Olive Picking in Arura - October 2009

Saturday evening was a special day in Arura Village (Twenty-five km north of Ramallah). Twenty friends from Oxford and Faringdon Traveled to Arura to join the locals of Arura in picking olives. Arura is placed at the top of the middle west bank mountains. Because of this location at the top of the mountains, the Mediterranean Sea , (Jerseem and Ebal) mountains of the city of Nablus and Harmon Mountain on the borders Of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, all can be seen from Arura on a nice clear day. Similarly, the mountains of the city of Ramallah and the Western Jordanian mountains could all be seen from the mountain tops in Arura.

During the time that our British friends from Faringdon were in Arura, they helped us pick olives every day that they were present in Arura. Every day, very early in the morning, we would hit the road after a light breakfast, walk quite long distances until we arrive at the olive orchards in Arura. Then, we would start picking olives until lunch time. Because of the bad olive season this year in the West Bank, the amount of olives that could be picked, unfortunately, was very small. However, on the bright side, this gave us more time to enjoy the beautiful nature of Arura sitting under olive trees that are hundreds if not thousands of years old having lunch and drinkning tea while exchanging stories, learning about each others' cultures and languages. In the evenings, after long days of hard work, we shared very special times eating traditional Palestinian meals and drinking tea and Arabic coffee on the patio of my family home in Arura enjoying the nice weather. Then, for several nights, we met with many residents of Arura, who explained to the British visitors warmly, shared their homes with them and enjoyed their company talking with them while having coffee or tea.

One day after dinner, we went to visit an olive oil factory. We heard the workers explain how olives are pressed to produce excellent quality extra virgin olive oil. On another night, after a day of hard work, we met with a council member of the Arura Association and Health Center. We discussed the advantages of the proposed twinning between Faringdon and Arura. Our guests from the U.K. read a letter from the Mayor of Faringdon. The Arura residents that were present at the meeting were very touched by the kindness of the letter and thankful for the solidarity of our friends from Faringdon. The idea of the twinning between Faringdon and Arura was met with great acceptance and soon we were making suggestions as to how to build and strengthen the relationship between the locals of Arura and those of Faringdon and the name Faringdon-Arura Friendship Association (FAFA) came up.

On a school day, two young members of the British delegation visited the Arura Middle School. They met with hundreds of students and teachers who were very welcoming and extremely excited about the new guests.

During the five days that the group from the U.K. spent in Arura, they helped several farmers that would otherwise not be able pay anyone to help pick their olives. Many of these farmers had turned to farming after losing their jobs in Palestine's deteriorating economy. The people of Arura and myself will be forever grateful for all the help we received from our friends in Oxford and Faringdon and we are very much looking forward to developing a long-lasting friendship with the people of Faringdon.