Land Rights Now – Muna Asous – Burin, Palestine

“I know I can’t change everything, but I can be part of the change.” Muna Asous

Three years ago, at the end of youth camp, I was asked, along with other camp members, to suggest an idea for a project. I proposed to begin working on a deserted plot of land in my community that had olive trees on it, with hopes of restoring it, to help my community, and protect the land from land grabbers. But my idea was rejected because there were too many problems with it. One reason was because boys and girls were separated and not allowed to work together, but I didn’t accept this rejection and I decided to work on this project on my own. I went to businesses to ask for help, but I was turned down. I didn’t give up and I challenged those who doubted me by asking them to come and see me after one week, during harvest time. I gathered all of my friends, both boys and girls, and I ended up with 70 volunteers! Each person brought with them something that we needed, and we all worked together, learning and teaching each other how to pick olives, make olive oil, and sell it. With the money we made, we purchased heaters for our school to keep the students warm during the harsh winter weather. I also encouraged other young students to volunteer, instead of spending long hours on their phones and on social media. Because I didn’t give up, I created a network of young helpers and together, we produced results.

Burin is a small village surrounded by mountains in the Nablus Governorate, on Palestine’s West Bank. I am a member of the Slow Food Nablus Convivium. The people of Burin planted vegetables to eat and built springs to provide the village with clean drinking water. But because of water contamination caused by chemicals coming from nearby camps occupied by the military, and land grabbers who have taken control of the springs, many of our villagers must now buy the water from their own land if they want to drink it. Land grabbers are protected by the military, whereas villagers have no rights or protection. This reality makes it harder for us to stand up to those who oppose us or create organizations to fight these threats.

My dream is to feel like a free person because I don’t know what it feels like to truly be free. I want to be able to walk in my village at night, without fear for my safety from settlers who are trying to grab the land and without the possible dangers that are associated with the strong military presence in my village. Villagers work together to fight off settlers and we send each other warnings when soldiers are approaching the village, but this difficult task doesn’t do much to change or improving our way of life.

I know that I can’t change everything, but I’m dedicated to doing what I can with the help of my friends to help our village and our people and become part of the change.

Written with Nancy Monperousse

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