Israeli Army and Revava settlement security prevent an elderly Haris farmer from picking his olives

IMG_5397IMG_5387IMG_5373IMG_5364‘I have been picking my olives in this place for 15 years and I never had any problems’, said Abu Said, early in the morning on Wednesday October 15, as three of us were setting off with him to start harvesting.

We were also picking with Abu Said the previous day, and while he was away taking his car to the garage, we continued picking with a larger group of internationals in the area close to the illegal settlement houses. A settlement security car arrived followed by an army jeep during the time which Abu Said was absent.

Two heavily armed soldiers approached us and told us that we could only pick there with an army permit. Abu Said was not there to tell us what he wanted to do so we stayed in a ‘prohibited’ area as long as we could get away with, but then we moved across the settlement access road , where soldiers said the permit was not needed.

On Wednesday, the second day of our picking, we were with Abu Said and he expressed no doubt that we should focus on the first line of trees, which were so close to setter houses that we could hear settlers chatting to each other.

The reason for this was because this part of the Revava settlement was built entirely on 60 dunums (6000 square metres) of Abu Said’s land, which was taken from him by force.

‘Those trees near the settlement are full of olives’, Abu Said said, ‘they always are and there is eight of them’.

Abu Said knew every tree on his land. He grew up there and his family lived there at the time, not far from from where we were picking.

Previously he told us how as a child he planted two pine trees and one of them grew so big that it now dominated the landscape with its size and is used as a shady spot where we took our breaks.

Abu Said’s olive trees were in bad shape. Due to their proximity to the ever expanding Revava settlement, Abu Said is not allowed to look after them throughout the year, and he can only work on the land during the harvest. Because of that, some trees were surrounded by thorny bushes, which made them difficult to reach and others had produced hardly any olives.

‘The trees in this area have done particularly good’ he said pointing at a few ones full of olives, while we hurried picking the ones nearest to the settler houses, fearing that we would stay there only until the settlement security notices us.

We went on picking for three hours before a car arrived and a very agitated guy rushed towards us saying ‘You can not be here, you have to leave now’.

Abu Said told him that he always picked there and that he never had any problems, and when the security guy explained that he could not pick on the land belonging to the settlement, Abu Said told him ‘All of this is my land, it belonged to my father and my grandfather’. The settlement security started quoting the Bible and talking about who the owners were 3000 years ago. He asked Abu Said to prove that the land was his and he asked us why we believed Abu Said and not him.

Abu Said shrugged his shoulders and we continued to pick and the security decided to end the debate and called the soldiers.

Not long after, the army jeep appeared and four heavily armed young soldiers approached shouting ‘Hey, stop picking! Now!’

Abu Said explained again calmly, that he is on his land but the soldiers made it clear that he could not be near to the settlement without a permit .

Abu Said insisted that we only need to be there for couple of days, and when we reminded them that we are no threat to anybody, each of the solders and the settlement security started explaining about the threats to the Jewish residents. One of them said ‘This time you and the next time there will be terrorists’. The others contributed their thoughts about the threat of ISIS and Hamas.

The situation started getting tense with Abu Said becoming angry and stressed and with soldiers beginning to take interests in where we came from and why we were there.

We called around the agencies who were supposed to help advise Abu Said and a soldier commented ‘Are you calling B’tselem’ and when we said that we did, he said ‘That won’t do you much good’.

We hung around as long as we could and than we moved under the pine tree Abu Said planted when he was a kid. The soldiers told us that the Israeli District Coordination Liaison (DCL) representative was on his way to explain to Abu Said his situation.

The soldiers left and, to our surprise, they returned shortly after only to sit and relax under Abu Said’s pine tree. It turned out they were pretty tired and they then decided to take their break only two metres away from us. They brought a bottle of juice and offered it around. When we told them that we boycott Israeli goods, the conversation turned again to the question of who’s land we were on.

They all agreed that the land was theirs and one of them was providing a proof by showing us a map on his telephone of a very large Israel, ‘from the River to the Sea’ and beyond.

Another one was saying that Palestine never existed asking Abu Said if it says ‘Palestine’ on his passport.

When asked why would they have to walk around armed to their teeth if the country was theirs, one of them simply said pointing at his machine gun ‘because guess what helps me win all the arguments like this?’

Israeli DCL came with a machine gun slung over his shoulder, carrying a map and explained that Abu Said will be issued a permit to pick near the settlement on the 26th October. In fluent Arabic, the representative pointed to all the land Abu Said owned, saying in a matter of fact way, ‘this is your land’. The soldiers and the security kept quiet for a change.

Abu Said was unhappy to have to stop picking and decided to leave. As we were walking towards his car he said ‘They want to take everything but it is good that we managed to pick some of those trees which were full of olives’