It is early morning. The sun is spilling its rays over the horizon ~ there is a soft breeze. The hills are bathed in light ~ the air filled with birdsong. I am in the village of Umm al Amad with one of my teammates. We have been asked to provide protective presence for the plowing season as the village lands in the adjacent valley are quite close to the illegal settlement of Otni’el. The settlers can be very aggressive toward the farmers, enlisting the help of the army. It has been shown that the presence of internationals is a deterrent, and thus we are in high demand during this busy season.
It is a quiet morning, the farmers’ work only attracting the attention of 2 white settlement security trucks and 1 Israeli army jeep. They park on the hill just under the settlement, keeping their distance. But it’s a good vantage point from which to observe our every move. Whether it is our presence or the fact that these lands have recently been returned to the villagers after 15 years of being prevented access, we are grateful for the calm that pervades the valley
Mohammed takes his red bucket full of barley seed and begins to scatter it about. I watch Mohammed’s son, Fadal, as he carefully outfits the donkey with harness and plow. He leads the donkey to the sown field full of rocks, weeds, and thistles. He digs the old iron plow into the hard soil. Pressing on the “handle” with one hand and on a metal rod with the other, he utters a few words the donkey apparently understands, and they are off ~ slowly and methodically they move up and down the field. The furrows are amazingly uniform. As I sit on a rock listening to father and son, I am transported to another time ~ another place. It’s a first century scene to which I am witness.
“There was a sower who went out to sow … some seed fell on stony ground, some among thistles, some on good ground …” Mohammed and Fadal are shepherds, and the barley they sow in their fields will feed their flocks. The ground is rocky and full of thistles. Some seed will grow and some will not. But the rains will come and the sheep will have food ~ In the quiet of the morning, I reflect on the deeper meaning of this ancient story ~ I wonder what it is that we are sowing with our lives? Seeds of mistrust, revenge and hatred? ~ Or seeds of understanding, compassion and love?
I am brought back to the present moment by the sound of Mohammed and Fadal preparing to move to an adjacent field. I get up from my rocky perch and walk further down the valley. The security cars and army jeep have moved away. I note that the second field is much less rocky and thorny. As Mohammed scatters the seed from his red bucket, I wonder if this field will produce a better harvest than the neighboring one ~ If we were to clear the soil of our hearts of the accumulated stones and thistles, might we create the conditions whereby we would reap a more bountiful harvest ~ one in which the green shoots of justice would spread throughout our troubled world? ~ May we live in ways that will make it so.