Olive Harvest 2007
“This is insane,” I said to my teammate Laura. We were sitting on a tarp under an olive tree not more than 20 feet away from an Israeli settlement. The Palestinian olive harvest had just begun and Laura and I were working in Susiya, a village that is surrounded by ideological Israeli settlers. Tension hung in the air and I was anxious to begin harvesting as soon as possible. Our hosts, however, had different plans. The Palestinian family that owned the land on which we sat was spreading out lunch - hummus, tomatoes and cucumbers, olive oil, tea and large round slabs of soft homemade bread. They were happily eating and chatting away, seeming to pay no mind to the dangerous area where they had decided to picnic. “Koli!” said the grandmother. Eat! I looked at Laura, dipped some bread into oil and did what I was told.
Over the last two days, Palestinians living in at-Tuwani and the nearby village of Susiya decided to harvest their olives in areas close to Israeli settlements and an Israeli army base, where Israeli settlers might attack or Israeli soldiers were likely to tell Palestinian landowners to leave. As the harvest began, we knew that harassment from settlers or soldiers was not only possible, but likely.
But the difficulties we expected never materialized. Instead, we peacefully harvested thousands of tiny olives. Over the two days of harvesting, about 200 Israeli peace activists, and five CPTers, helped Palestinian families harvest on their land. In the village of at-Tuwani, settlers came out of their settlement to watch the harvesters. The settlement “security” guard, a man who regularly harasses Palestinians and CPTers, drove his pick-up on the road for everyone to see. But the shear number of people, especially Israelis who were willing to stand up for the rights of Palestinians to use their own land, deterred an attack. For two days, ploughshares won out over swords.
In Susiya village, neither Israeli settlers nor soldiers arrived to disrupt our lunch. Instead, the grandfather with whom we sat told us about his family history as his wife thrust more and more food in our direction. We ate quietly, in the shadow of the settlement, and then began harvesting. It was utterly insane and completely miraculous.
Recently, one of CPT’s friends told us that he's planning a demonstration. He wants to have Israelis, Palestinians, and CPTers gather in an area that is normally too dangerous for Palestinians to use. On one hand, this idea is ridiculous. But I’m learning that this sort of insanity isn’t so crazy after all.