ICAHD Volunteers from the UK, US, Italy, Finland and Germany have hit the ground in Jerusalem on 21 October, for ICAHD and Torat Tzedek’s Building, Harvesting and learning camp. They spent their first three days in Palestine with ICAHD founder Jeff Halper building a community centre at the north of the Jordan Valley. Taking advantage of the long typical Indian summer, they slept in tents and under the sky, and worked hard alongside their Palestinian counterparts. All the bricks bought through the Buy A Brick and Laughing For Palestine fundraisers were put into good use.
In the early mornings some group members went with Rabbi Aril Ascherman of Torat Tzedek to escort Palestinian sheep and goat herders, who often suffer abuse from settlers of the region, and IDF soldiers. The group was soon stopped by an IDF force and the herders were made to get the sheep off their grazing land under the pretext that this is now a “Fire Zone”. “The sheep went home hungry,” wrote one of the volunteers. “This was a more telling scene about the realities of Palestinian lives that anything I could have read in books and newspapers.”
The second part of the camp consisted on three days of Olive Harvesting in various villages in the West Bank, coordinated by Rabbi Arik Ascherman of Torat Tzedek. Tension rises in the West Bank regularly in October as the Olives begin to ripen. Palestinian grove owners are subjected to constant violence and harassment from the settlers in their areas. For years the Israeli Army ignored the attacks or sided with the settlers, but since the Israeli High Court of Justice ruling forcing the IDF to protect the Palestinians from the settlers, the Palestinians are made to coordinate their harvesting slots with the army to secure its protection. The campers also toured Nablus and its surroundings.
The third part of the tour was the Educational Study tour, in which participants visited Jerusalem, Hebron, Bethlehem, Tel Aviv and Jaffa. They have met Israeli and Palestinian activists and learned more about the realities they’ve seen on the ground. Staying in the West Bank and commuting back and forth through the checkpoints and the Separation Wall was in itself a learning experience, and quite an emotional one at that.
“It will take me a long time to process what I’ve felt, learned and experienced over the last ten day” said a participant, “I’m going back through the same airport, but I’m not the same person”.
In the coming weeks we will try, together with the participants, to process and share more of their experience. ICAHD chapters are grateful to all who helped this incredible enterprise take place: buy-a-brick donors, the participants, the Jordan Valley Solidarity Campaign and all who hosted, helped and shared their experience with us. “It is wonderful here,” texted one of the participants during the camp, “wonderful, interesting and utterly heart breaking.”
For more photos from the camp follow us on Instagram @ICAHDUK
This was the first camp in a while, and certainly not the last. If you are interested in joining a future camp in 2019, watch that space.