We go and pick olives today as well. We have slept in this shed that lies on the “Israeli” part of the wall. They say it is only a security wall for the settlement, but instead of putting the security next to the Israeli settlement, they have put it about six metres away from the houses of the village, and it effectively acts as a political frontier between the illegally expanded Israeli state and the still non-existent Palestinian state.

So since there is no gate for us to cross today, we can afford ourselves the luxury of sleeping until eight in the morning. Still this shed is quite far away from the fenced off area where we need to go, and we still have to travel over a very rocky and rough (J. calls it politely rocky path) path to get there.

Before the fence was erected F. could take paved roads most of the way and it took him only ten minutes to get to his land. Nowadays he has to cross the fence and then travel over this path, which actually follows the path of the fence with its nicely paved road next to it. It now takes more than an hour to travel to his land, forced as he is to drive the entire distance over the rocks, even though there are paved roads and other gates from which we can see his land.

Maybe forgetting the fact that the wall and the fences are illegal, and believing that they are there for security purposes, the Israeli authorities could be expect to be fair to the farmers and allow them to cross the fence using the shortest way. But the Israeli authorities establish what gates the Palestinians can use and they then open those gates only at certain times each day, and they change those times and give no notice, and if the farmer can not go back to his house because they have closed the gate, he sleeps rough that night.

Israel makes the Palestinians’ lives difficult so that it is hard for them even to get to their farms, and then claims that they are not interested in their own land, since they are not visiting it. This tells us all that they just want to make the Palestinian farmers’ lives so impossible they will eventually leave the land empty. And the fact that the Israeli system is actively encouraging this process tells me that this is what it has always wanted, and this is just a blatant exercise of ethnic cleansing, nothing to do with its “security”.

Land confiscation has already happened in many areas. F.’s uncle points out to us the plot of land that used to be his family’s property, and is now being used as farmland by the nearby Israeli settlement inhabitants. F.’s nephew looks no older than 10, and he also has a story to tell. He tells us that all the land that we can see from here used to be his father’s. He says the settlers just took the land and with the Army’s protection, the family just can’t use it any more. There are no olive trees planted in that land any more.

Again we spend the night in the shed and, as we arrive, we find not only hot water ready for shower but also a nice fire outside the shed, next to the door.

It is customary for some Palestinians to sit outside their houses and light fires on special plates, with legs, as if they were small round tables. After a few hours, when the fire is smaller and produces no smoke, they bring it into the house and it heats at least the living room. A. is there waiting for us and we all sit outside, with him.

In the distance we can hear vague sounds of partying, and music that sounds like pop. It is the first time I hear western style music in Palestine. A. says the party is in the Israeli settlement, and in fact it is from there that the noise is coming, not from the Palestinian village. A. says it sounds like they are getting drunk, or something of the like, in the settlement, and that this problem does not exist in Palestine because the Islamic religion forbids alcohol. But, because of the strangulation of the Palestinian economy by the Israeli state, there are serious drugs problems among the Palestinian youth.

It is also very frequent that we can hear, even where we are now, far away from the village, the calls to prayer from the village mosques. I have already got used to these calls. In a given moment, the call to prayer, usually sung, turns into a quick monologue. A. asks us to stay silent with a gesture and listens attentively. When it finishes, he tells us it was an announcement that from tomorrow the gate opening times will change.

We look at him in astonishment – is this how the farmers can find out when they can or can not work on their lands? He explains: the soldiers are not always at the gates and when a gate is unattended, it is closed. This is completely arbitrary, and they do not give any notice of it. Some times the soldiers may know what the opening hours will be the next day, but if you do not go through that gate on that day, or they simply don’t remember to tell you, or say they don’t know, you go the next day only to find the gate closed, without soldiers and without information. So, in order to facilitate things for the farmers a bit, these announcements are made from the mosque every day, and A., like many others, almost always learn about these changes thanks to these announcements.

So today the Israeli army has decided to change the timetable without previous notice – in fact, without any notice at all. It is the villagers themselves who pass on the message to each other so that people don’t get trapped in their own lands, because the gate will be closed tomorrow an hour earlier at dusk.

Before we can recover and assimilate this information, A. starts to sing songs against the occupation that, he says, are older than the current occupation.

We ask, “how come?”
He answers, “Look: My father was born under the Ottoman Empire occupation. I was born under the British Empire occupation. And now my sons are born under the Israeli occupation. Such is life”.

And he says this with a wide smile, looking at us, expectant, as if expecting to see our smiles too. So I can just keep silent and smile.

Then I ask him if all the occupations were the same, if the Ottoman and British occupations were as brutal as this one. He says, “of course they weren’t, this one is the worst by far. The previous ones, they were just governments that happened to be foreign”.

A conversation about politics follows. He tells us how much he respects us internationals who leave the comforts of our countries, and blah blah blah. He says that our mere presence is the most important thing here, not how hard we work, picking olives or whatever. That is not important. The important thing is how we show our support. Our governments are the ones who should do something but, lacking that, at least they feel not alone in their plight.

“But, why are your governments”, asks A. without really expecting an answer, “why are they not doing anything for us, and against Israel? They have declared the wall illegal, the settlements illegal, the occupation illegal, why are they not doing anything?”

“Doing something”, comes the answer, “would mean to stand against the most powerful country in the world. And no government can afford, or would dare, to do that”. “Exactly “, answers A. with a wide smile. And he goes on about our very important mission here in Palestine and back home, telling what we have seen here.

He also says that, although what we are doing is a lot, he would ask us to do something else. He reminds us that a global boycott ended with the apartheid regime in South Africa, and if it worked there, so it should work here.

He would like us to take this message back: boycott Israeli products so that its human rights abuses end, like boycott ended apartheid in South Africa.

Our answer goes that, unfortunately, there are a lot more economical interest in the support for Israel that there were for the support for South Africa.

“Exactly!”, and he shakes his head with a smile on his face.