by Sarah MacDonald
My teammate, Laura, and I spent the morning with a very dear family from Tuba, helping them harvest. A couple weeks earlier, we had also visited this family; I learned how to use a sickle that day – and discovered that harvesting grain by hand is back-wrenching work. This time we were gathering the sheaves, stacking and tying them into enormous bundles for the donkey to carry home. This, too, is hard work, hot and dusty, the stalks of grain scratchy and sharp as sticks. Yet it was one of the most joyful experiences I’ve had in the South Hebron hills.
All morning I kept recalling Psalm 126, a song that both celebrates and longs for the return of an exiled people to the land they love. The psalm ends in a blend of confidence and yearning: “Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy. May those who go out weeping, carrying their seed for sowing, come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves.”
I think there’s something inherently joyful in gathering a harvest. Even more so when it’s a bountiful harvest following years of drought (as three of the last four years have been in the South Hebron hills). Most of all, I found that morning so beautiful because it offered me a glimpse of the way life could and should be in Palestine.
We were working in an area where Israeli settlers and soldiers were unlikely to attack. So Laura and I set down our video cameras and our binoculars and joined in the labor. For a short while, I could stop thinking about the occupation and the violence and grief it sows. For a time, I could just revel in the joy of harvest, the hopefulness of carrying home the sheaves.
As I leave Palestine this time, I carry with me this precious memory, and a renewed conviction that the seeds of love and nonviolence someday will result in a harvest of justice and peace.