Since 2001 Israeli military and settlers have destroyed more than 548,000 olive trees and confiscated hundreds of hectares of Palestinian farmland. Earlier this year DCA’s partner Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI) and 37 international volunteers planted 1600 new olive trees in three villages at the occupied territories.
According to JAI, Israel through its military and settlers has destroyed more than 548,000 olive trees that belong to Palestinian farmers. The trees have been uprooted and burnt in order to make way for the construction of the separation barrier, settlements and roads which are only useable for the Israeli settlers.
Olive trees are a highly valuable organic crop and the livelihood of the many Palestinian farmers depends upon the olive tree production.
We are in the Palestinian village Al-Khader, in the Ein Kassis area in the West Bank. Al-Khader is a part of area C; here Israel remains in full control of the area and its resources and the Palestinians are denied access to their land and water resources.
62 percent of the land at the Vest bank is in Area C. In Al-Khader the Palestinian farmers only have access to one water resource; a water well. They are forbidden by the Israeli authorities to dig more wells or create water cisterns.
We arrive at the fields where we get shovels and olive trees. The fields belong to three different farmers and their families.
From the fields we see an Israeli settlement outpost. It is placed about 100 meters further up the hill.
We see caravans which are surrounded by wire fences and manned by Israeli soldiers. Soon this outpost will be transformed into a settlement; a neighborhood with villa houses, playgrounds, supermarkets and high infrastructure.
Few hours later we are standing and looking over the fields, which now host 400 new olive trees. Now the three farmers and their families have crops to support them.
Along the new olive trees are a few old ones; once productive trees, but now burned and destroyed by Israeli settlers.
JAI launched the olive tree campaign in 2002. The Campaign plants new olive trees in areas where the trees have been destroyed or in areas where the fields are threatened to be confiscated by the Israeli military occupation.
As a part of the campaign international volunteers participate each year in the planting activities. JAI has planted more than 80,000 olive trees in hundreds of fields in the West Bank and Gaza.
The trees have helped farmers keep their land and confront the unjust Israeli military actions. The goal is to keep hope alive: To rebuild the Palestinian society and its structures.
By Louise Sellau