a time for peace

- standing against occupation

olive harvest

The latest UN-OCHA Report, The Olive Harvest in the West Bank and Gaza, reminds us that olives are a centuries-old mainstay of the Palestinian economy, with the soil and climate producing some of the of the world’s highest quality olive oil. The olive tree is also symbolic of Palestinians roots in, and attachment to, the land. Some 45% of agricultural land is planted with an estimated 10 million olive trees, with the potential to produce between 32,000-35,000 metric tons of oil, with up to 100,000 families depending upon the olive harvest for their livelihoods. This year, the olive industry promises to contribute over $123 million (based on 2006/7 figures) to the fragile West Bank economy – that’s 18% of total agricultural production. 

Happily, I’m here just in time to help harvest all those millions of olives! Unhappily, it’s not always very easy to enjoy these harvest parties. In the West Bank, picking olives is often full of friction, conflict, and violence, especially in the vicinity of the Israeli settlements or along the Separation/ Apartheid Wall where there are new outposts of settlers trying to steal the land. Many Palestinian farmers out working in their small fields face incidents of crop theft, tree uprooting, harassment, and physical attack during this time.

Local NGO’s and agencies do what they can to bring internationals into the fields to offer protection by their presence. The YMCA-Joint Advocacy Initiative organizes a 10-day Olive Picking Program and Tour for internationals from all over Europe. Ta’ayush, an Israeli Jewish-Arab political activist group, invites both local peace activists and internationals like EA’s and local interns to the higher risk areas.  And many other organizations send email invitations when they hear of an older farmer who needs some extra help with the labor-intensive harvest of his family’s trees.

In addition to the hardship of harvesting the crops, this UN-OCHA reports tells us that tens of thousands of olive trees have been deliberately uprooted for the construction of the Wall, whose route is 86% on West Bank property. The placement of the Wall undermines the olive farming industry both by the destruction of trees, and by separating the farmers from their olive groves. So much of the essential care of the trees can’t be carried out by the farmers, affecting both the quality and the quantity of the olive yield.  Yet even with all this against them, the farmers here are hopeful – they are looking forward to a good harvest this year.  Those of us who stand with them will certainly do our best to make that happen!

Peace/Salaam – Pastor Pat

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October 17, 2008 - Posted by | Occupation, Palestine, peace

4 Comments »

  1. I can’t imagine what would happen if the corn crop was destroyed or a wall 25 feet tall was put in the way of the farmers in this country. Keep letting us know about the things going on that are unfair. Peace and love.

    Comment by woods | October 19, 2008 | Reply

  2. Pr. Pat; We are getting quite an education, thanks to you. I hear you but can’t imagine living in such a transitory fashion. It is so sad; we are accustomed to much more structure and certainty, and definitely more safety. Sound like you are surrounded by much faith, teamwork and love! Peace, Love and Safety, Pat F.

    Comment by Pat F. | October 20, 2008 | Reply

  3. Awesome photos here! Is that big tree behind you and the little boy an olive tree, too? Do you work with the same farm families all harvest, or are you in new areas each time, etc?

    Comment by Dan | October 20, 2008 | Reply

  4. Thanks for the comments! Yes Pastor Dan, that was a somewhat younger olive tree that was behind me and my new friend down in Hebron just outside the Old City!

    When we go harvesting, it is generally in different places. If there is danger from settlers or soldiers, which brings us to the field, what we get in one day is often all we’re going to get – which is why we try to harvest in big groups. Sometimes the settlers steal from the farmers trees; sometimes the farmer only gets a one day permit; sometimes there are just too many who need our help in high risk areas, so we have to move on.

    We miss some but I am reminded of scripture’s instruction: “When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the alien, the fatherless and the widow.” Deuteronomy 24:20
    salaam – Pastor Pat

    Comment by patwoods | October 20, 2008 | Reply


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