Wednesday, November 5, 2008

ISM Gaza reports from the Olive Harvest Campaign 2008 in the ‘buffer zone’

Posted on the ISM webpage: November 5, 2008

This is a compilation of reports of Olive Harvest in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya, 11th, 13th, 16th & 30th October

Video by Fida Qishta

ISM Gaza Strip volunteers living in the Gaza Strip have been assisting farmers living in the Buffer Zone areas of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya with their olive harvest during the month of October. In 2005, Israeli Occupation forces declared a 500 meter wide area, deep into the rich agricultural land of Gaza Strip, as a “Buffer Zone”. The entire Eastern border of Gaza Strip has become a desert in the past few years, while once it fed and sustained the 1.5 million residents, most of it is now empty fields of dirt, with maybe a lone tree, reminding all that the land was once full of olive, clementines, lemon, orange, date and many other trees and crops.

The morning starts off with lots of vibrant singing of Palestinian folk songs and as the day progresses, there is less singing and more chatting back and forth between the olive harvesters. There is always a strong spirit and of course the very welcoming tradition of offering Arabic coffee and tea throughout the day. If the harvest lasts through the lunch time, food is prepared and brought to the field, plastic is spread out on the ground and everyone sits as delicious Palestinian food is served.

Presently it is still dangerous for the Palestinian farmers to go to their land, even just to stand there, the Israeli occupation force soldiers are still based at the borders and they still shoot at farmers seen in the fields. The idea of planting crops to harvest is a dream for the future to many farmers. Yet some farmers have succeeded to replant their olive trees for the third or forth time, and a few very fortunate farmers still have their older olive trees to harvest. It is these farmers the ISM Gaza Strip volunteers have been harvesting olives with, those farmers who have been steadfast in nonviolently resisting the Israeli Occupation and the Siege by continuing to farm under the imminent threat of having all their crops and irrigation systems destroyed yet again.

Some of the groves have been small, maybe half a dozen or so trees and the trees have been young, just a few years old – replanted for the third or forth time. Two groves have been large, with the lucky older trees that have somehow succeeded to survive the death blows of the Israeli bulldozers and tanks and Israeli occupation force soldiers. Three times the ISM volunteers have traveled from Gaza City to Beit Hanoun (11th, 13th, & 30th) and once to Beit Lahiya (16th October), to join the Local Initiative Group to pick the olives, a vital and locally produced food source for the Palestinian people. Olives, olive oil and olive oil soap are traditions of Palestinian livelihood that go back decades. If the Israeli soldiers are not prevented from continuing the destruction of the olive trees, this tradition could be gone forever.