Today I climbed a hill with a group of 20 Rabbis for Human Rights volunteers to a Palestinian olive grove not far from the village of Awarta in the shadow of the Itamar settlement in the occupied West Bank. We were there for the same reason we are out nearly everyday right now: To support Palestinian olive farmers who face daily violence and ongoing oppression under occupation.
We come because this system of occupation aims to deny Palestinians the right to harvest their olives by limiting time in the grove to days what should take weeks or more and we can help to harvest faster. We come because sometimes our presence can deter violence from settlers or soldiers. Not today. Today soldiers again did the bare minimum in the face of settler violence. Today settlers again attacked Palestinians including children, Rabbis for Human Rights workers, and volunteers. Today Palestinians again were denied their right to livelihood, to celebrate with family and friends in their fields and today they were again pushed off their own land by state-sanctioned violence.
The bodily harm done by pepper spray can sound minor to those who have never seen the burning eyes and skin that it causes. The harm, both physical and emotional is lasting. It marks us all, but not in the way these terrorists intend. As we were getting ready to leave this afternoon my coworker, with eyes still burning from the pepper spray, looked at me and said, "I am not afraid. We'll continue this work no matter what." Indeed, their violence cannot stop the growing movement for a just peace and self-determination. It will not deter us from joining in the call for Palestinian freedom. We will continue this work and we will win.
*Written in the hours after the attack.