Reflecting on our previous trip to Jenin earlier this year, we found ourselves meeting and greeting familiar faces. Nostalgia. What an incredible feeling to develop in Palestine. For us, it means we’re steering in the right path. A path that has lead us to Mustafa again.
Mustafa is a seasoned olive farmer and evidently from the olive festival the night prior, an energetic dancer. His more popular moniker, “Abuel Balad”, meaning, “Father of the Town” easily describes his role among the community.
The following morning after the olive festival, we arranged to help pick olives at one of Mustafa’s groves. We were told a tractor would soon pick us up. Amused and confused. We assumed a mistranslation, so we jokingly waited for our ride. Ironically to our surprise, an actual tractor showed up and the driver called our way. The trailer, which was actually the bed of a truck with a hitch. Creatively resourceful and never a lack of resources.
Our driver? Mustafa himself. We hopped in and all happily rode away. Within minutes of being on the road, it became even more apparent why he lives up to his moniker. Cars honking and people waving. Initially assumed it was directed at us, as we thought our obviously out of town appearance was drawing attention. Happily incorrect, it was all directed towards Mustafa.
We arrived at one of his groves. We jumped off and Mustafa immediately calls for us toward one olive tree. He picks up a crate and without speaking, points at olives that have fallen to the ground and directs us to pick them up. Straight to work we thought. Light heartedly, we submissively obeyed.
To our surprise, we spent the next three hours picking olives without it ever feeling like work. Mustafa, who can manage to speak some English, was delighted with our picking skills. He shared stories of previous harvests of years past, yet somehow his smile and energy that day reflected as if this was his first. It reminded us of our mission and purpose with our clothes covered in earth, our hands slightly worn, but spirits always high. We are exactly where we need to be with the people who inspire us the most.