By Brian Wood
Mahmud was a tall, strong young man. His black hair and thick eyebrows hinted at a shy nature, but he was a born leader. His popularity reigned among the families of Jenin’s refugee camp, the West Bank, and the surrounding Arab countries. Mahmud feared nothing but submission to Israeli occupation. Working to end this occupation, which encapsulated his every breath on Earth, was how he spent his waking hours.
When boys are learning how to drive a car in some countries, Mahmud was training to defend his siblings and parents and home from the thieves who came in the night with heavy weapons—by air and by the infamous Haifa road of Jenin, that which leads back to their original homes. The road back home is laid waste by tank tracks, but home, Haifa, can never be expunged from their blood or dreams.
When the Israelis came on April 3, 2002, everyone knew it was going to be big. Mahmud led his fighters into the night, but not before holding his baby daughter close, kissing his wife, and praying with his mother. He rescued people from burning buildings, worked covertly to deliver food and bread to those trapped in their homes and valiantly defended the camp, all while fasting and praying. His legacy endures so large that no length of time will ever erase his name or deeds from the annals of Jenin’s valiant history.
Thaer and Amin lived and died as brothers. They roamed around the camp and Jenin city together. Their favorite hangout after their homes were bulldozed in April 2002 was the skeleton of a home in the center of the camp. They sat in plastic chairs in the day time and slept on thin, worn out mattresses at night among debris and empty plastic 2-litre bottles. Amin was with three friends riding in a car November 7, 2004 when undercover Israeli soldiers pulled up next to them and unloaded dozens of bullets into the car. None survived. Six weeks later, Christmas day, Thaer died alone in a four story apartment building that was bulldozed while he was inside.
Rajab always wore a dorky smile and made silly jokes that made everyone laugh. An innocent, naive young man with brown hair, his eyes were somehow empty and hopeful at once. He was unemployed with no means, but still managed to take friends out for kifta sandwiches made fresh in a little cart in downtown Jenin.
Abu Michel is a highly intelligent man educated in Moscow years ago. In the 80’s he handwrote a well-documented 300 page book on the war in 1948 and the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem. It was never photocopied and was written before the digital age. One day Israel soldiers came to his home and among the things they took with them was this manuscript. His greatest pride, however, is his first born son who has been at the top of his class since he started school.
It is for people like these, and many others, that Mountain High Imports was started. We seek to bring extra virgin Palestinian olive oil to US markets in the belief that it is one of the best olive oils produced around the world. At the same time, purchases of Palestinian olive oil are a way for people in the US to support Palestinian farmers and their unions or cooperatives without leaving home. To that end, Mountain High Imports donates 50 cents from every bottle of its Sumud brand olive oil to the Trees for Life Campaign, which gives individual farmers new olive saplings to replenish their decimated groves. Further, all profits from sales are used to make larger purchases from the farmers and increase our distribution network in the US.
We encourage everyone who has gone to Palestine or wishes to do so to place an order with us. It will be shipped right to your door and makes a great gift for birthdays, dinner parties, or holidays. For those who visited Palestine, this small purchase is a way to say thank you to those who hosted and fed you while you were there.
We also welcome solidarity and church groups who would like to order larger quantities to distribute through their networks or at their offices. Bulk pricing will apply.
For us at Mountain High Imports, we remember the sacrifices that people in Jenin continue to make to create decent lives for themselves, their families, and their people. We cannot zap our friends out of their situation, so we stand along side them seeking to support their steadfastness in a small way as they seek liberation and self-determination. The question is will you join with us?