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.