Last Friday (21st of Oct) our team headed to the village of Kafr Qadum to attend a demonstration that takes place weekly since July of this year. We arrived early and were fortunate to learn more about the situation by the organizers themselves. In 2003 the main road east from the village linking it with Nablus was blocked by members of the illegal Israeli settlement of Qadumim (built in 1976) and has not accessable to Palestinian ever since. After unsuccessful attempts during the last six years to gain justice through the Israeli High Court, the popular committee of Kafr Qaddum took the matter in its own hands and started organizing the weekly demonstrations claiming their key road back. Residents now have to drive 26km to get to Nablus instead of 13km. This leads not only to increased expenses but to delayed arrivals at the Nablus hospital. Three children from the village have passed away during the recent years after failing to receive urgent medical care in Nablus on time. Since July until now six young people have been arrested for taking part in the demonstrations.
The demonstration started right after the Muslim’s noon prayer as Palestinians and internationals walked together on the road. It was already blockaded by the Israeli Occupational Forces close to the end of the village. We approached to a distance of about 50m from the soldiers to where barbed wire was strung across the road. Youth began throwing stones and within a couple of minutes tear gas was fired at the demonstrators. The wind, road, and building lay out was such that the tear gas just followed us down the road as we all ran to escape.
This is a view of the Deir Istiya skyline from the walls of the “old city”.
We drove to the olive groves in an old truck as the farmer explained that there was a much shorter easier route but they were not allowed to drive that close to the settlement. After a bumpy ride on a very rough road, we started the 10 minute walk to the grove. We were very surprised to be so close to the outpost and also to the settlement of Revava – both clearly visible in the picture.
This is not Wadi Qana as mentioned above but the same process of fouling the land with waste water is practiced in this area. It is hard to express the disgust we felt for a community that would do such to their neighbors’ crop land and for a larger system that would allow such pollution to continue. The water had a slight flow to it indicating that there was an ongoing release of the fluid. But it was basically a putrid stagnant mess of liquid waste. It was impossible to determine what all might be in it.
The picking took place very near the outpost and the settlement. We gained enough altitude to look right down into the outpost.
We were never able to see more than the edges of Revava, the settlement. We were visited by the soldiers and the settlement security. As we were picking during the allowed time, these visits were routine - "no problem" as our Hebrew speaking farmer was inclined to say.
Our landlords reported to us that wild pigs have been released to damage crops in the plains of Huwwara and that a lady was recently hospitalized after being attacked by one. When picking in Jammain, the men said they saw one and chased it off by throwing stones. Wild pigs (boars as they are often called in the USA)can be a huge problem. We are not able to give you an eyewitness account, but the farmer also said, “See the damage that pigs have done to the ground and to this tree.”
The farmers are not allowed into the groves before 8:00 AM (no picking in the cool hours of the morning even though it is light enough by 6:00) and must be out or moving in that direction by 4:00 PM. Here is the farmer and one MPTer walking out to the truck past the outpost at the end of the day. After dinner a young family member drove us to meet our taxi and said, "They steal our olives; they foul our water; we have nothing left but the air we breathe. Thank you for coming. You give us hope.”
Two members or the Michigan Peace Team arrived in Huwarra on Thursday, Oct. 8. Entering an area of struggle such a Israel/Palestine is a truly unique experience. We thought you might be interested in the greetings we received.
One member entered with no difficulty. The other was pulled aside at the airport, made to wait, then interrogated (“Why so long? Why Turkish Air? Are you a journalist? Are you familiar with ISM? Who do you know in the West Bank? Do you intend to do any violence against Israel? ….and so on), made to wait again, and then abruptly told, “You must sign this document or you will not be allowed to enter Israel.” The form was mostly in Hebrew but did say in English, “…agree not to enter PLO controlled areas.” Such was one member’s “welcome” to Israel.
A few days later in Huwarra we began visiting around town and handing out cards (in Arabic) explaining our work. A man approached one of us asking “You need help?” He read our card and then said, “Welcome Welcome Welcome.” We stopped at the small grocery store down the hill from our home to pick up a few things for our home. We gave the clerk one of our cards; he refused payment saying, “You come to help us; first time you pay nothing.” Our first taxi driver quoted a low price, he dropped us at our junction saying “you pick olives, thank you” – he then refused to take any money. Such was our welcome to Palestine.
Today, the team had dinner with a local family in a village near Nablus, eating with about 25 Palestinian locals. It was a great chance to make connections and help build recognition, trust, and community for MPT and local folks involved in nonviolent resistance.
As you may know, sometimes things move slowly under occupation, and the Palestinian economy has been all but devastated by the intentional effects of Israeli policy. The team is still working daily with local folks to restore internet and phone access at the main house.
In the meantime, we encourage you to read the archives about Olive Harvest time. Here are some selected articles written my MPT direct from the field, that you might find informational and engaging:
Internationals make a difference with protective accompaniment during Olive Harvest.
What it's like growing olives in the West Bank.
Brief retelling of one incident of settlers stealing olives.
They have been meeting with local folks and our contacts in the area to renew connections and let folks know we are back on the ground for the coming season.
They have begun accompaniment for the Olive harvest time, helping to reduce the threat of violence when asked to go into the fields with Palestinians picking their crops.
For the time being, the demands of this busy time and very limited access to Internet means it will be a few more days at least until the team can post full first hand reports of their work. Keep watching as they will be up soon!
To read more about what Olive Harvest time is like, search "olive harvest" in the search box above for last year's Fall posts.
Thank you for your continued support, and leave your comments for the team on the blog comments section!
The team will begin posting reports from the field within the next few days, when they arrive at their home base location. They have arrived in country safely.
We look forward to hearing your comments on our blog!
Michigan Peace Team