Modern Uncertainty
Over the Wall, Into the Kitchen, Through the Villages: A Day of Resistance

On Monday night, my comrade and I were in Ni’lin.

Ni’lin is a farming town with a soccer field in the center where young men hold matches each Friday. Ni’lin is also the place where five people have been killed by the Israeli army, including one ten year old boy. It was here that Tristan Andersen was hit in the head and by a high-velocity tear gas canister in 2009.

The town has been resisting the construction of the apartheid wall there since 2008.  The wall is built inside the green line and separates the people of the town from roughly a third of their land. Now, many farmers that live here not only have to apply for permits to access their land, they also have to wait by a gate in the wall for soldiers to let them onto their land.

On Sunday night, we got word from one of our contacts in Ni’lin, “M,” that the farmers were going to harvest outside the wall and were asking for help. My friend and I were in Ramallah, so we decided to go and work alongside them.

We arrived in Ni’lin on Monday night and stayed in the village overnight. The next morning we went to the wall to line up with the farmers. The woman we were going to harvest with had finally gotten permission to go on her land for the first time in four years. M planned to work with her, but the soldiers were only letting certain people go out to pick.

When we went to the wall, we followed M’s instructions and waited about 40 meters from the gate. M talked to the soldiers, who let everyone inside accept for him. After a few minutes, M turned back and walked up the path to us. The soldiers watched us as he went. When he reached us he said in a low voice, “Turn around and walk. Go now.” We did what he said and didn’t turn around to look back. Later he told us that the soldiers were afraid of our camera. He said that they wouldn’t let him on the land because they said his permit was not valid.

Undaunted, M made a plan for us to go and harvest despite the fact that we had not been allowed to go through the gate. M arranged for a delivery truck to carry us through the checkpoint into Israel. My comrade and I got in the back seat. I took off my keffiyeh and put it in my backpack. M’s wife gave us sandwiches and water. We crossed our fingers that we wouldn’t be asked for our passports at the terminal checkpoint on the road: We were going over the wall.

We went down the road and through the checkpoint without incident. A few hundred feet after we passed the terminal checkpoint, our driver pulled over by the side of the road and wished us luck. We got out and started to go overland.

We had to climb down a steep hill into a valley. We couldn’t find a good path so we picked our way though the thorns and searched for steady footing as we moved down into the damp stream bed at the base of the ravine. We walked along for about a kilometer, staying out of sight of the settlement above.

The dampness from the first rains of the season had made parts of the stream bed shoot up with vibrant green. It’s not a color I see here often, except on the flag, and it made my eyes happy. The patterns of the leaves, the tender, insistent life… an unexpected joy.

We walked through until we met the son of the farmer. He led us through the valley and up the hillside to the grove.

We spent the day in happy labor in the trees. We pulled olives from the boughs and sifted out the leaves—“warak”—from the olives. We ate lunch in the shade and talked about our lives in pieced-together English and Arabic.

As the sun moved across the sky, we could see the soldiers patrolling along the road by the wall on the peak opposite us. At the top of our own hill, twenty five meters away, behind a tall fence, was the incongruous sight of middle-class homes with Spanish tile rooftops and swing sets—the edge of the settlement.

At the end of the day, we loaded up the donkeys and walked out: the farmers to their home through the gate, us back through the valley to the highway. When we climbed out, I tore my pants on some barbed wire that had long ago been planted among the burrs and boulders.

We came back onto the highway at the mouth of Modi’in Illit settlement. It was dusk and commuters on foot and on wheels were coming and going from the entrance. The sky was shocking pink and blown-over with cirrus clouds. The light reflected rose on the white fields of the flapping Israeli flags that adorned the entrance to the checkpoint.

We walked back and crossed through the checkpoint on foot along with the Palestinian laborers. The men scanned their IDs in machines as they passed the unmanned gate, but we ignored the scan machines. No one bothered us as we passed, though some kind of recorded message about passports was being blasted into the turnstile area. Like I’ve said before: no one cares if you want to go into the West Bank, only if you want to get out.

We walked back to Ni’lin and out hosts fed us mansaf soup, lamb and humus. So delicious. We were exhausted and ready to go home, but we were happy.

While we waited for transportation back to Ramallah, we sat in the garden with M’s wife. In a little while, her parents arrived. She and her mother motioned to me to come inside with the children and to leave my male friend outside with her father. By the time I came in, she had her head covering off and was taking something off the stove.

She is amazingly beautiful.

"Lahma!" she said, motioning to a big bowl of steaming ground and seasoned meat. "For the eid!"

Friday starts a huge religious holiday here to celebrate the sacrifice of Abraham. Everyone in Palestine is making ready for the holiday, which often includes the sacrifice of a goat or sheep. After much talking and gesturing, it was clear that the women and children were making foods for the feast. Before I knew what was going on, I was sitting on the floor next to the grandmother, pushing up her sleeves as she mixed flour and sugar and water in a bowl for one of the dishes—just like I would do for my own mother or grandmother.

I hate to get sappy here. When I tell you this, I am trying very hard not to romanticize. But suddenly I was seamlessly incorporated into an intimate domestic moment that was as familiar as it was unexpected. Two minutes before, I had been tired and a little impatient to go home, but when our contact hurried into the room and said that a car was ready and we had to go, I regretted ever letting my weariness show in my voice on the phone. I was tasting something that I couldn’t come by every day, and I wanted it to last.

But we needed to go, it was true. And if we didn’t take this generously-offered ride, it would be a ninety shekel taxi or a twelve-hour wait for a shared car service. We both needed to be back in Ramallah for the morning… though, in hindsight, perhaps staying would have been better.

As I got my shoes on, the two women looked at me and asked me to come back for the eid.

"Friday?" I asked.

"Yes!"

"Is there… well… I…" I stammered for a few seconds because I didn’t know what to say. Then I stopped.

"You know what?" I said, like a sudden revelation. "I CAN!"

They smiled and laughed and said they were happy and it was all so fast it was like a magic spell. I had been invited to the eid and I would go. I will go.

Our driver on the way home was the son of the woman we had worked with that day. He drove us quickly through all the villages between Ni’lin and Ramallah, probably because, with his Palestinian license plate, he wasn’t allowed to go on the highway.

Every village was making preparations for the eid. All the minarets on the mosques were lit up with different-colored lights. Every town had strung strings of lights from building to building across the main road. The driver called out the towns to us as we passed through them: Bil’in, Kafr Ni’ma, Dayr Ibzi’, Ein Arik. People sat in store fronts and in open garages on plastic chairs and waved at our driver as we passed.

We picked up one of the driver’s friends on the way and gave him a lift from one town to another. Music was everywhere: in the cab, on the streets. The sky was clear, the air was crisp, the hills were steep.

A truck hauling something stopped and did a three point turn in front of us and the friend got out to go home. The cars tooted their horns and the truck completed the turn and continued on its way. The driver’s friend left the car and disappeared behind a decorative gate and down into a garden. Our car sped away into a night that thrummed with people. Light and dark, movement and noise, happiness and struggle.

And in the back of the car, with the stop and start of a driver who is hurrying, and the streak of lights from the shops and the cafes, and the switchbacks and ups and downs of the rugged landscape, I thought that for all the time I spend doubting if what I do here makes any difference, that none of my worry means anything at all. The people who live on this land everyday insist on living. The people who struggle in this land everyday insist on struggling. The Palestinians who take olives from their fields and make food for their feasts and give rides to their friends and smoke nargile in their doorways—this is the heart of resistance.

They will not go; they will live their lives.

This is where Palestine lives.

This is Violence

After spending Sunday in the court in Ofer, Monday morning found us in an olive grove near Beit Surik near Ramallah. The day turned out mostly to be an opportunity for Al Jazeera English to interview people who come to help the olive harvest. Not exactly “popular struggle”, but we did get to help a woman get her crop in from the fields.

The land was right up against a settlement and was separated from the road by stacks of razor wire. I couldn’t tell if the idea was to keep us in, or to keep the police who parked on the road to watch us out. Either way, thinking back to when the reporter asked me if I’d seen any violence in the olive harvest, should have pointed to it.

"This is violence," I should have said.

But if the everyday occupation made for news, the pretty reporter with the Australian accent wouldn’t have had to tramp all the way out to a dusty and rocky olive field a couple kilometers from the wall to do a story on it.

Two Injured, Four Arrested, Including Bassim Tamimi, at Demo in Shaar Benjamin Settlement

Two Palestinians injured, two arrested, two internationals arrested at a demonstration in Rami Levi supermarket in Shaar Benjamin settlement north of Ramallah today. Bassim Tamimi, head of the Popular Committee of Nabi Saleh was arrested and his ribs were broken as roughly forty soldiers and police attacked demonstrators in the parking lot.

Crooked Houses and Unexpected Solidarities

Palestinian homes are wonderful places. They are so thoughtfully arranged to support and nurture ways of living that are different from those I have known. But, like American living spaces, the lives that gave birth to spaces in Palestine are ubiquitous, so that the spaces themselves have an off-handed elegance that I find thoroughly captivating. The ways of living here in the West Bank and the spaces in which those lives take place inspire in me a feeling of deep love.

The apartments we inhabit in ISM, for example, all have something that’s rather odd about them. You have to look hard to notice the source of this delightful tension. It’s not the hard floors or the decorative iron grilles on the windows, or the fact that no one seems to own a proper oven or stove.

It’s the simple fact that none of the rooms are square.

All the rooms are slightly off-angle, and the ones that aren’t are brazenly triangular. Floor tiles get narrower as one wall reaches another. Whole corners of rooms are shaved off to allow for doors. I’ve seen up or down steps of irregular heights mark entrances and exits in otherwise open areas. Covered areas in Palestinian homes become unexpected outdoor gardens through arbors, gates and stairwells. They are such simple elements, but they make the whole world different. Every house is a puzzle jammed into a strange space. Even if it stands alone it sits solid on uneven ground. It fits. They fit.

——-

Volunteering in Palestine, you have to be ready for a barrage of daily questions. What am I doing here? Is this doing any good? What is solidarity? What is “enough”? Some of those questions come form outside, from reporters or Israelis, but most come from yourself.

What is happening here? How can I make it all fit?

There are so many competing narratives for what Palestine is; it’s like the stone-covered ground is shifting beneath you. Some days the questions get the better of you. And some days, like the houses, it all comes together in unexpected ways.

Today, my friends and I went to Ofer to the prison to an appeals court hearing for Abdelateef Obeid. We knew that it was important for us to be there. A judge last Monday had dismissed a motion that charges against him be dropped. This was an appeal hearing on that decision. We knew part of the case hinged on us being in the court so that the judge could see the inherent injustice that international activists who had been brought up on felony charges of stone throwing with (as it now seems) STRONGER evidence against us than against Abdelateef, should be standing in the court as free people, whereas Abdelateef had spent a month in the prison and would likely be indicted.

We believed that the case hinged on the fact that the judge in our case had found the charges against us doubtful, despite the stronger evidence. It seems that the “evidence” against us was the testimony of two soldiers that say they had seen us throwing stones at the demo in Kufr Qeddoum. (We didn’t throw stones. Anyone who’s ever seen me throw anything knows I avoid physical exertion at all costs for fear of being laughed at.)

The “evidence” against Abdelateef is that ONE soldier says he saw him, through binoculars, from 200 meters away throwing stones. However, the testimony discussed today is that that soldier lost sight of both Abdelateef and his brother Majd and that ANOTHER soldier arrested the two men. Only much later did the soldier who claims to have seen them throwing stones see the two men in custody and identify them as the people he saw at the demo.

Even more in Abdelateef’s favor was the revelation in court that the Israeli army never even investigated the brothers’ alibi. Both the brothers and their families say that they were in the family home during the demo, that their father had forbidden them from protesting, and that the soldiers broke into the house and demanded that the family surrender all the young men that were inside to custody. Why would these claims have gone uninvestigated besides over discrimination?

These were arguments that worked in Abdelateef’s favor. While the prosecutor was visibly nervous in the court, the judge granted that there were problems with the case. He gave the prosecution a day to justify the difference in the way that the internationals had been treated versus how Abdelateef had been treated.

The lawyer seemed very happy with the outcome. His attitude was very hopeful and we expect a decision in the case tomorrow evening.

What we hadn’t expected about the case was that the lawyer, who incidentally represented us when we were in court, took a slightly different tact then we had guessed he would. Instead of arguing that, because our evidence was unlikely, the Obeids lesser evidence was LESS likely, he argued that we, as foreign activists and “hooligans” were far more dangerous and far more to blame for anything that happened on that day than Abdelateef.

"He was just in his house," he told us. "You came all the way from another country to make trouble."

He apologized to us for having to make this argument. It was clear he didn’t believe we were “hooligans”, but as he said, “He is my client now.” He has to make the best argument he can to help Abdelateef.

The whole idea made us laugh, and we cringed only slightly to learn that the successful argument did open the possibility that the government might begin deportation proceedings against us in order to justify the unjust treatment that they are meting out to Abdelateef. But we talked about it and we decided that, even if it did mean we would still be deported, well, it was part of our solidarity with Majd and Abdelateef.

But honestly, we breathed a little easier when they gave us our passports back as we left the prison.

So it’s weird. We didn’t support Abdelateef in the way that we intended, but it seems we were still a help in his defense. Like the slightly wonky houses here, our volunteerism seems irregular and confusing sometimes, but maybe today, maybe tomorrow, it will wind up fitting just right.

If I’m critical of this editorial, it’s not because I think international aid is a good thing.

Being in Palestine, you really see the difference between NGOs and popular struggle. You see tons of people here “doing good” or “helping” and they are really just supporting normalization/capitalism, steeping themselves in religious sentiment, and/or are wandering around feeling VERY DEEPLY for the plight of the poor Palestinians as they coo over their “adorable” handicrafts and sigh at their “breathtaking” hilltop olive fields.

None of that is actually going to end the occupation. Most of it makes sure the occupation stays in place.

The problem that I have with this article is that, like any other aid worker, the author has this idea that the “secret” to “helping” Palestinians rise above their oppression can/should be developed and imparted to them by… aid workers. That is false. The only people who can respond to the oppression of the occupation are the people who experience the oppression of the occupation. The tone of the article, and the idea inside, that Palestinians need to follow a prescription crafted by “people who know” is bogus and wrong.

And that is why this article is part-and-parcel of the aid model it rejects. Sure, it may be well-meaning, but what kind of international aid to Palestine isn’t?

This Week and Stuff: Zeitouns, Bad News, Rad Actions, New Volunteers

The week is only half over in the States, but here in Palestine it is almost the weekend.

There are some differences about the way that people measure things here—like temperature (Celsius) and distance (kilometers)—that I will never really get used to. But the differences in time (24 hour clock) and the organization of the week are starting to become second nature.

In Palestine, the weekend is on Friday and Saturday because of religious holidays. That means that on Sunday, people aren’t going to eat bacon and champagne at 11 o’clock brunch like we do back home (well, to be fair they wouldn’t eat bacon or drink champagne at anytime). No. Instead, they are heading off to work to start the week.

And when your work-week STARTS on Sunday, that means it ENDS on Thursday. So, as I write this at 1:30am on Thursday, people across the West Bank are having sweet dreams about TGIKh! (Thank God It’s Khamis!)

Seeing as how it is the end of the week, I thought I would give a quick update about stuff that has happened this last week.

The over-arching theme now is olive harvesting. My comrades and I (in varying combinations) are in the fields everyday with farmers as they harvest their olives. I have written about some of my experiences with the olive harvest here.

It is important work, but it is also hard, physically exhausting labor. When we “zeitoun” as we call it (the internationals have lovingly turned the word for olive—“zeitoun”—into a verb. We have also done this with the word haram, FYI), we are walking up tall hills, standing on uneven terrain, climbing up in trees, standing on ladders, stooping and scooping and lifting and toting and grasping and yanking and raking and beating olives from the trees by hand. Combine eight hours of this work in the sun with the large meals we are served in the fields by the farmers and the mental exhaustion that comes when you use this time as a chance to improve your Arabic skills, and… you get tired. Tired and dirty. You get, what’s the word… I can’t think of it right now, I’m too tired.

But the olive harvest continues and every day we pull olives from the branches and pet donkeys and move tarps and drink very hot, very sugary tea in the fields and pick leaves and twigs out of kilos and kilos of olives.

It is surprisingly hard to pick leaves out of a flood of olives quickly. My small motor skills are much improved from being in the harvest. Also, I should also add “kilograms” to the list of things I am getting used to about Palestine. Six weeks in Palestine and I finally know how much a kilo is.

Now, the olive harvest is hard on your body, but it doesn’t break your spirit in the same way that the wretched Israeli military court system does.

On Monday, two of my comrades went for the second time to an Israeli military court to see the arraignment hearing of Majd and Abdulateef Obeid. Both they, and the family of the two brothers, had hopes that at least one of the men would be freed, but that will not happen. Abdulateef’s sentence has yet to be decided, but Majd will likely be sentenced to at least six months in prison. All of this will happen on the basis of testimony of one Israeli soldier who says that he saw the brothers at the demo, throwing stones, and that he KEPT HIS EYES ON THEM USING BINOCULARS UP UNTIL THE POINT HE ARRESTED THEM.

Sound unlikely to you? Yep. It does to me, too. Maybe that’s because it’s COMPETE AND UTTER BULLSHIT.

Everyone had had high hopes for the outcome because Majd and Abdulateef were arrested at the same demo that my comrades and I were. The same accusations were leveled against us (also bullshit) using the same evidence (again… bullshit). The judge in our hearing found that the charges were doubtful. The lawyer argued that the separate treatment of the Palestinian brothers and the international activists was unjust and unfair and evidence of bigotry.

The judge did not agree.

This ruling was a heavy blow to my usually buoyant colleagues, and to think about how their pulverized hopes showed on their faces when they returned that evening hurts me in my heart. But I admit here that I concentrate on that hurt because imagining the hurt of the brothers who stood in the court, wearing the same clothes they were arrested in a month ago, is too much for me. I am a coward in that, I will tell you here, because to think of the anguish of the family of these men, men who were taken from their house (one from his bed) on a Friday afternoon in September… I will not draw you a map to that frontier here on this page. That you will have to fill in for yourself.

But if Palestinian solidarity work has a beauty (and believe me, my friends, it does) part of that beauty lies in the varied and dynamic nature of our day-to-day lives. Where Monday brought, for my comrades, the one-two punch of occupation-syle “justice”, and it brought, for me, a strategy meeting in Ramallah for media activities, Tuesday was a complete change of gears.

On Tuesday, ISM volunteers took part in two separate Palestinian-led direct actions. The first involved the totally bad ass 30-minute shutdown of the main traffic artery from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, Route 443. In the demo, Palestinian activists used cars to stop traffic on one side of the road. They then had a demo protesting settler violence against farmers and trees in the olive harvest. Demonstrators put Palestinian flags on Israeli cars and atop lampposts. One settler attacked a journalist, and the Israeli occupation forces pepper-sprayed people and threw sound grenades at the feet of activists, causing one of my comrades to lose consciousness briefly. He has recovered and is well.

In the end, the army forcibly removed protesters from the road, but, though one Palestinian was detained by the army after they kicked him in the back of the head, no one was arrested.

Meanwhile, in Jama’in village, other ISM volunteers, myself included, dug out a roadblock that soldiers had installed to cut off access to olive groves. Compared to the 443 action, the Jama’in dig was low-key. But it was still pretty awesome. The earth mound roadblock was right on a main road and soldiers arrived towards the end of the demo. They didn’t stay long and they didn’t hassle us. I’m sure they will be back, though. The village of Jama’in has to dig this road out from one of these earth mounds every year.

Such is life under occupation.

After all the excitement of the beginning of the week, I was happy to go to Ramallah today to help train new volunteers. This is something I truly truly love. I have worked before as a teacher and, in those times, would read my copy of Teaching As a Subversive Activity and envision that (somehow) my lessons on remedial English grammar for students at a for-profit college could amount to something radical. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that I would ACTUALLY be standing in front of a group of students saying things like:

"Now, boys and girls, how do we define ‘violence’?"

I don’t really call them “boys and girls,” that’s just poetic license, but, yeah. It’s sort of a dream come true.

But more than that, I just love new volunteers. I love to meet the new people and hear their stories. I love to learn about what their hopes and fears are and to be reminded about what it’s like to be two days in the West Bank, disoriented and jet-lagged, scared, excited, ready to join in the struggle. I love to help them find their destinations; I love to work with them as they get their footing here. I love to talk with them about their experiences as they stay longer. I love being for them when they have questions.

Really. I love training.

And that’s pretty much how the week has been going so far. Tomorrow there will be more training and then on Friday, olives and weekly demonstrations. And so this week will turn into the next… just like this night is fast turning into this morning.

I miss my home, but I have got the hang of things here and I like it very much.

This week is my mid-point week. Six weeks down; six weeks to go.

I wish I had sixty more.

Today, Palestinians and international activists blocked a major highway to Tel Aviv outside of Ramallah for about thirty minutes. The road was built on confiscated Palestinian land and Palestinians are not allowed to use it. The demo was in protest of settler attacks on olive groves. This photo was taken by one of my comrades at the demo.

Today, Palestinians and international activists blocked a major highway to Tel Aviv outside of Ramallah for about thirty minutes. The road was built on confiscated Palestinian land and Palestinians are not allowed to use it. The demo was in protest of settler attacks on olive groves. This photo was taken by one of my comrades at the demo.

Today we picked olives again. I went with my comrades to the village of Burin. We walked high up on the hillside near the Yitzhar settlement. Fridays and Saturdays can be dangerous days because the it’s the weekend here. On Saturday evening at sundown, it is especially dangerous because the Sabbath is over and settlers come out to cause destruction in the olive groves below the settlements.

This morning, some of my friends were set to go to Kufr Qalil, where I spent most of the last week. A little before eight, though, we got a call about a village called Qaryoot. I visited Qaryoot not too long after I arrived here. Early this morning, settlers came from the settlement and chopped down roughly one hundred trees. They burned twenty.

The photos above were taken by my friend. They are of the destruction this morning in Qaryoot, south of Nablus. Though you don’t need to count the rings to see how ancient these trees are, you could do so if you wanted, seeing as how they have been sawed in pieces with a chainsaw.

My colleagues told me that they could see settlers up on the hill, arms and legs akimbo, looking down as the villagers cleared the branches off their land with a truck.

Olive Harvesting

The last week has been a busy one. The olive harvest has begun in Palestine. The farmers are bringing in their crops from the fields. We have been working beside them when they invite us, trying to offer protection from settlers and the army.

The problems the farmers face as they harvest their olives are numerous and varied. They come from many sources, specifically from the government (which administers permits to harvest), the army (which restricts access to lands and removes farmers and activists from the land), and the settlers (who attack the crops and the farmers from their vantage points atop the hills). But though these are problems individually, they are at their most disruptive when they act in concert.

Whether formally or informally coordinated, the combination of these forces means the difference between harvesting and not harvesting. And harvesting or not harvesting has a serious effect on how people here live their lives. The olive is a lynchpin for Palestinian life. The proceeds from a harvest mean the between being able to afford school or having your children stay home, between whether you can finish work on your house or not, between having a wedding for your son or daughter or having to wait another year.

One of the he simplest issues come from the fact that many farmers have to get permission from the Israeli government to access and harvest their lands. The application and the wait to get this permission can be long. They are also frequent. Farmers have to get into their lands four times a year to tend their trees properly. Many are only able to have access once a year, and even then, only for a few days. This means that the farmers have to make a decision as to whether they go into their land with or without a permit. The choice can be between being stopped by the army, and having your crops rot on the tree.

You can imagine that the task of harvesting 500 olive trees in the space of three days  from groves on high hillsides is a challenge in and of itself. But when the permit problems are mixed with other problems of the occupation, it can make the harvest impossible.

We have been working with several farmers who either do or do not have permits to harvest. At least one farmer we have been working with has a permit, but he began early because he fears that his family or his fields are likely to be attacked by settlers once his permit starts. He wants to get as much done as possible as soon as possible.

Another farmer we are working with has land that has been made inaccessible to him because of the fence that was constructed around Ariel settlement. He has obtained permission to harvest, but the only way he can get to his lands are via a gate that crosses an agricultural service road. On the days that his permit is in effect, he has to wait at the gate for the army to open it for him. In the past, the army has not come to open it. Another time, they opened the gate and let the farmer in, but then they didn’t want to let him out until the ending time on the permit for that day. Just today, the army came to a grove and said that the farmer could have access, but that the internationals couldn’t come into the grove with him. This is a new tactic that is becoming more common in the last two years.

The settlements also play a role in keeping the farmers from their fields. The state of Israel maintains that out of concerns for “security” of the settlements, Palestinians must be kept off roads or the roads themselves must be blocked entirely. We see this with the gates across agricultural land. However, the army also comes out and physically blocks roads that farmers need to access their crops. In the village I have been in this week, the army blocked the road ten years ago. It is still blocked in two places. In the village of Jama’in, in which there will be a protest next week, the army puts a dirt mound over the road every year. Every year the villagers dig it out.

Settlements make a physical barrier to the olive harvest, but they also encompass the Zionist ideology that is literally lethal to Palestinians and their crops. Settlers regularly come out of the settlements and attack the olive trees and the farmers. In Burin, a town we have been picking near, settlers waited until we were gone and then came out of the hills and destroyed roughly 100 olive trees. There were also attacks in Qaryoot, a village I visited in September. When there are attacks from settlers, as in Qusra last month, the army shows up to make sure that the raiding settlers are safe.

Man, the fucking occupation is a crime.

The Leavings

I’m back in Nablus and I’m hoping the annoyance of being arrested is nearly behind my friends and me. We have to go back to Ariel settlement (fucking gigantic settlement) where we were taken when we were arrested and get our passports from the police there. That will probably be a gigantic pain in the ass considering that the Israeli cops seem to be as bumbling and idiotic as they are willing to purposefully waste your time.

After we collect our passports and assuming they don’t choose that moment to ambush us with immigration at the police station, we are supposed to go to the prisons where we were being held and collect our bags. I just hope that one of our friends inside Israel knows where we were being held because I still can’t figure it out.

It annoys me that I don’t know that at this point. We are in general agreement that the women were in a jail in Ramla the first night, and that our male comrade was in the police station in Ariel. But there seems to be some disagreement about where we were taken after the hearing in court early Sunday morning. Was it Petah Tikva? Hadarim? Someplace else? Were we in the same detention center as our comrade, or a different one?

The fact that it was 4am when we arrived at the prison doesn’t make our memories any clearer. Our proceedings had been in Hebrew and, though our friends had gotten someone to translate for us, we had a very hard time figuring out what was going on. We weren’t allowed to talk to our lawyer after the decision was rendered, and we weren’t given a written copy of the decision. We really had no idea what was going to happen to us, and when they shuffled us into the transport after three additional hours dozing on a concrete bench in a freezing holding cell in the basement of the court… I mean, at that point? who could tell?

To complicate matters, the guards at the prison on Sunday morning weren’t expecting us and they left us standing in wrist and leg cuffs while they argued about who we were and whether they would take us or make us go back with the transport drivers. When we entered the prison on Sunday morning and searched for the twentieth time, a sharp-featured, bored-looking twenty year old guard (seriously, this woman was twenty years old) asked me where we had come from.

"I don’t know. The court?"

She scanned me with a metal detector wand and pushed out her painted bottom lip in what I could guess was an effort to look both extra hot and double extra bitchy.

"Do you know where we are going tomorrow?" I asked.

"You don’t know where you are going?" she smirked. "I don’t know. The court?"

Seriously? Don’t they know that this sort of stuff just galvanizes my feelings against what’s going on here?

I think it’s fair to say that I’ve had some small introduction to the ways that the Israeli authorities specialize in stressing you out and looking for weaknesses to exploit, but you’d think that at some point, you’d be able to get some straight facts. I can’t even do an Internet search because when you ask “Google—Palestinian Territories” for some info on Israeli prisons, it clasps its hands behind its back, turns its eyes towards the heavens and goes, “Prisons? What prisons? I don’t think Israel hasany of those!”

So that’s what’s on the docket for tomorrow, going back to these places and getting our stuff. Though honestly, the relative importance of getting my backpack and water bottle back is defos on the wane.