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Archive for the ‘Palestinian farmers’ Category

Israeli soldier pushing Palestinian farmerYesterday I hoped I would have another chance to help local farmers with the olive harvest, but this time we weren’t that lucky.  The field, which we were trying to enter, is located in the ‘closed military zone’ under the  bridge connecting Road 60.  Unfortunately, most of the fertile areas in the Occupied Territories are declared military zones by Israel.

The owners, two sisters and one brother, of this field used to own 9 dunum of land  (1 dunam is equal to 10 acres) planted with olive trees.  Yet, the constrution of the poles of the bridge left them with no more than 2 dunum and like any land confiscation case, they never got any compensation. Olive trees were uprooted from the confiscated area and sold in Israel as wood. Even though the family still owns 2 dunum of  land, it  is beyond the fence with a barbed wire and a gate. The gate has been locked since 2005 and to enter their own land the farmers need a permission,  which they have been constantly denied. Since olives are their only source of income, last year they decided to bypass the locked gate and they climbed up the hills so as to pass the barbed wire on the top but they managed to pick only a few kilos of olives. This didn’t work this year as  the wire has been hightened.

The military zone is still inhabited by Palestinian families, but only some of them were lucky enough to get the key, the rest have to call the guard every time they need to get in or out. Cameras and other military sensors are all over the place so letting us in was too risky for the people, who own the key. Time was passing by and instead of picking olives we were waiting by the fence until two Israeli soldiers came. We were trying to persuade them to unlock the gate, but I guess the only expression they knew in English was ‘that’s the rule’.

The owner of the land, Adel Mustafa Srour (50) , got frustrated with their arrogance and started to shout in Arabic: ‘why am I not allowed to enter my own field? I just want to reap my harvest‘, which drove the soldiers completely mad. They started to pull Adel towards the car, while we were trying to verbally stop them. It didn’t work, they took him and sent him to the detention. Fortunately he got released after a couple of hours with no health impairment.

Anyway, soldiers’ reaction was completely out of proportion. Eleven international witnesses were watching it completely helpless while the soldiers were jerking, pushing and abusing an innocent man as if he was a real criminal.

What can an unarmed man do to soldiers? And can we still consider such treatment as following ‘the rules’ or  ‘for security reasons’ (the most common excuse in Israel)?

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Olive Picking

Now when olive harvest time has come, many Palestinian farmers are trying to enter fields and do their duty. Even though, they own the cultivated land, they are constantly exposed to the harrasment from the Israeli soldiers. Last sunday to enable them to reap the harvest in peace, me and other six internationals went to the fields adjacent to the village called Umm Salamuna to pick up olives. While we were working, we saw Israeli soldiers passing by, but they didn’t take a risk of entering the fields and harrasing Palestinians in front of the international witnesses. Olives are one of the major crops cultivated in Palestine and for many farmers the only source of income. Picking olives is like a special kind of gathering and social event for country dwellers, they not only work but also rest, eat lunch, drink coffee, sing and chat on the fields. It was a great experience to be there with them and to meet with their pervasive hospitability and friendliness. And on the top of that to make the harvest of their own olives from their own fields possible for them.

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Farm and the settlement in the background

Farm and the settlement in the background

Recently, I spent one day working on the farm near the Bethlehem city. This farm is located next to the Road 60 which connects Jerusalem with Hebron and was mainly built to make it easy and quick for settlers living in Hebron to get to Jerusalem. The road to the farm is in a very bad condition, a car has to move very slowly so as not to damage the chassis.

The farm is owned by a few families for whom its produce is the main source of income. Me and other internationals were warmly welcomed by the owners, greeted with a cup of tea with mint and also invited for lunch. Our job was to clear the fields of weeds. Theoretically not that hard but when it is done in the middle of the day in the  scorching sun, I am telling you, it is not that easy. (more…)

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