Today I came as close as I may ever be to attending an Islamic prayer service with about 1,500 worshiping farmers.
This morning I spent at the small village of Falimia where our small band of 4 international volunteers had been invited back to the community where we had been 2 days earlier, walking through rich, fertile farmland, past rows and rows of greenhouses, and among orchards of fruit-laden olive/orange/lemon trees. The very land that the Israeli military has begun to confiscate and plow under. That day, we had walked along the red spray-painted numbers, marked by surveyors where the construction will take place. Marks appeared on rocks as close as 3 meters from people’s homes, on the trunks of ancient olive trees and the poles and tarps of industrial-sized greenhouses. And the drinking water beneath the ground would also fall under the ever expanding Israeli Occupation.
Today, we were present to witness the villagers’ demonstration of commitment to their land and homes. For nearly 2 hours, the men and boys of the surrounding villages came here to worship, not in the mosque but in the fields among their crops. It was an incredibly powerful sight: young children and cane-supported old men, all farmers, seated on the land cultivated by their fathers and their fathers’ fathers’ and their fathers’ fathers’ fathers and on and on. The past and the future together to pray for peace and for assistance from the only resource currently available to them. I watched from the shade of a fruit tree as the men and boys one-by-one washed their hands, their faces and their feet from water of an irrigation faucet. They then carefully slipped their sandles on and walked to a place in the fallow field, spread their prayer mat, removed their shoes and sat silently, listening to the songs of worship. It was an incredibly powerful act of nonviolent resistance and of their refusal of the Israeli confiscation.
At the end of the service, several of them were interviewed by a television reporter and I had my first appearance on mass media television. Regrettably, I doubt this story will reach Israel or the United States. But for today, the villagers thanked us for being with them, for witnessing their struggle, and joining our voices with their prayers in breaking the silence.