Pressed

Our final day of picking was the most dramatic in several respects. It was on a farm just outside of Bethlehem on land that has been slowly and systematically being scooped up as part of the strategic plan to encircle Bethlehem with colonies of Jewish settlements to choke off access to Jerusalem. Mind you, this is all being done on land which was to have constituted the state of Palestine, in contravention of international. The farmer in question has held out on letting go of his farm against all odds. He is one of the fortunate ones who has rock solid proof of ownership. Israel has offered him a huge sum for his land and he has been harassed to no end, including having been mysteriously poisoned which put him in a coma for three months. Speculation is that Israel has designs to use it for airport. In short, he could be very wealthy and live a carefree life just about anywhere he might choose, but there is no price he would accept for the land which has sustained him and his family for generations. This has not stopped Israel’s expansionist plans in his area. Israeli colonies are being erecting on all sides of his farm. Although they have not been able to seize his farm, they  haveliterally closed him in by building the wall around him. In the name of security on this land to which they have no legal claim, they have created one of the most absurd and invidious strictures placed on Palestinian land that I have as of yet witnessed.

 

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This show part of the barrier fence that surrounds the entire farm. He now has access through this specially created, huge metal gate through which only the family has free access. If he has guests, he must first get permission from the Israeli authorizes.
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Here is our group entering the gate under the apartheid wall which closes off the farm from the rest of his Bethlehem suburb surrounds. We were allowed entry as the authorities allowed him help to harvest his olives. I guess we should all be grateful.
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This shows one side of the huge steel gate with some words of hope

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This gate blocks entrance to the farm from the road which leads to it, the access to the farm that has been in place for generations. Now the only access is through the new steel gated tunnel under the apartheid wall.

After  the incredulousness of the experience of this draconian barrier to the farm, we experienced the lushest, most satisfying picking of the trip. We were there for entire day, a swarm of worker bees milking the huge, copious olives weighing heavily on the trees. This farmer had the good fortune of the continued use of the well on his farm for irrigation, a luxury that most Palestinians are denied. It made a huge difference in the yield. We picked 105 trees and filled around 80 huge sacks.

we started at the back of the grove which was just feet away from a colonist outpost of mobile units. This is how many of the illegal settlements begin – with temporary structures that are eventually replaced with a quickly erected monolithic suburb.

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The four women from our six person Maine contingent.
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The four women from our Maine contingent. The six of us were the only Americans in our group of around 70.
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Our farmer on the wagon as bags of olives are being loaded
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After a whole day of picking, we suffered only one casualty. Payne sprained his ankle when his ladder toppled. But he got a great send off on the wagon.                                                      

To end the day, we visited the local cooperative olive press where the farmers bring there crop to be rendered into fresh, delicious olive oil.

 

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