Life in Palestine can be quite chaotic. Plans are constantly changing at the last minute and team meetings can go on for hours and be quite confusing so you just have to go with the flow and try to laugh about it!
After the olive harvest on Thursday we headed for one of the olive mills in our village, Deir Istiya. The workers let us in to look at the machines and showed us the whole process of pressing olives. Olives from this mill tend to go to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
We also walked around the old city of Deir Istiya just before sunset, which was beautiful.
A weekly demonstration takes place on Fridays in a village nearby called Kufr Qaddum. The town of approximately 4,000 people has been heavily affected by the nearby illegal settlement of Qedumim. As well as land stolen for the settlement, almost half of the village lands are located in Area C (under Israeli control) and are thus completely inaccessible to the residents of Kufr Qaddum. Residents are currently struggling to gain adequate permits to harvest their olives, with international helpers also being denied.
During the Second Intifada in 2003, the village’s main road was closed by the Israeli army and remains closed to this day. This has increased travel times substantially, making what used to be a 1.5 km journey to a local town almost 15km. These demonstrations have been met with much violence by the Israeli army in the past, but the two weeks that I have attended have been fairly peaceful, with three Israeli soldiers standing at the top of the hill and throwing sound bombs. Each demonstration sees the attendance of many young boys who come prepared with gas masks to confront the Israeli army and occupation that has so affected their village and families.
Today some of the team joined members from the Palestinian Farmer’s Union in picking olives in a nearby village. The PFU is an NGO that works to empower famers and protect their rights.