians' land in the zero-sum game eternally stacked in the settlers' favour.
The settlement of Susiya is a case in point. Not content with building within the settlement's perimeter, the residents have been venturing deep into the farmers' land to lay new foundations and erect buildings that will eventually be annexed to the mothership. The immediate effect of the construction of the outposts is to force the farmers off their land, to be replaced by teams of armed guards: both settlers and soldiers taking responsibility for keeping unwanted persons at bay.