Dalia Har Sinai is not your typical grandmother. She is the woman behind the operation of the Har Sinai Farm in Susiya, located in the south Hebron hills, where she and her family have resided for the past 30 years. Har Sinai single-handedly manages the flour mill, dairy farm, and the herd of sheep and goats.
Since her husband Yair was killed by Hamas terrorists as he was grazing their flock of sheep 12 years ago, Dalia has had to struggle to keep the farm operational with the assistance of a hired shepherd, her family, and volunteers.
Dalia and her husband Yair, both originally from agricultural communities in the Hefer Valley region, near Netanya, moved to the arid desert region of Susiya with their four children in 1984 after they became religious.
“When we started here, it was really a question of survival,” Har Sinai said in an exclusive interview with Tazpit News Agency last week.
At that time, there were only 10 families living in Susiya according to Har Sinai. “But we were the only farmers among the residents. The land was barren – this was state land that had been captured from Jordan during 1967,” said Har Sinai.
The Har Sinais had plenty of experience with agriculture prior to moving to Susiya. In Emek Hefer, they ran a dairy farm and later spent four months in the United States learning about organic farming from American farmers. The couple began implementing organic farming methods in Susiya as well, growing grapes, olives, and wheat with organic farming and environmentally-friendly techniques.
In addition, Yair began to get to know the local Arab villagers and learned some Arabic. He developed friendships with some of the Arabs and learned how to tend a flock, purchasing his first ten sheep from local Arabs.
Dalia describes her husband as a peaceful man, who believed that strength was in spirit and not in force. “When Yair became the first Jewish shepherd in Judea and Samaria, he didn’t want any problems with the Arabs in the area. He never resorted to force or violence and did not carry arms while he watched the flock.”
Economically, the life of a farmer and shepherd was not an easy one. “The beginning was very hard,” says Har Sinai. “The local Arabs that Yair befriended didn’t believe that he would succeed with the flock – the weather conditions were tough with summers very hot, and winters very cold – but Yair’s persistence paid off.”
With her husband working with the sheep, Dalia was also busy. “I had my own flock to tend to – our nine children,” she says with a smile.
But all that changed on July 2, 2001, when Dalia’s husband left home early in the morning to graze the flock in the fields nearby. He was met by Hamas terrorists who claimed they wanted to purchase some sheep. Instead, they murdered him.
It was clear to Dalia that even after her husband’s death, she would continue to run the farm.
“I wouldn’t allow this tragedy to end our lifetime’s work together,” she explains. “Yair was so loyal to this land – he showed that whoever survives this region is the true victor. If I didn’t continue with this farm, who knows what would happen to our thousands of empty dunams of land here.”
Today, Dalia sells the organic cheeses, milk, olives, and whole wheat that her farm produces. Every week, she goes door to door and markets the farm’s products to customers in Beer Sheva.
Opposed to technology and mechanization – Har Sinai doesn’t own a cellphone, TV, nor a computer and her home doesn’t have Internet access – the grandmother does not trust the media. “The media is a monster that holds us in a terrible place,” she says.
However, with regards to her youngest son, David, 14, Har Sinai feels that she has failed. “I let him get a smartphone this year,” Dalia says, as David finishes seasoning the fresh goat cheese with za’atar that his mother will sell in Beer Sheva the next day.
For Har Sinai, the greatest joy is seeing her farm still running despite all the hardships. “My great satisfaction is when I wake up every morning and see that our farm still exists.” With more than 1,000 volunteers that have come to help out the farm over the years, Har Sinai also appreciates being able to share her way of life with others.
“Working the land and leaving behind the iPhone, gives a different kind of appreciation for life,” says Dalia. “Farming is something that everyone should have a chance to experience at some point in their lifetime.”
Watch a video about Dalia Har Sinai below.