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Encounters Visit to Palestine and Israel Blog No 3 : Olive Picking

Mid Point of visit

Monday, November 4, 2013

Encounters associate Ben Yeger is in Palestine and Israel for nine weeks as part of a year long series of visits to deliver bi-national workshops with fellow members of Combatants for Peace (CfP). 

I’m coming to the mid point of my visit here. The sun shines and the nights are getting a bit colder. The Occupation continues and the work goes on.

Last week I joined the olive pickings with the bi-national Combatants for Peace Jerusalem groups. This was a simple, constructive act of working with Palestinian farmers, fellow CfPists and other international visitors.

In between the two olive harvests I facilitated the third and fourth personal story telling workshops in Simiya (South Mount Hebron and in Yitma near Nablus).

Firstly to olive picking… 

Well, it’s such a timeless simple action and its deeply significant at the same time. The olive tree is so much part of the iconic history of the Middle East and yet hundreds of Palestinian farmers are being denied the right to access olive trees that their families have harvested for generations.

Picking olives as a direct action is an act of community and it is a real opportunity to connect with others, to connect to the trees and to the land. It’s a demonstration of peace and unity. At the end of both pickings it was clear that the local farmers, some of whom have been working with CfP and other peace movements for some years, were deeply appreciative of the support and of the connection.


On story telling…

Well its never boring. The workshop at Simiya was the first time I facilitated this process with both Israeli and Palestinian participants at the same time. Other workshops have been uni-national. The participants were diverse, some long standing members of CfP, others there to find out more about CfP. This presented challenges in terms of language and different needs around the stories and how to tell them.

The workshops are designed to build the confidence of CfP members to be able to tell their stories in a more articulate and focused way, to make these story telling tools more effective when we use them. In these sessions we were able to hear and work on two very strong personal stories of transformation from violence to non-violence (one Palestinian and one Israeli).


What came across in this instance was how the personal story continues to be a connecting thread between us all. After several years, in the movement, we are realising how key it is to return again and again to our stories, to share them among ourselves and with the wider world.  We were reminded that the personal story is a way of building trust and empathy within and without the movement. It is a real way to get to know someone more deeply, particularly someone from ‘the other side.’

Knowing a story…

Then I was back on the road to Yitme, near Nablus, for another workshop – this time just with a Palestinian group. On arrival and after the customary warm welcomes we settled down to try and do some work together. The men felt more confident sharing their stories very simply, rather than in a more embodied physical way that I often use so that the story is fully embodied. However, part of my role is to be flexible and adapt to different needs and situations. I was able to explore with this group, using the six principles of the story telling structure I presented in my last blog, how to communicate their story more effectively. They all seemed appreciative of this work and the simple act of gathering together. Before I parted  one of them stopped me and said:


“You have to understand, we know each others story, we live with it every day. It’s virtually the same for all of us. We, or someone else in the family, either goes to prison for throwing stones or being involved in violent resistance or is injured or killed by the army as a result of the violence. We decided- NO MORE. Now we work non-violently so that maybe our children and grandchildren can live in peace and with freedom” Always ending with- “Inshalla!”

So not an original story… But without doubt a story worth telling and hearing.

Thank you for reading and see you next time