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Day Two in Marda

We climbed the same steep path full of loose stones for the second day of olive picking but there was no army at the top of the hill. We waited with the Palestinian farmers and after thirty minutes with the villagers’ permission, we began making calls to our local contacts and the Palestinian police, trying to find out where the army was. The farmers considered going in without the army check-in but there was the danger that they could be arrested. After waiting more than an hour, two army jeeps arrived with seven soldiers.

Entrance gate and helper

We were told that some other farmers were at the other side of the military access road and had tried to enter with the tractor there. They had not been allowed to bring the tractor in again. After a thorough search and ID check, the farmers were allowed to enter. The MPT team was held and a discussion progressed with assurances from us that we would cause no trouble. After more delay, the soldiers relented and we were allowed to enter. It was clear that we had been delayed intentionally, but as we walked up the road the army jeep slowed and the soldier handed each of us a piece of hard candy. It seemed a patronizing gesture after all the harassment the Palestinians had been put through.

We were picking with a Palestinian farmer who had lost much of his land to the settlement. The remaining land was on the terraces between the layers of razor wire. He had one helper, two Americans, and almost no English.

Farmer and helper

The day progressed much as before with the breaks for tea and a meal. We picked the dusty olives below the rather lavish settlement homes on the hill above us. There were fewer olives on his trees and he knelt and picked up the fallen fruits one by one among the weeds and brambles. Each small olive seemed important to him.

Olive harvesting

His helper carried the bag, three quarters full, down to the gate. The farmer thanked us profusely. He wanted us to come to his house, but we wanted to wait and make sure the other farmers were able to exit successfully.

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