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Olives and Occupation

- by Lesley Mannering, Australia -

I don’t normally even go to the shops alone, so my friends and were shocked when I told them I was off to Palestine, by myself. Going was THE best thing I ever did! Palestine changed my life. I can’t wait to return with my family! I am in love with her mind; her scent, her soul. “But you’re a woman – going… there!” a colleague panicked. I was able to tell her on my return that I felt safer walking around in the West Bank than I do back home in my own Australian city. Palestinian people are resilient and inspiring.

Despite the challenges and struggles of living under an oppressive Israeli occupation, I found Palestine’s people to be some of the most respectful, gracious, kind, authentic, and joyous humans I’ve ever met. The culture and arts of Palestine are thriving whether it be visual arts, music, dance, theatre or the culinary / craft arts. Palestinians take pride in EVERYTHING they do. That’s why everything feels and is special! The street art scene is massive! Some of the best and most powerful street art in the world is in The West Bank! It’s a fiercely artistic and non-violent resistance! Staying at Banksy’s “Walled Off” Hotel in Bethlehem is an entire experience in itself and it’s all so affordable too!

I’m not an overly emotional person, but I cried tears of awe at the Israel Museum; over whelmed at seeing some of the earliest artefacts and monuments of human civilisation.
The Dead Sea was stunning, the vast unearthly luminous body of blue water seems to pulsate against the sandy, undulating mounts… The kind of sight that would inspire poetry in the least poetic. The water was so pleasantly warm and after the initial surprise and delight of actually floating, our group thoroughly celebrated this wonder! We remain friends to this day!

Green Olive took us to the holiest and most ancient, sacred places. Jericho and The Mount of Temptation - incredible, but if Jesus was anywhere to be found on my trip, he was at the Balata Refugee Camp with the living angels who give their lives to help the 30,000+ people there.

In Nablus, we got to see the hand-made production of olive oil soap. For generations, these soaps have been crafted so beautifully with such painstaking, traditional methods.

I loved that Green Olive tour guides are from both Palestine and Israel. It encouraged a variety of perspectives on the issues impacting daily life for people in Jerusalem, Palestine and Israel. Sadly on our Hebron trip, we observed several Bedouin communities and Palestinian families being unjustly evicted from their homes where they’d lived for generations by new settlers. I was travelling on this day with a group of Jewish Americans. The party had left their birthright trip to seek a more balanced perspective on the conflict/apartheid. We visited the tomb of Abraham on that occasion. The checkpoints, 8M high separation walls, watch-towers and road blocks are constant reminders of the serious lack of equity. We all felt devastated to see in Hebron how Palestinians, young and old are persecuted by the Israeli apartheid system and those who support it.


Green Olive gave me the opportunity to connect with lovely Israeli and Palestinian families - people going about their regular lives. I stayed with a lovely Christian Palestinian family in Beit Sahour. They invited myself and their other visitors to their own daughter’s bridal shower! I’m not normally into weddings but I’d never experienced anything like this! I got very into the uplifting and magical celebrations.

I’m usually a bit shy, but the lovely matriarchs at my table were having none of it! They got me up to dance, even when I told them I had two left feet. That’s no excuse in Palestine... I saw a very elderly lady, joyously dancing to the music whilst raising her hands in the air - completely letting go. I saw the youth in her sparkling eyes! She held my hands and showed me how to twist them. She smiled, patiently helped move me to the rhythm. I resisted at first and then something about her nodding and smiling at me shifted my whole being. I melted into the music and felt totally free. I danced and found my feet in Palestine.

Palestine woke me up; made me feel loved, alive, whole, more myself than I was before I left.
I love you Palestine
and Green Olive.

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