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31 Oct 14

31 Oct 14
The troubles that surrounded the closing of the Al Asqa mosque (which President Abbas called it a declaration of war and which complicate relations with Jordan because the Mosque and East Jerusalem are acknowledged as under Jordanian rule) were the back ground for today’s demonstrations.  A Zionist activist who has been advocating demolishing Al Asqa Mosque (the third most holy site in Islam) and building a Jewish temple in its place was shot presumably by an Arab.  But the Israeli military later killed a suspect rather than arresting him (wounding him and then killing him at close range before allow an ambulance in), leaving people wondering if they were just using the incident as a chance to target someone they wanted to get rid of.  There were planned and unplanned demonstrations in most villages. We went to Qalandiya, a city west of Ramallah. The apartheid wall goes through town and the check point there has been the site of a weekly demonstrations protesting the building of the wall.

The week had been full of many other incidents such as, a Palestinian youth hospitalised by a settler hit-and-run, Israeli forces raided numerous home and took captives in many towns in the West Bank, 10 or so new orders for house demolitions, settlers destroy the traditional communal bread ovens in several villages.

Everyone waited with bated breath on all sides and around the world wondering what would happen.  Some hoped for retribution for Israel's evident attacks on the world accept status quo of the Al Alsqa mosque. Some hoped unrest would give a justification to further efforts to make Jerusalem a more purely Jewish city. Some needed to express their anger, while others were wrapped in fear.

The trip to Qalandiya was uneventful though there were obviously more soldiers on the streets. After prayers youth marched with flags and a banner down the street toward the check point which is still smoke stained from earlier clashes between soldiers and demonstrators. The soldiers fired a half dozen salvoes (typically 24 canisters) of tear gas and use rubber coated steel bullets. The demonstrators set tires on fire and threw rocks at the soldiers by hand and with sling shots. The weather joined in with bouts of heavy rain. In the end the rain seemed to gets its way as the demonstration lost energy on all sides.  But not before the Israeli fused some controversial .22 LR calibre fire. This is fired by snipers designed to take out the legs of demonstrators. Its use would be another violation of Israel's own rules now that a Judge Advocate ruled that it could no longer be classified as non-lethal (after it was used to kill a number of demonstrators).

clouds of teargas

tires to set on fire 

Olive Harvest

 On Monday October 27, 2014, the MPT team participated in the olive harvest with a family living in Burin, a village in the Nablus region. The village lies in the valley between two illegal settlements on the surrounding hillsides: Bracha and Itshar.  Burin has been frequently targeted by settlers in these illegal communities, in forms such as physical attacks on villagers, attacks on villager’s houses and property, and attempted destruction of olive trees.  Additionally, a main road used by both settlers from nearby illegal settlements and Palestinians lays in the middle of the village’s olive fields, presenting an easy opportunity for car passengers to stop and cause trouble.  The Israeli occupation forces have also recently put up road blocks on the main road into Burin, making transportation to and from the village difficult, if not impossible. 
The MPT team picked with a very generous and welcoming family of three. The mother, Ramid, and father, Mohammed, are parents of six children; however, only one of the children, Amer, age 12, was able to pick with his parents on this day.  The team helped the family harvest the olives from 8 trees. 

Working hard throughout the day, we took many welcome breaks at the behest of our hosts.  We took tea in the morning (shay, in Arabic), which was a sweet mint tea that helped keep us going.  Later, the team was generously invited to share the midday meal with the family, and in true form of Arab hospitality, we were encouraged to eat until we could eat no more.  The afternoon was broken up with Arabic coffee (oawa, in Arabic) to give us a boost for the rest of the workday.
MPT teamers can play a variety of roles when accompanying farmers during the olive harvest.  Sometimes farmers have experienced trouble from the Israeli occupation forces, who attempt to prevent them from harvesting their olives.  Other times, settlers from nearby illegal settlement cities harass farmers, attempt to destroy their olive trees, or even attack the farmers themselves.  In these instances, MPT teams can serve as intermediaries, to attempt to de-escalate any potential violent situations and protect the farmers from harm or arrest.   In other instances, farmers living in risky areas may be wary of harvesting without any international presence, even if they haven’t had any recent trouble.  This was the case with the family in Burin today. 
 The day was thankfully quite quiet and the team did not encounter any trouble. Throughout the day, two Israeli occupation force jeeps drove by, and three F16s circled the village (and wider Nablus area) continuously, flying at the speed of sound and making a lot of noise with each pass. While the MPT team noted this every time, the family was quite used to the flying jets overhead and took no notice.  They continued to work diligently, trying to finish as many trees as possible as the harvest season is drawing to a close.  


28 Oct 14

Today we picked olives in Burin, a short "service" ride south of Nablus. We have picked in the area quite a lot because illegal settlements (Bracha and Yitzar) have been established on the hills on both sides of the valley and the only road from one of them comes right into Burin. The couple we picked with today was quite young, were nice and, took good care of their olive orchard.

a stop for tea

an nicely open pruned tree, Burin behind, settlement on hill top

Taking care of orchards is hard. The harvesting time is not set by the ripeness of the olives, it is determined by the time window the Israeli military sets for harvesting. After an illegal settlement is established the occupation force sets up a buffer area around it in which farmers are not allowed in their fields without a permit from the Israeli military. During harvest there is s general permit, but to prune the orchard requires a special permit, as does being in the till (all the orchards are tilled every year) and, to fertilize the orchard.

This couple did a lot of pruning during picking. I am not sure if this the right time to prune, but that may be how they get it done – prune during the harvest permit time. While picking we found a large wolf spider, 2-3 inches, her back was covered with all of her young. At first, before close inspection, it looked like hair on her back. There was also a large green caterpillar, probably one of the Saturniidae, over 3 inches long.  
a variety at lunch

cleaning up the prunings from the orchard

the spider


On Sunday, October 26, the MPT team attended the funeral for Orwa Hammad, the fourteen year old US citizen who was fatally shot by the Israeli military last week. Over a thousand people (mostly men) came out in the village of Silwad to mourn his death.  All the shops were closed in honor of him and cars and buildings were covered with posters honoring him.  
 The funeral had to be postponed until Sunday so his father could arrive from Louisiana and his mother from Jordan. Walking with the precession which filled parallel streets we met the parents of other children who were recent victims of Israeli shoot to kill actions which are in violation of their own rules of engagement.  An unsubstantiated statement by the Israeli military says young Orwa was preparing to throw a Molotov cocktail; multiple eye witnesses disagree. 
After the burial 50 to 100 boys returned to the site of the shooting. As black smoke rose from tires the Israeli military fired large quantities of tear gas, about 4-5 salvos of 20 tear gas grenades each.  They also fired two different types of rubber coated bullets at the boys.  Four ambulances we used to take the injured to medical care.
During the first tear gas attack a neighbor opened their door to get us in out of the tear gas. They gave us wipes for our burning skin and eyes.  They brought out a tray of refreshments for us, but we took advantage of a lull in the tear gas to make a break-for-it to put more distance between us and the soldiers.  As we thanked them for their hospitality they express their appreciation for us being there in solidarity with them.
While we watched from where the gas was less we were left worrying about our new friends.  Not only has the Israeli military occupied the edge of the village near their house but after and hour of gas attacks their house must be filling with it. It must be hard having such an awful and momentous event as the killing of child happen outside you house. It is likely to be a place of contention for a long time.


MPT Fall Olive Harvest Team Arrives Safely; Please Watch for Reports from the Field!

Thank you for your support of Meta Peace Team and our wonderful Fall Olive Harvest (and beyond) International Peace Team to the West Bank.

We are pleased to share that the team has arrived safely.

Please watch for reports of their work from the field, as well as photography, right here on the MPT Palestine team blog.

Thanks again for all your support -- time, talent, and treasure -- your participation in this team is what makes it possible for folks to deploy.


Nicole, Martha, and the MPT Staff and Volunteers
Meta Peace Team