In Palestine, the month of October is synonymous with the annual olive harvest.
According to the United Nations monitoring group OCHA, nearly half of all cultivated land in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip is planted with olive trees, and the olive oil industry constitutes 25 percent of the territories’ agricultural income.
Though the olive harvest is traditionally a festive time, the hostile presence of Israeli settlers who attack Palestinian farmers means that it has also become one of violence.
Over the last week we have been accompanying families who have encountered problems with settlers with the aim of supporting them to harvest their olives and bear witness to any attacks should they arise. Many of the families we have supported have olive groves very close to settlements or settlers’ houses. Luckily we did not face any confrontation from settlers or the army but fellow volunteers have told me that international presence alone acts as a deterrent.
In the last post I spoke about Um Fadi and her family. We spent a couple of days picking olives with them because a settler had been cycling up and down a path next to their field the day before. The illegal settlement, Revava, is situated next to their olive grove and is still undergoing further expansion.
Once we had finished picking olives there we moved to their other grove which is next to a an army watch tower.
We also picked with a family in Jama’iin for a couple of days. This family had been harrassed by settlers who live in a house next to their grove and had trespassed onto their land to tell them to leave. While we were there the settlers did not trespass again but they did come out with binoculars and took pictures of us.
Today we went to Assawiya and harvested with another family. Their grove is surrounded by another expanding settlement and they have struggled to gain permission from the Israeli army to harvest their own land. Once again it seemed a peaceful day until we were leaving and noticed that three soldiers were coming down the hill towards us. We don’t know how long they had been there for but they turned back as they saw we were leaving.
Despite the unwanted visitors we have had a good week – we have shared stories and laughed a lot with the different families and they have thanked us for our solidarity. I have loved getting to know them, practising my Arabic, eating delicious food, climbing trees and getting my hands dirty!!