Report Four: Loving the Land and it's People  >

Trees of Peace: Olive Harvest Delegation to Palestine/Israel
October 31, 2012

This delegation traveled concurrently with
the 2012 African Heritage Delegation > > >

We invite delegation participants to comment on and react to the experiences they have during our Israel/Palestine delegations in written Trip Reports

Individual delegates contribute pieces to these reports.  As such, reports are not comprehensive accounts of every meeting or experience, but impressions of those things that most impact individuals.  Submitted reports may be edited for clarity or brevity. Trip reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Peace-Builders, trip leaders, or delegation partner organizations.  We hope you enjoy reading and we encourage you to share these reports with others.



Falling in Love with the Land
By Marsha Carlton

Sunday night I fell in love with the Palestinian land. 

Before that I had loved the Palestinian people because of the Palestinians I had met, and loved their cause and struggle for their rights and their land.  But this was the first time I felt the love of the earth and rocks and olive trees and pomegranate trees and the fig trees and the citrus trees and the almond and apple and apricot trees, and the grapes and the bougainvillea, and the other bushes I don’t know the names of and the cactus. 

We stayed in the village of Nusf Jubayl and met Hader and his family.  He is a farmer caring for 500-600 olive trees.  We went with him and his family, and some of his extended family, and picked olives.  All of us from the 4-year-old to the 75-year-old were doing something: pulling olives off the tree, children putting them one by one in a bottle, tending the fire to make the tea, passing the tea out to everyone, putting the olives in bags, carrying around Hader’s 7-month-old daughter.  The moon rose and the sun started to go down.  There was no Israeli settlement in sight. 

Some of us walked and some of us rode back to the village behind the tractor with the three young boys shouting and giggling and singing and making us all laugh.  Then we ate a wonderful dinner of Maqlouba and cucumbers and tomatoes and olives and drank coffee and finally went to bed on the floors above the goats and sheep and chickens.

I had always thought Palestine was beautiful in an arid, stark kind of way, but now I got an inkling of how fertile and gorgeous it is.  How could you not be in love with this life-giving land?  How could you not want to stay and live where your ancestors planted the olive trees?


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Palestinian Hospitality
By Veena Brekke

On October 28th we departed the beautiful city of Nazareth to visit Palestinian towns, villages, farms and spend two nights in Palestinian homes.  I would like to share my experience of visiting the small farming village of Nusf Jubayl, West Bank (Area A - occupied territory) and a home of Israeli Palestinian family in Akka, Israel. 

Nusf Jubayl farmers are part of a small farmer’s co-operative (1200 farmers around town of Jenin) who harvest olives and sell its products through Canaan Fair Trade. The village is located in mountainous, rocky area.  We were welcomed by Khader and Ransees's family. 

A group of us walked along the beautiful mountain side, peaceful, barren and rocky land to reach the olive trees that needed harvesting.  We worked alongside children and adults from the village until sunset and watched the full moon come up as we walked the mile and half back to the village. 

Several families had planned a meal for us in a common court yard.  We were offered a delicious dish, Maqlouba, of chicken and cauliflower in rice, tomatoes and cucumber salad and yogurt.  I was impressed by the caring actions of Palestinian teen age boys who rushed to help older travelers with their luggage and offered chairs for their comfort. 

After dinner four of us travelers were guided along the dark uphill narrow streets of the village by Noor, age 12 and his older brother to their home.  Niveen and Asaad, their parents are farmers and have seven children. They vacated their kitchen, large first floor living area and bathroom for overnight stay. It is clear that they have little material wealth but offered so much in their generosity.  

The next morning, following coffee and breakfast, Khader showed us a restoration project of an old building to create a child care and community center.  Everyone in this small village lives with extended family, cares for their children, values elders and works towards improving their community.  It was refreshing to note that there were no Israeli settlements and military towers threatening their existence.  My hope is that their farming co-op will be prosperous and they will be left alone by Israeli settlements.

My second overnight home stay was with Sirri and Hindiah Idilbi's family in Akka, a city near Haifa.  They are Palestinians that live inside Israel.  It was the last night of the Muslim holiday Eid Al-Adha and a feast awaited me and Alexandra, a traveling companion:  three salads, stuffed grape leaves, chicken pastry, kibbeh, and other delicious items that I can’t identify by name. 

Hindiah is a school principal of the local elementary school and Sirri speaks excellent English because of attending college in Houston, TX for several years.  They talked about importance of education for their two daughters, Sirri – 11 and Aseel - 14 and high cost of private high school.  I am thankful for the opportunity to learn of their experience as Palestinians and their hope for equality and justice in Israel.

We woke up to a variety of delicious breakfast items and that great strong Arabic coffee. When it was time for us to depart, Hindiah gave us bags with apples and pastries for our bus ride to Tel Aviv. 

Palestinian hospitality is expressed by offering of food and insisting that you eat a little more! 


For Ghuson
By Maya Harris

This post is for Ghuson. She is a student at Birzeit University in Ramallah. Elizabeth, Elissa and I met her when we were in Burqin, near Jenin, at a wedding we were taken to. She is studying English so we were finally able to have an in depth conversation. We talked about a lot of things, her situation, U.S. situation. She is working with a student group called Right to Education. She is so beautiful and amazing!

Anyways, when we told her we were going to stay in Akka the next night, her eyes lit up. She told us it was her dream to visit Akka and see the sea, but she is not aloud and cannot get a permit.

So Ghuson, this is for you. We brought you to Akka in our hearts and minds:
Click here to view photo

May one day you feel the clear water of the Mediterranean Sea run through your finger tips and its sand between your toes. Insha’allah.

This report is excerpted from Maya's blog. Read the full post at


Planting Roots of Community
By Elissa Goss

Today we are back in East Jerusalem after being gone with homestays for 2 days. We went to Jenin in the West Bank and had to go through a military checkpoint. U.S. AID had the courtesy to call "improvements" it funded a "vehicle traffic enhancement" and shared with all on its sign that it is a "gift of the American people to the Palestinian people". 

There are various levels of disturbance I have with this. First, "gift of the American people" to enhancing a dehumanizing checkpoint where Palestinians have to wait for hours often to get through, and which most Palestinians can't go through because they live in the West Bank, is really not a "gift". I would call it more of an "addition". Enhancing an Israeli checkpoint is like decorating the bars of a jail cell. Oh look, the colors!

During our time in Jenin we learned about how it used to be the best agricultural land in the area but due to land and farm confiscation by the Israeli government, there is less and less land available to farm, much less farm profitably due to water restrictions. Farmers and civilians in the West Bank have their water controlled by the Israeli government and are not allowed to build more wells without permits which are very difficult to get.

Along with many other hardships, farmers have gotten together to create Canaan Fair Trade which focuses on olive oil production. Through the cooperative they are able to afford the cost of production and shipping (it is easier to sell overseas than in Israel because they. . . can't sell in Israel) and by doing this, are able stay on their inherited land and cultivate their orchards, livelihood, communities, and culture.

Olive harvesting is literally an act of resistance when you look at all the barriers the government and military put onto them like settler violence where they burn trees. . . we were told that losing a tree that is hundreds of years old is like losing a child. Especially when you realize that it takes 15 years become fruitful so you lose a generation of income. I'm really looking forward to sharing these stories with folks at Evergreen and the larger small farm movement in the U.S. because I believe that the right to farm is one that crosses borders.

Keep buying Doctor Bronner's all you Olympians. . . and any product that includes olive oil comes from Canaan Fair Trade :)

We then went to our homestays and myself and 2 others stayed with a large farming family who is part of the Canaan cooperative. We were graciously received with wonderful hospitality (coffee, cookies, coffee, dinner, tea, cookies, more tea) and probably met around 40-50 people that night. About 20 family members alone were constantly coming in and out of the house.

The sense of community was so strong and the love among siblings was apparent. . . constantly playing with each other, trying to teach us more Arabic, and discussing politics, survival, and hope. Palestinians are families who love each other, their community, and want the violence to stop. They want the right and ability to work the land that has been handed down through the generations. Many want to live in co-existence with Israelis. . . they aren't interested in attacking like the media claims they are. . . and it’s heartbreaking when you realize the brutal force the IDF uses on communities that are at their core, non-violent. There is not any distinction made between civilians and militants.

We visited the Freedom Theater in the Jenin Refugee Camp and learned about the use of theatrical expression to channel such intense emotions. . . especially with youth where the tendency for violence is higher due to the lack of opportunities for school and work because of the occupation.

Later we went to Akka (or Akko in Hebrew) where it is considered a "mixed" city within Israel in regards to Palestinians and Jews. Myself and a few others, stepped across a small wall and walked down to the Mediterranean Sea. . . as we sunk our feet into the cold sand, the quiet waves washed over us. We got really silent for a few minutes, all of us thinking about a young woman our age we met in Jenin. She can't, and will not ever be able to if the occupation continues, drive the one hour to the ocean. She has never seen the ocean. She is among many. . . growing up behind walls, that her and her community are all potential terrorists, they don't deserve water, education, food sovereignty. . . always being turned away. Being targeted. Being suppressed.

She has never been allowed to go to the ocean. I remembered our conversation when she asked where we were going next and her face lit up as the word "Akka" was spoken from our lips. "Akka!!! I have always wanted to go there. . . I have grown up hearing the stories. . . seeing pictures. . ."

Why do people think that oppressing youth will ever bring about peace?

We wrote her name in the sand, "Ghuson" (click here to see the photo). I'm sure the waves have washed it away by now, making another name, another voice, nameless.

This report is excerpted from Elissa's blog. Read the full post at


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War, Peace and Flipping Coins
By Brad Ogilvie

On Monday evening (Oct. 29), our IFPB delegation split up into small groups and spent the night with host families in the ancient walled city of Acco on the Mediterranean.  My travel roommate, Deklan, and I were staying with the family of Yosef a few blocks from the water.  We were joined by Laura and Art who were staying with Yosef’s brother, Ahmed, closer to the water.  The dinner conversation was lively, as we bantered back and forth about historical facts and comparative narratives of injustice and violence – present as well as historical – all around the world. 

After dinner, Deklan, Yosef and I went for a walk.  Deklan asked Yosef how he thinks things will unfold between the Palestinians and Israelis.  “War” was his calm, somewhat sad, answer.  For him it is clear that the only way to avoid war is to return to the 1967 borders but is not going to happen.  He was clear that he does not want war, but he just doesn’t see an alternative.   I reflected my own faith that where there are signs of hope, we can help lessen the violence.  Deklan’s stance was that the Israelis simply need to stop with the laws and policies that keep the Palestinians as second class (or worse) citizens.  It’s as easy as “flipping a coin”, he said. 

“War, Peace or a coin toss”, mused Yosef.  I am increasingly thinking that it is going to be some combination of all of these.  There is already violence – blatant as well as systemic – and to reverse these will take effort and certainly some luck.

If, as Yosef said, there will be no peace until there is a return to the 1967 borders, there is no way there without the upheaval of at least 500,000 settlers, many of whom are not likely to go peacefully and will be backed by many Israelis.  At the same time, many Palestinians are not enamored with their own leadership, so even if the Palestinians were to gain autonomy, I would expect a battle for power from within as well.  And then, of course, there is the insidious systemic nature of violence, as evidenced y the US-supported military destruction followed by US-funded rebuilding.  It’s a great economic machine.  It’s a mess.

As I start to reflect on my time here, I don't see groups of people.  I see the faces of individual humans, many of whom are caught up in the daily challenge of human survival.  I am awed by the beauty and the passions in these individual struggles, while shuddering at our capacity to dehumanize each other to the point of annihilation in some cases.  There is Yosef, with his exasperation of constant arrests and harassment for speaking out, but also his friendly hospitality.  There is his wife, and her somewhat defensive and unnecessary statement that Palestinians just want to support life.  There is 23-year old Mahmoud’s spirit of hope for the future while including me in a Palestinian bachelor party with festive music and dancing.  There are the sincere desires and demonstrations of a commitment to find a peaceful way forward from the members of kibbutz communities.  There are Roi and Rwan, a Jew and a Palestinian (his grandparents came to Israel in the 1930's because of anti-semitism in one case and Zionism in the other; her grandparents village was wiped out in 1948) working together to bring cross-cultural learning to Jewish and Arab schools as part of their work at the Arab-Jewish Community Center in Tel Aviv.  There are organizations creating new ways forward through theater and community outreach.  And then there are people who hate, fear, resent or wish to harm the neighbor they don’t know.  

I have hope that, if we stay connected and keep acting in ways that support the common humanity of each other through the upheavals, we can come back together as a stronger global community.  Just as I believe will happen in the US as we struggle with all our various prejudices and practices of injustice past and present, my hope is that our descendants can sit around the dinner table, sharing meals from all our faiths and cultures, celebrate each other rather than try to lord over each other, and look to the past wondering "what the heck were they thinking?"  Yes, it’s ideal, but we can start practicing now so when the opportunity comes, we are ready. 

As Whitney Young said “it’s better to prepare for the opportunity that may not come, then to have an opportunity emerge, and not be prepared.” 

This report is excerpted from Brad's blog. Read the full post at


Militarism in Israel
By George Meek

I was moved to tears a couple days ago by shocking images of Israeli children fondling submachine guns. Ruth Hiller, a U.S. born Israeli leader in the New Profile NGO, told us that Israel's whole education system is militarized, starting with exercises to count tanks and guns in kindergarten.

New Profile works with teachers, educators, and youth groups to reduce the impact of militarized education. Ruth's two daughters served in the army, but all four of her sons finally won legal recognition as conscientious objectors and were exempt. The government tried to close New Profile three years ago for inciting people to refuse military service, but the High Court protected them.

"We are considered one of the most dangerous organizations in Israel," she says. It would be treason to tell people not to serve, but it is not a crime to provide information on the process. New Profile gets 200 applications for information every month, and more and more youth are choosing not to serve.

Ruth says Israel spends 7.6% of its GDP on defense, compared with 2.8% in the United States. She says, "If we're going to demilitarize, we have to end the occupation--decolonize--and stop  being Zionists."

More power to her. (No wonder the government considers her dangerous.)

Seven years ago Palestinian civil society organizations appealed to the world to use boycott, divestment, and sanctions to move toward ending the occupation, ending discrimination against Palestinians in Israel, and letting Palestinians exercise the right of return. We heard from Kobi Snitz, a U.S.-educated native Israeli neurobiologist active in an NGO called Boycott from Within. He said that cultural boycotts have a big effect, and his group has persuaded several prominent artists to cancel planned shows in Israel.

Kobi says the law making it a civil offense to call for a boycott is being challenged in court, but it is intimidating people who have had to remove things from their website. In terms of academic boycotts, the Israeli activists are calling for no institutional cooperation, not for a ban on articles or visits by individual professors.

Speaking of the right of return, in northern Israel, just a few miles from Lebanon, we visited Bassa, the site of one of the more than 500 Palestinian villages destroyed in the ethnic cleansing of 1948. Khalil Asi, who was born there, was just 11 when it happened. The town had 4,000 people, two-thirds of them Christians. Khalil says all of them, except for his family and nine others, sought refuge in Lebanon and eventually in Europe, the United States, and Canada.

Khalil is Catholic, and he showed us the ruins of the Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, a common holy site of Saint George, and a house, which is about all that is left of Bassa, now surrounded by an industrial park. I was appalled when he told us that the Jewish kibbutzim had used the churches as cattle  barns, and he had to clean up manure from the floor that was about 20 inches deep. Khalil said he hopes that in his lifetime the Greek Orthodox Church, which is in better condition, can be restored.

This visit made the Nakba real for me. I think Israel must formally accept responsibility for the damage. but in the case of Bassa there is no place there where the original inhabitants can move back. In any case, they should be entitled to some belated compensation, as Holocaust victims were. After all, the Holocaust and Nakba both amounted to ethnic cleansing.

This report is excerpted from George's blog. Read his full post at


I Stand by Moriel Rothman
By Maya Harris

I just got back from Family stays in Burqin and Akka and am now in Jerusalem again! So much to think about but mostly I want this blog post to go out to Moriel Rothman. He is a 23 year old, Jerusalem native who lived in the United States for two decades before returning to Israel last year, reported Wednesday to IDF headquarters outside in Tel Aviv after receiving a draft notice last June. Rothman told Haaretz late Wednesday night that he had been sentenced to 10 days in prison for refusing to perform his compulsory IDF service as a “conscientious objector’.

The thing about refusing the IDF as anything other than being labeled “unfit for service” by the Military Court itself makes you subject to prison time. After you serve your time, you must reappear in front of the Military Court and appeal service again. The military court can THEN reassign you jail time. He is not only just refusing as a “conscientious objector” but has clarified, through newspapers like Haaretz and in his infamous blog The Leftern Wall, that his refusal is because he is against the occupation and in solidarity of the Palestinians. This is truly putting words to action and he sets the example for what kind of risks and sacrifices those of privilege must take to not only stand in solidarity with Palestinians but ACTIVELY make change through personal actions and responsibilities.

People tell me all the Israeli Jews don’t care. Well, they’re wrong. Not only have I met multiple organizations with both Palestinians and Israeli-Jews working together but here is a perfect example of an Israeli Jew WHO CARES.

Look these organizations up, Educate yourself!

Who Profits:
Boycott from Within:
New Profile:
Other Voice:

As Elizabeth said in our Group Time: “Check yourself before you Wreck yourself”.

This report is excerpted from Maya's blog. Read the full post at



Hegemony Based on Nationality
By Alexandra Lusak

We visited the offices of Adalah (Justice) in Haifa on October 29.  Our presenter spoke to us about the separate legal systems that apply to Palestinian and Jewish citizens of Israel and to Palestinian residents of the occupied territories. 

She began by making clear that the state of Israel does not have a written constitution or a “constitutional culture.”  Two factors mitigate against a written constitution:  the influence of the ultra Orthodox and the presence of the Palestinian population.  As a result, a body of basic laws has gradually developed into what forms the foundation of the multi-tier Israeli legal system.  There also is what the presenter described as a “mini-list of rights”, which, for example, does not include freedom of expression.  

The legal redress available to Palestinians in the occupied territories is minimal to none.  Until 2005, Palestinians in the occupied territories could only sue Israel or Israeli citizens in Palestinian courts.  But in 2005, the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, passed legislation banning Palestinians retroactively from bringing any suits at all in Israeli courts.  The Israeli High Court overturned that legislation in 2006, but it was reintroduced and passed in amended form this year.   As our presenter made clear, Palestinians in the occupied territories have no say in the laws that govern them.

At the core of this terrible and blatant injustice is the fact that in Israel, the whole idea of equality doesn’t exist.  Hegemony is based on nationality.     Access to the court is further eroded by continuing threats from the Knesset to take away the court’s power.


Cooperation Comes With Equality
By Marsha Carlton

In the last few days we’ve visited with several Israelis actively cultivating friendships and cooperation with Palestinians.  People from the group Other Voice who live near Sderot (where rockets from Gaza can reach) are friends with Palestinians in Gaza and keep in touch with each other even though they can no longer visit in person.  Other Voice actively advocates for discussion with the Palestinians and Hamas and believe that the violence of Israeli attacks on Gaza doesn’t make the Israelis within the reach of Gazan rockets any safer. 

The people of Kibbutz Metzer, in the central of Israel, actively cooperate with their neighbors, the people of the nearby Arab town of Maysir.  Most Jews and Palestinians don’t know each other, which is sad, so these efforts help each see the human in the other. 

But simply having them get to know each other won’t change the power structure that keeps them apart.  Once that power structure is challenged and changed, imagine the love and cooperation that can come with equality.


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