For many Palestinians, volunteer work helps build social solidarity

As world marks International Human Solidarity Day, volunteer committee in Nablus helps protect Palestinians from settler attacks.

For many Palestinians, volunteer work helps build social solidarity

At the dawn of one day, during the olive harvesting season last October, Mohammed Zawahreh woke up around 6 a.m. to the sound of his mobile phone ringing.

It was a call from a Palestinian family in the village of Yasuf in the south of Nablus asking for help as they had been exposed to violent attacks by radical settlers of the Kfar Tapuach settlement. In that particular attack, the settlers took farming tools by force to their settlement.

“Within a few hours, we were in Yasuf to support and protect them. We are from all the governorates in the West Bank to create strong relations between the components of the Palestinian society,” said Zawahreh, the media coordinator for the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee.

The volunteer youth joined the family in harvesting the olive trees despite the violation after the army declared the area a military closed area.

“The soul of the activity gives the people a feeling of hope and safety, and this means a lot to us,” he told Anadolu Agency.

One day after the attack, the volunteers went to the settlement and took the tools for their owners: Palestinian farmers.

The people of the villages near the settlements face danger from frequent attacks by the settlers, so the committee intensified its activities there based on their annual plan which focuses on collaborative work during the harvesting seasons and protection teams on the main roads where settlers always attack Palestinian families on their way to the fields.

“That call was one of the most decisive moments in my volunteer work that let me evaluate our responsibility to provide support and protection to our people,” he added.

Zawahreh and his friends from several universities launched a voluntary initiative one year ago to provide support and protection to the people of the villages who risk having their land confiscated by the ongoing settler attacks,"

The initiative is called ”Faz’a” in the local dialect, which means “collective cooperation.”

“The traditional Palestinian culture inspired us for this name, which comes from an old tradition between the villagers during harvesting time. They used to help each other with the work. But today, we aren’t going just to help but also to protect the people,” he said.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Zawahreh mentioned that the teams of the initiative were exposed to many assaults and violations either by Israeli soldiers or radical settlers and some of them were arrested during their solidarity with the farmers.

“With my phone camera, I documented tens of attacks against us. But we will never stop protecting our people and lands,” he said.

According to Zawahreh, the initiative is a serious trial to create a situation of solidarity between Palestinians as a daily culture and to make the community feel that it can support and protect each other.

During the harvesting days, the volunteers used to prepare their food in the fields and share ideas and traditional songs.

“By our traditional and honest culture, we can be as one hand. During the harvesting days, many relations were created between the volunteers and with the lands. This is the real wealth for the volunteer work to keep making its critical role,” he added.

The villages near the settlements and the separation wall are exposed to escalating attacks by the radical settlers particularly during the times of harvesting since the Israeli government exerts pressure to speed up the process of confiscating lands in favor of the enlargement of the settlements.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that from January to November, Jewish settlers carried out 427 attacks in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

There are more than 250 illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank, which Israel occupied in 1967.

More than 500,000 Jewish settlers are living in the West Bank and making life more difficult for Palestinians, the original owners of the land.

Under international law, all Jewish settlements in the occupied territories are considered illegal.