For thousands of years, olive groves have meant food, community, and life in Palestine. The olive tree is viewed by many Palestinians as a symbol of connection to the land, because of their slow growth and longevity. For generations, farmers have tended to these hearty trees, but olive farming in Palestine is now threatened by Israeli settlements.
The olive oil industry supports about 80,000 Palestinian families. Traditionally, harvest time in Palestine has been a time for families, friends and neighbors to come together as a community to work as one until all of the olives are in. It has always been a bonding time of laughter and joyful work. Now, restricted access to olive groves and the threat of violence casts a shadow on this once time of celebration.
Permission from Israeli troops must be granted in order for farmers to go tend to their own land. They are often only given access for a few days during the harvest period. This leaves all of the clearing, watering, trimming, and other types of care undone for the rest of the year. As one Palestinian farmer says in a video by AJ+, “2 days in a year are not enough for 6-7 acres of olives…all this needs work and visiting your land year round.”
In addition, attacks on farmers and their land are frequent and largely uninvestigated by Israeli police. They include acts such as throwing stones at farmers, killing dogs, and burning down olive tree groves, some of which have been growing for hundreds of years. According to Yesh Din, an Israeli advocate group for Palestinian rights, the West Bank district police does not investigate 90 percent of “ideologically motivated crimes” by Israeli citizens against Palestinians. "They do not look for enough evidence. They open the file, and that's it," Eyal Hareuveni, a Yesh Din researcher, told Al Jazeera.
Another farmer told AJ+ that the settlers are hoping Palestinians will, “Abandon and forget the land until the land is dead. Of course after the land dies the trees will die. Then it becomes public land so the occupation forces can control it and after one or two years they put a settlement on it.” But, like the tenacity of the trees themselves, the people of this resolute land do not see themselves giving up anytime soon.