Visit to villages: Mes'ha, Thulth WEd. 07.12.11 morninig
Translator: Hanna K.
The village of Mes'ha: We met with the head of the village council and two residents who reported to us on the course of the olive picking season, the permits and their applications for the future.
According to the directive of the Attorney General this year the "Hany Gate"– the agricultural barrier adjacent to the solitary house of Hany Amar – was opened for Palestinians from Mes'ha whose lands border on the last houses of the Elkana settlement.
However, as is the way of the world, the issuing of the permits was for the sake of appearance only, as the saying of the popular proverb goes: "they go without and seem to be with…." Only 11 permits were issued for residents who own lands close to the gate, out of which 8 were for women and children and three more for students who study during the whole week and are able to arrive only on days of leave from studies, i.e. on Friday and Saturday.
Some more trivia regarding the deeds of the occupation during the olive picking: the members of an entire family – the Tzalah family, didn't get permits for the Hany gate, and all the roads are blocked by existing settlements or up and coming ones (Ramat Elkana!) and therefore this year too they didn't pick their olives. The fruit in their grove was probably picked stealthily and the thieves were in all likelihood the residents of nearby Arab villages? Or the residents of the settlement of Elkana? Or people who came from afar to pick olives…What is clear is that the family itself didn't get a chance this year too to pick their olives. In the future one will be able to accuse the family – as one always accuses the poor for their poverty and the weak for their weakness – that they didn't show up at their lands since two or three years, and the lands will perhaps cease to be their property and will become the property of the state by force of an ottoman law regarding the Amway property, which remained in force for the sake of the expansion of the occupation.
For another family too, that of Id, the only way to reach their orchards at the juncture zone is the Hany gate – and here too only women and students were able to pick their fruit. They succeeded also to recruit some family members from Kaf'r Kassem, to which they gave part of the profits from the harvest.
Thus the occupation policy frees itself from all responsibility – after all we opened the gate they say – so why do you complain? ( An association occurred to me – that of road number 443 which was opened for the Palestinians to declare: after all they travel, from where to where, from some place to nowhere…)I remembered an old song about the Jewish mind that invents patents for us – indeed so – the occupation too invents patents for us, regrettably more sophisticated and accomplished ones.
We asked to be updated about what happened as a result of the former visit in October, following which the villagers of Mes'ha submitted , as per the request of A'dal the head of the DCO, a list of people whose applications for permits were rejected, so that he could try and obtain for the permits for the olive picking. A'dal indeed did so according to his promise, and about 42 out of the lists of 67 who requested permits, did get them, but they asked for permits for the Hany gate adjoining their land, but did get permits for the northern gate of Mes'ha and for the Azzun Atma gate, and so they were obliged to walk a very long way to their plots, walk up a hill and descend to a valley, and not all of them were able to do that, to carry their sacks of olives on foot, because the tractors cannot get there, so that part of the olive crop wasn't picked.
But this wasn't the end of the olive picking troubles: It seems that on the 30th of October 2011 the seasonal gates were closed and the olive picking season was ended. So what is the Palestinians said they weren't able to finish the picking, so what if the Palestinians hat permits till the end of November? The villagers thought at first that perhaps the closing of the gates occurred because of the Id-el-adha holiday which was celebrated at the end of October and waited for a few days, hoping each day that the gates be opened, until the 16 of November when they sent a letter to the Palestinian liaison, asking for the gates to be opened so that they would be able to continue the olive picking and complete other tasks particular to this season, thinning out and first ploughing before the heavy rains of the winter.
Up to the date of this report no reply from the Israeli DCO has arrived. During our visit we were asked to write and to talk with the different military authorities and ask to open the gates for passage because olives still remained on the trees, and there was also need for other agricultural tasks. The answer we received when we approached the DCO was that there weren't any olives – perhaps they were right there at the DCO, perhaps the olives were stolen.
And as to the ploughing before the rain a nice girl-soldier, a moshavnikit (it's interesting to know who is a real moshavnik these days and doesn't just live in a moshav in an enormous villa) was able to quote from her personal experience and that of other eighteen year olds and didn't think one should rely on the information issued by the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture and told us that there wouldn't be any ploughing till April. From her words I understand that every soldier in Israel, in addition to the security and weapons training he undergoes, is also an expert in agriculture. My own knowledge didn't help, I too worked in agriculture two years in ornamental plants and in olive groves, and neither did the information which is issued by the agricultural instructors of the Ministry of Agriculture – all those are naught as opposed to the decisions of the soldiers.
It has to be pointed out that there was another application to the DCOto check the matter – it remains to be hoped that they act quickly as the God above doesn't wait with his rains for the commands of the army – he has his own way of conducting the world.
And another problem from the village of Mes'ha: Hany Amar whose hundred year old trees were uprooted as a result of the displacement of the fence at Azzun Atma, asked to be allowed to save them by irrigating them continuously. For that end he asked to be enabled to transport water tanks. Here to the low ranked soldier expressed their opinion that one session of irrigation which had been carried out was enough. Our member informed them that in her small garden too that wasn't enough. Again there was another approach to the commanders and those promised to take the responsibility upon themselves and to act for the rectification of the decree which prohibited more irrigation.
A private advice given on my personal responsibility (hopefully we shan't be sued for slander – for who know whether the same rule that applies to the written media applies to the internet too) : perhaps the IDF soldiers who just finished high school, would adopt some modesty regarding issues for which they don't have any expertise, as not everybody is an expert in agriculture, even if he is born in a moshav or in a village or a kibbutz. One has to work for a long time and to learn the subject in the academy and in colleges.
The village of Thulth: We continued from Mes'ha to Thulth and met with the head of the council and his secretary.
It seems that they too, just as many of the farmers of the juncture zone, have a similar problem: they wish to plough now, during the month of December before the rains come and to thin out and prune and then perform a second plough and again thinning out and pruning and spraying at the end of March – but here too the army and its soldiers whose expertise I thought was defence and battles and arms, are great specialists and experts in all the different branches of agriculture. And their answer, just as at Mes'ha is: they will reopen the gates only in April as only then the ploughing time will come! We hope that the repeated application to the heads of the DCO will help, as amongst them there are a few who sat on a tractor and even ploughed as some were owners of olive and fruit groves and know the way of agriculture a bit better than those who just finished 12 years of study at school and were exposed mainly to the fragrance of the orchards.
More from the village of Thulth: the head of the village and his secretary showed us the list of people who got permits: we sampled about five families and it turned out that in their case only old people aged 70 and 80 got permits, as well as women and young children. Only very few farmers aged 30-40 got permits.
And thus they didn't pick all their olive crop and of course didn't plough and prune and thin out and I shall again write my personal opinion – it is impossible not to suspect that the occupier continues to abuse the inhabitants and prevents them from getting to their plots, in order to annex them one of these days to Israel…