Written by Tim, Karina and Christine
Photos by Bryan MacCormack w/Left in Focus
Today Freedom Riders had a chance to show solidarity through the universal language of sport. At the sound of the school bell, excited students from Afula primary burst out of their classrooms and onto the paved sports court.
Under a hot West Bank sun, a volleyball game started between teachers and older students, showing great skill and enthusiasm. For the younger boys, a competitive game of soccer was greatly enjoyed.
After a quick break, and some acrobatic instructing in somersaulting and handstands from Ibraheem, an obstacle course race was run. The two teams were both eager to win, with much laughter and yelling of encouraging words. It was a close tie!
We were very thankful to be welcomed so warmly by everyone at Afula primary school; high-fives and wide smiles were in abundance. Visiting the students was a beautiful reminder of what we share across cultures—most importantly, a love of sport!
In one of the rooms of the school in Atuwani, Ben and Karin held a workshop on Playback Theatre. Eight participants from the Freedom Ride and four young men from the village took part. Warming up exercises and games found a lot of response!
Due to noisy construction work in the school, the second part took place outside in a shady part of the schoolyard. Two stories were told and enacted on the spot: A participant’s story about a surprising view of Mufaqqara’s livestock out of the bathroom window that morning. The second story was told by a young Palestinian from a nearby community, trying to escape from aggressive settlers and ending up fooling them. The 90 minutes of playing together brought joy and connection.
At around ten in the morning, Freedom riders who’d chosen to stay back in Mufaqqara followed Abu Ashraf down a rock-strewn path into the valley, cutting through tobacco fields and as-yet unplanted furrows of orange soil until we came to a grove of young olive trees.
Armed with half a dozen pick-axes and our own bare hands, we spread out in pairs and small groups over the hillside grove to weed the little plot of soil that circled each tree. Before long, there was singing and laughing. Abu Ashraf demonstrated the technique, then reclined on a wide flat rock to watch us work, pausing to call out playful teasing judgments of those who worked too slowly, or forgot their work for long moments as the conversation with their work-partner became more engrossing than the rocks and nettles.
Later, we learned that this plot of land was cultivated specifically in response to a nearby settlements’ attempts to claim it. Under Israeli martial law, any piece of land that is left “untended” by Palestinians for three years or more is legal to confiscate. In practice, most Palestinians would be happy to work their land, but are pushed off of it by the aggressive intimidation tactics—killing livestock, physical assault—of Israeli settlers.
But not these olive trees, not this land. This land belongs to the people of Mufaqarra, just as the people of Mufaqarra belong to this land.