Yesterday, a teammate and I helped Palestinian friends harvest their olives. For the most part, it was all very ordinary (I am speaking from my copious month's experience. :o) ) A group of Palestinians, three international organizations, and a couple of freelancing international activists were present.
It was a beautiful Palestinian "autumn" day: the sun was shining, the sky was beautiful, and the air was pleasantly warm. We got to work, picking the olives out of the trees. They weren't ripe yet, but our friends decided to harvest now, because Israeli settlers, who live on the top of the hill, have begun helping themselves to the olives. A path to the settlement runs through our friend's land, and the olive trees are located on either side of the path.
While we were harvesting, my teammate suggested I intentionally keep an eye out for settlers. I was also the one with the video camera. So I was harvesting olives with one hand and holding a camera ready with another.
We internationals were present because it is not safe for Palestinians to harvest their land, especially when their land happens to be in the shadow of a settlement, as in our friend's case. Settlers may come and attack, or soldiers might arrive and tell them they do not have the right to harvest their crops. Even our presence does not prevent this from happening, though anecdotal evidence suggests that we are a deterrent, as most folks do not want the negative international press.
Though one never knows how one of these actions will go, this harvest was quite ordinary, to my understanding. We harvested in peace for a while. Members of the media arrived. Israeli settlers, Israeli police, and Israeli soldiers arrived, none of whom did much but stand around and watch. A couple of settlers tried to instigate some trouble, but it all fizzled out relatively quickly.
All very ordinary.
And it hit me: it shouldn't be. No one -- regardless of nationality -- should need to be accompanied on their own land. An international presence while one harvests one's own crop on one's own land to possibly reduce the threat of violence or removal -- it should be anything but ordinary.
About this Blog
"Ordinary People" is something of an intentional misnomer. I live and work with Palestinians practicing nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation. They are doing things that are hardly "ordinary": committing themselves to active nonviolence and to loving their enemies -- following the commands of One who was anything but ordinary. And yet, the Palestinians with whom I work are also very ordinary -- they are not some kind of spiritual superheroes/superheroines who do things most folks can't do. They are simply ordinary people daily committing themselves to living a higher calling -- a calling of love and active nonviolence.