At Qalandiya the army distributed sealed cardboard packets containing clear plastic bags holding 15 cucumbers seeds.
A friend showed me the plastic bag. Vivi Suri translated the Arabic text:
“To the residents of the West Bank: the khiar [cucumbers] and the akhtiyar [the choice] are in your hands.
Eliminate the knives and the havoc from your land
And sow hope and progress instead.”
It’s you who are murdering us, not the opposite, said my friend to the officer who’d given him the gift, and asked why the army had chosen cucumbers.
I sensed how insulted my friend felt and his discomfort. Something about his body language and his reluctance and ability to specify just what had offended him made me think that the story had a hidden subtext and the cucumber had a sexual connotation.
I’d heard about the propaganda leaflets the army was distributing. But not about the gifts. I decided it was worth looking into.
Here’s the answer, in chronological order:
It turns out that January is definitely the wrong month for sowing cucumbers – they simply won’t grow said the owner of a plant nursery.
There was a Hebrew text on the back of the plastic bag that led me to the producer of the organic seeds,“Or Hadash” in the Avney Hefetz settlement. I telephoned. I spoke with David who confirmed that it’s not the season to sow cucumbers and told me that the order came from the Ministry of Defense just last week.
And get this: a friend of mine, a language expert, who’d heard the story of the cucumbers, said there’s a saying in Arabic: “A cucumber - sometimes in the mouth, sometimes up the ass.”
After most of the tale of the cucumber had been decoded, Nir Gontej asked me not to release it before Ha’aretz published its weekly supplement. I controlled myself.
It’s been like this for a very long time said a resident of Hizma village as we stood talking and saw military vehicles and an armored police vehicle entering the village.
They don’t miss a day. On a good day it’s only once, more often on days that aren’t so good, but there’s no day without the army here, also at night, in the streets, sometimes on foot, sometimes only in cars, sometimes stopping people, sometimes arresting children, four days ago they arrested a 14-year-old boy.
The soldiers stand all day and all night on the hill past the homes at the edge of the village.
And how’s business? Many customers are afraid to come.
Many of the customers of the shops and garages in the village are Jews, from Jerusalem, Pisgat Ze’ev and Adam. Because here, they say, prices are lower and there’s good quality merchandise. If only the customers would come back and things return to what they had been.