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Final Days of Olive Harvest in Kafr Qaddum

One MPTer went with two IWPS women to an olive grove with some of the family whose relative had been beaten by the Israeli soldiers a week earlier near Kafr Qaddum. They went up part way in a wagon drawn by an old Massy Fergeson tractor. Then the women hiked the rest of the way up a trail that became rougher as they climbed and finally they passed by two very fierce-looking, but very friendly watch dogs. The internationals accompanied a widow and her daughter to their olive trees which were inside the illegal Israeli settlement on the hill.
The olive grove is right up against the settlement.

Olive trees near the settlement

The day before, the internationals and the Palestinians women had harvested in this area with no intervention by anyone, but only the help of a kind settler who loaned them a ladder for picking. The second day, they began picking the olives on the edge of the settlement and soon the friendly settler with the ladder appeared again. The area of the olive grove was used as a settler dump for used plastic chairs, old computers and such.

Settler trash in the olive grove

The women were there about twenty minutes when a boy passed by commenting, “Where are the soldiers?” In a few minutes a jeep with four Israeli soldiers came. There was about ½ hour negotiating back and forth with the leader of the four soldiers, the Palestinian woman and with the IWPS woman who called the Palestinian District Coordinating Liaison [DCL] and the Israeli District Coordinating Office [DCO]. The DCO sent another jeep and the final order was that the two Palestinian women could pick the trees near the street in the settlement until noon and the three internationals had to move back three rows of trees. All complied with the hope of getting as many olives picked as possible.

Trees with olives to be picked

The Palestinian women picked near the street until noon, broke to share lunch with the internationals and then returned to another tree near the street. During the lunch break the soldiers returned and in a bit of power wielding asked the internationals to move their bags, which they did. Amid the sounds of the ducks or geese and chickens coming from a rather make- shift chicken barn, everyone was able to pick some very fine olives. Sounds of rifle shots could be heard from the nearby Israeli Army shooting range.

Olive trees with the village in the background

Near the settlement, large greenhouses could be seen. From the hill, in the distance, there were other illegal Israeli settlements and the nearby Palestinian villages.

Greenhouses near settlement and olive groves

Nearby village

Pickers were constantly alert to any movement in the settlement.

At three o’clock, with a rain storm threatening, the five women started the hike down the hill. Half way down, walking amid heavy rain drops, the women encountered other members of the family who then quickly finished the olive picking in their area. Everyone got into the wagon behind the tractor. The young woman who had accompanied her mother in the morning was joined by her fiancĂ©. This happy couple will be married in a soon and those present, including the internationals, have been invited. The MPTers have not yet seen a formal Moslem wedding. It should be a moment of joy in this land of much suffering.

Two days later the MPTer returned with two IWPS women again with the widow to pick olives inside the illegal Israeli settlement area. The daughter was not feeling well this day and no villagers had offered to help the widow. We began to pick near the street of the settlement.

MPTer gets handy with the stick to reach higher branches

The widow was a bit nervous, so we did not thoroughly pick each tree. We did not seem to be noticed by the settlers. Even a bus driver drove his big bus out of the driveway near us and did not notice or pay attention to us. One of the IWPS women speaks excellent Arabic so she and the Palestinian woman were able to communicate, even chat a bit during the picking. The Palestinian woman treated the IWPS woman like her daughter – asking for advice and giving her orders to do certain tasks.

About 11:00 a settler woman passed to go to the children’s playground nearby and looked a little alarmed to see us; however, a greeting of Shalom [“peace” in Hebrew] by one of the international woman and she went happily on her way. We stopped for lunch about noon. At 2:30 a neighbor woman from the village came to help pick. At 3:00 the settler security came, spoke rather brusquely with the two Palestinian women and with an IWPS woman and the result was that we were told to leave the area. We meandered down the slope picking a bit as we went. The widow decided not to continue picking the next day, although she had several trees left because of the difficulty of getting permission through the Palestinians District Coordinator and the Israeli District Coordinator. We walked a rugged tractor trail to the neighbor’s home in the late afternoon.

The two women check out their photo.

After tea at the neighbor’s, the IWPS woman took reports on Israeli soldier and settler harassment during the olive harvest to a village vice-mayor. These were to go to government authorities. One can hope that there can be changes next year or at least that history will record these. Following this, we were invited to the widow’s home for a very simple supper. The widow is very poor with only three very sparsely furnished rooms in an old rambling house that is only partially used.

The following day three internationals - 1 IWPS and both MPT members returned to the olive groves near the green houses, where one MPTer had been a couple weeks ago. This farmer had not had recent attacks or serious problems with Israeli settlers or soldiers, but both come near his land making their presence known.

The illegal Israeli settlement is above the greenhouses near the farmer's olive grove.
The green houses are just above the farmer's olive trees,
on land confiscated from his uncle.

This day we picked with no incidents, except the presence of an Israeli military jeep and soldiers near the greenhouses and within sight much of the day. This farmer has fine olive trees indicating that he had pruned them and cared well for them. Even though he farmed near the settlement he had worked hard to have fine trees. With our little Arabic and his sparse English, conversation was limited! It was a delightful day outdoors with nature.

The afternoon sun hitting the olive trees

A day later an MPTer and the IWPS woman returned to pick olives with the same farmer whose land was near the green houses. It was again an enjoyable day. The farmer agreed to have his picture taken, but then worried that his friends might see him not in his finest clothes. When shown the photo he was satisfied that the dirt on his harvesting clothes did not show. He has several trees left so he will receive help again.

This farmer appreciates the accompaniment and help of internationals and they enjoy working with him.

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