Everyday drudgery has its own kind of beauty, heartbreak and even suspense, especially when it comes to facing down the occupation. Today as we pass Taybeh’s quarry on the way to the lands of its neighbor Deir Jarir, darkness lifts almost enough to show us the dull glow of the earth we have come to protect.
Eventually Taybeh appears, a Christian town with a prominent Church spire.
Last year David chronicled Arik’s effort to keep the settlers from bringing in their herds from the nearby settlement outpost of Maaleh Ahuvia into the plowed and sown fields of Deir Jarir and Taybeh (see also here). Since those posts, Arik has made an almost daily, nearly fruitless effort to keep access open and settlers out. Don Quixote came to mind then, but today Sisyphus feels like a better fit.
It is just the two of us today. As we turn off the road to drive by the fields, we find our way blocked by a gate that settlers have moved into the road (Arik painstakingly moves it back) and by two rows of rocks that were not there yesterday. Settlers must have created the blockade last night by dismantling part of the villagers’ stone wall.
Arik does nearly all the work; almost none of the rocks are light enough for me to budge. Winter gear doesn’t help make the work easier. And underneath Arik’s down jacket and his bike helmet he has added strips of cloth as though for a severe frost; his hands are covered as well. This extra padding is not for the weather; the temperature is close to 30 C. But it has come in handy the last two days, when settlers struck him in the head and their horses butted him in the chest. Last year, they broke a bike helmet with Arik in it. He carries an extra one and I put it on.
A half hour later . . .
We are ready to move . . .
A few hundred feet down the road . . .
Not so many this time. Perhaps because there is no wall to supply the stones. Arik tries to place them so as to make it hard for settlers to open the gate and lead their flocks into what is left of this orchard.
We are again ready to move.
Arik sees them first.
In a moment they are in the road, taking over where the rocks left off.
I’m not allowed out of the car.
Arik tells the settler that he will call the police if the goats enter the fields that have been planted, so of course, he has to keep his word.
It takes an hour at least before the police call to say they are not coming and will instead summon the army. The army, which has never come.
Later that day, the army did show up at Turmus’ayya, which I last visited four years ago. The atmosphere is almost joyful. The army stays close to the settlement and the settlers, but its presence makes plowing possible.
This day was a long time coming. It is the result of long planning and many delays. Talks with the army command, getting agreements, papers, fixing on and confirming dates that made sense for the farmers. Most villages decided it was too late and gave up.
But the farmers of Turmus’aya still think something can be salvaged and several plows converge on the area.
Observers and landowners arrive and begin to gather in the shade of scrubby trees.
As I said, it was almost joyful. Almost joyful because there are not enough soldiers for all the plowing and not all plows will get a turn to put their teeth in the soil. Almost joyful because the villagers point out vast areas of their land that have been taken over by settlers. They have little hope of ever working that land again.
Almost joyful because plowing is only a first step in a process with many steps, many potential delays, with the likelihood of devastation happening before, during, or after any one of them. But also almost joyful because the fire has been started and tea will soon be ready.
text and photographs Margaret Olin © 2022