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Olive branches and the military

MPT was told a few days ago, “All of the picking in all of the dangerous places in all the West Bank are all done.” The same individual suggested we pick with a Burin family today near the Huwwara Check Point. For MPT WB vets - the location is east of the main road and right on the NE corner of the military base near the Check Point. We were joined by one ISM activist as we piled into a crowded van and headed north via the back route through the village of Awarta. We ran into a flying check point but fortunately a brief talk and a spotty ID check was all that was required.

This pictures show the service ahead of us stopped at the flying check point. The military base is to the left. The yellow strip on the road is a tire puncture obstacle - best go slow and be sure to go around it. Wooded areas are few in this area but one does exist in the military base. We picked right next to these pines on the far side from this angle.

We arrived at the small grove near an intersection and right up against the back fence of the military base. The olive grove was in sad shape because plowing and pruning had not been done. “Come to our other groves and you will see a big difference,” we were told. “We are not given time to plow and tend these trees.”

A number of branches had been broken off. Settlers were blamed.

This picker has one foot on a branch and one foot on the corner fence post of the military base. You cannot get much closer than this.

Soldiers stopped by a couple of times in the morning, talked, and went on their way. The proximity to the base and the side road seemed to mean that regular patrols could be expected. “Don’t worry about the soldiers; it is the settlers who are really dangerous.” About lunch time a couple of soldiers stopped and said “you have to leave”. That started a lengthy process of other soldiers stopping. By chance some Israelis from Yesh Din, a human rights organization, were in the area investigating a report of olive tree damage and just happened to stop by. When negotiating with the Israeli army it is really helpful to have some supportive Israelis present. They called the local coordinator for Rabbis for Human Rights who in turn contacted the District Commanding Officer who stopped by for a talk. End result: We were able to continue picking, given permission for picking tomorrow, and permission to plow the following day.

We left mid-afternoon as we had an appointment to interview a family about a settler attack….to be reported in this blog soon.

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