It was a beautiful morning but as usual too hot. We went with Mahmud’s family to harvest their olives. 7 of us rode with Mahmoud on his tractor as it jumped up and down the street filled with un-repaired potholes.
Once we arrived at the family’s olive trees, Mahmud’s wife began singing Palestinian folk songs. In any other world this would have been a perfect day with good food and happy people enjoying each others company while they worked. But this is not that world. This is occupied Palestine.
A military jeep pulled up close to Mahmud’s land and two soldiers approached us. They said we could not stay there without permission from the District Coordination Office (DCO). We explained that it is nonsense for Mahmud’s family to be forced to ask “permission” to farm land that he legally owns.
Mahmoud’s family is required to ask for permission to farm their own land because of the illegal Israeli settlement that sits a few hundred meters away. A road for Israeli settlers cuts through Mahmoud’s land. Two settlements sit on the tops of hills nearby and the residents speed past the olive grove. We suspect one of the settlers who drove past while harvested olives called the military.
Fearing he might be arrested if he protested this treatment too much, Mahmoud and his wife decided to return home. They had collected about one bag of olives. Some other bags filled with olives collected the day before had to be left once again.
This is the mundane reality of the settlements in the West Bank. They are obstacles to the normal lives of everyday Palestinian families just working to make a decent living and enjoy their lives. While politicians argue over non-existent settlement “freezes”, Mahmoud’s family hopes they can receive “permission” to collect olives off trees they own.