I recently had the pleasure of joining Rabbis for Human Rights on an olive harvest in the Shomron Valley. I didn’t attend the trip to make a political statement, but simply saw my presence as an opportunity to help a farmer make an honest living. Anyone who knows me knows that rustling through olive trees isn’t exactly my forte. The sun was hot, the leaves made my skin itch, and after 20 minutes my hands were caked in dirt. But as I stood rustling the leaves (and quietly bemoaning the fact that I had hours of work ahead of me), I realized how lucky I am. I get to choose what I do and when I do it. I get to decide how I want to earn a living and know that in times of trouble, my parents will always support me. I suddenly viewed this experience, not only as an opportunity to help someone else, but as a day-long reminder to be grateful and appreciative of my life.
After having this epiphany, I shook each tree with a little more vigor and finally embraced my inner olive-harvester. The farmer must have noticed because he motioned to me to follow him. We trudged down a hill until we came to a small patch of land. He began giving me orders in Arabic. Since I don’t speak any Arabic, I relied on his body language, and my intuition. We broke twigs and made a fire. Then he pointed to a small shrub. On it sat an ancient looking kettle. I brought it to him and we made tea. Then he pointed to small bags scattered around the land. As I collected each one, I found bread, vegetables, and water. I brought them to him and he began to slice and dice, rambling in Arabic as he went. I’m not exactly sure what he was saying, but I responded in English. Despite speaking different languages, our conversation flowed nicely. After preparing one of the most simple, yet beautiful meals I’ve ever seen, we called the group over and had lunch, then returned to work for a few more hours of olive picking. When reflecting on this experience, I realize that human interaction doesn’t need to be based on a shared culture, political ideology, or even common language. Instead, it can be the mere result of someone desiring to give help and the other grateful to receive it.