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 chosen the right path. A path that has lead us to Mustafa again.
Mustafa is a seasoned olive farmer and, as evidenced by the olive festival the night prior, an energetic dancer. His more popular moniker, “Abuel Balad”, meaning, “Father of the Town” fittingly describes his role in 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 there had been a mistranslation, so we jokingly waited for our ride. 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 on the road, we were given even more support for his moniker. Cars honking and people waving. While we initially assumed it was directed at us as obvious outsiders drawing attention we were happy to find out we were wrong. It was all directed towards the father of the town.
We arrived at one of his groves. We jumped off and Mustafa immediately called us toward an 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 as we light-heartedly followed orders.
To our surprise, those next three hours picking olives didn't even feel like work. Mustafa, who tries to speak some English, was delighted with our picking skills. While he shared stories of many years of harvests, he worked with the smile and energy of a first timer. It reminded us of our mission and purpose and with our clothes covered in earth, our hands slightly worn, we kept spirits high. We are exactly where we need to be with the people who inspire us the most.