Olive Harvest Season is Ending: Suffering Continues
By: Michaela Schrum Arab America Contributing Writer
Its that time of year again! For the past couple of months, Palestinian farmers have been harvesting olives from the centuries-old trees that have been in Palestinian families for generations. As in previous years, this has been a time for families and friends to gather, to reflect on their family roots, and to be reminded of the challenges that occupation brings.
Palestinian farmers wake up early in the morning to begin their harvest for as long as the Israeli Civil Administration will allow which is normally about three days- even though it would take weeks to harvest all of the olives.
The harvesting of the olives is also a time that has attracted international attention, calling thousands of volunteers from around the world, including allies in Israel to help harvest as many olives as they can before the allotted time runs out and before Israeli settlers can get to the trees.
Throughout the years, there have been several documented incidents where Israeli settlers have come out of the settlements and poisoned or uprooted the olive trees on Palestinian farmers land.
The results of the yearly olive harvest and oil industry provide income for almost 80,000 families in Palestine, according to Al Jazeera. But because of the Israeli prevention of proper harvest and the destruction of trees at the hands of settlers, it is estimated that over $12.3 million is lost in income to farmers every year.
According to The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy, (MIFTAH), olive trees in Palestine are not just an economic tool, but also a symbol of Palestinian attachment to their land and culture. “ Because the trees are drought-resistant and grow under poor soil conditions, they represent Palestinian resistance and resilience. The fact that olive trees live and bear fruit for thousands of years is parallel to Palestinian history and continuity on the land.” These olive trees are some of the oldest in the world, with some being over 4,000 years old.
This deep connection also symbolizes family ties as harvesters think about how previous generations cared for the same exact trees. As this connection deepens, it becomes extremely socially important to care for these trees. So naturally, when olive trees are threatened and Israeli soldiers uproot them as a mode of collective punishment, mass protests follow.
This time of year holds many meanings and symbols of gratitude and joy in the United States; The end of November and beginning of December is recognized as a time to express thanks to each other, and appreciate family gatherings. The olive harvest for many Arab and Palestinian families in the United States fits right in with this time of year. The olive harvest paired with Thanksgiving and the start of the Christmas season help us to remember where we come from, who we are, and our attachment to our roots. It is a time to be with family, rekindle hopes for Palestine’s future and reflect on the success of a new nation to come.