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This past Friday, I was blessed enough to have the opportunity to go over to the Mount of Olives and help my friends at the LWF plant some olive trees. People who donate money to the work that the LWF does in this land get an olive tree planted in their name in the groves already on the Mt. of Olives, and they are always planted with the help of volunteers.

I woke up early and walked over; same as usual, all except for one detail. As the Pope will be arriving tomorrow (Monday afternoon), the Israeli government has put up a whole bunch of Vatican flags, banners, and standards all over the city on the street lights (in between Israeli flags and the banners of the city of Jerusalem that is). They have been up for several days now, but my walk over to volunteer was the first time it was a nice day AND I had my camera to take some photos (see the attached).

In any event, I arrived to the LWF office and met with Mark Brown and my friend Tyler, and several of the other volunteers. We grabbed some shovels and spades, and went off into the yard to look for suitable locations to plant the trees. We eventually found the ideal locations, and set to digging. I showed the people working with me a couple of tricks on how to properly use the spade to break ground and loosen the soil, so that a person with a shovel can clear it away and thus the job gets done more quickly.

The first tree was the easier soil; the second location had a MASSIVE stone underneath it, and one of the spades was seriously mauled/bent out of shape when someone tried to break through it with a few swings too many. I went over and using my VERY limited Arabic, asked some Palestinian guys working on a sewage pipe system if I could borrow their pickax. They gave it to me, and off I went to break through rock the old-fashioned way. Considering that 1) I still had blisters from Dohar’s farm the weekend before; 2) the pickax was covered in bits of dried cement; and 3) I had no gloves, I did in fact manage to break through the huge rock enough to plant the tree, but at the cost of destroying my left hand (to the tune of multiple blisters 😦

That said, it was an excellent experience. All of the people I was working with are genuinely good people, which is always great. Similarly, the work we did is not only something I enjoy, but it happens to be vitally important for the people of this region. The olives from that olive grove are harvested by volunteers, and then pressed by a Palestinian company. They are bottled in hand-blown glass, done by Palestinian folks, and then shipped internationally for sale. After paying the low costs of production, the remainder of the proceeds directly pay for the health care of Palestinian people from Gaza and the West Bank. Although the couple of hours I spent working a few days ago won’t directly help anyone for a few years, and although those few hours of work won’t fix the entire problem here, I am content in the knowledge that the work I did do will end up perennially doing a little bit to help some of the people in this world who no one else looks out for. I hope I will have more opportunities to do things like this in the future.

And, for those of you who are interested, the aforementioned olive oil is available for purchase. The details can be found here.


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