Today I went with the Israeli solidarity organization Ta'ayush to Jibbat al-Dheib, a Palestinian village with land in Area C in the Territories. We joined farmers and shepherds so that they can work their land.
We helped clear a field that surrounds olive trees. I kept remarking how soft my hands are, this lifestyle isn't suited for soft hands. I couldn't keep up with the 70 year old Palestinian man who was grabbing thorns with his bare hands.
A security guy from a nearby settlement showed up. He had a camera and walked into the field recording us. "Pixelization of the conflict," a weathered Israeli activist remarked. He circled us, our cameras circled him. It was one of the strangest dances I've seen. The IDF showed up. 4 jeeps of soldiers. We kept clearing the field. Some were sitting in the shade of an olive tree watching what was happening. The soldiers waited, the Israeli flag on the jeep flapping in the wind. Another car shows up: one of the commanders of the area. He has a notebook with him--it shows what part and parcel of land belongs to whom and who is allowed to be where when. This piece of land, which belongs to the Palestinians who were working it--was declared to not be a problem. But they approached us anyways. A conversation of waving arms and gesturing hands takes place. I watch from afar and feel the smallness of this moment, but also notice the grandiose existentialism of arguing over who's land this is. In the background, I hear the swish and clunk of a hoe hitting the earth and continuing its scraping motion of clearing away the plants and cleaning the field. The argument takes place, the Palestinian man keeps on working.
Guns hit the hips of the young soldiers as they start to weave their way through the wheat to demand our IDs. They took pictures of our posed pictures, wrote down our names. I asked why, the soldier responded "To know who is in the field."
They retreated to their air conditioned jeeps where they kept an eye on us the rest of the day. It's the same feeling as I got from the surrounding 3 settlements: they are keeping their eye on this Palestinian village and land that is located in the middle of the ring that they form. It's directly in their line of expansion. That prickly sensation on the back of your neck when someone is watching you...
We finished one row of the field today. The Palestinian laughed at the foreigners with their good intentions but their bad farming skills. We climbed back into the car, sweaty, dust covered, a bit sore around the edges, but determined.