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The Beasts of Al Bassa
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כדילתרגם לעברית
Posted by Nizar El Hanna on July 3, 2000

Flora and Fauna in Al Bassa

The Hyenas

My grandfather Abed Mansour El Hanna owned several dunams of farming land in Al Bassa and the surrounding areas. He used to travel to Gallilean towns such as Safad or to the West Bank towns such as Kalkilya where he traded the latest harvest for animal feed, other crops or money. When the time came for the occasional barter, he would leave in the early hours of the morning and return in the middle of the night. One night, when returning to Bassa from Safad (the home of Watermelons according to my grandfather), he felt something move in the stillness of the night. He turned around and saw 2 hyenas following him. Their yellow eyes shone in the moonlight as they made their laughing noise as if sarcastically taunting him to stop and succumb to his impending doom. My grandfather started running and the hyenas ran too, but kept a steady pace behind him. He then stopped, and they stopped too. Abed Mansour decided to keep walking till he would reach an inhabited area where he could seek refuge. And he walked, and they followed. Then out of frustration, my grandfather started pelting them with stones. They scurried away and disappeared into the bushes, only to resurface later and follow him from a closer distance. Fortunately, Abu Mansour found a home where the occupants let him in and allowed him to stay over for the night.
According to my grandfather, hyenas in Palestine lived in caves and rarely attacked humans as they were scavengers and preferred animal corpses.

The Snake

Another Abu Mansour story: One day, Al-Bassa's villagers were harvesting the year's grain. Suddenly the children who were playing nearby started screaming. A gigantic snake, 2-3 meters long according to my grandfather was slithering in the direction of the villagers. The women caught the children and took them back to the village while the men starting planning how they were going to kill the snake. They then noticed that the serpent had hid in a nearby mound of hay. The men encircled the mound, sickles in hand and set fire to the hay. The snake, which hates the heat, tried escaping, but every time it poked its ugly black head, a farmer hit it with his sickle. The ordeal lasted an hour and the snake, though immobile stayed alive for a longer time until it was completely dead. The harvest went on?
Nizar El Hanna


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