A prayer under an olive tree

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Nsaf wakes up early this morning to get ready for her daily hour walk to her olive grove. Earlier in the week some IWPS volunteers joined her, a mother-of-nine now 61 years old, to pick olives with her husband, her oldest son, Imad  and two grandsons. There is no access to the fields by car for Palestinians due to restrictions from Israeli roads. We walked for 20 minutes to reach the family land located nearby the little village of Bruqin in Salfit district.

The olive harvest season officially started on October 14th in the area but Nsaf family already began this stressful exercise a week early. It is stressful because of the two illegal Israeli settlements that now surround her land; Bruchin and Ariel. The soldiers stationed in Bruchin regularly come down to Nsaf’ land, walking around and ordering them to leave. However, on the day there were no soldiers on the fields belonging to Nsaf’ family. They explained it was because of the Shabbat- Saturday – when Jewish people are not supposed to work.

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They also alerted us to the increasing contamination of the stream passing through their fields, due to the untreated wastewater coming from Bruchin and Ariel illegal settlements and their industrial areas.

This seriously affects Nsaf’s grove as the wastewater and sewage has created a polluted creek that runs through her land. Other farmers in the area confirmed that the contamination poisons the trees and has killed animals, not to mention the stench coming from the brook that make it even more difficult to work the land, especially in hot weather or after the rains- adding to the serious threat to the farmers’ health.

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Later in the afternoon Nsaf went away from the group for few minutes. Quietly she knelt down and prayed on the rocks under an olive tree.

At the end of the day, the family had the help of a donkey to carry the olives back from the grove, necessary without access to the road. However, they told us that on a previous day Nsaf had had to carry a 30kg bag of olives on her head all the way back to the road, from where they can return home.

Other farmers face the same problems, with soldiers demanding them to leave their own land as well as having to carry the olives through the fields, and at times across the contaminated stream. This exhausting exercise forces the farmers to bring their olives to the press by whatever means they can.nsaf-stream-polluted