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As Christmas approaches and the weather gets colder, it is difficult to picture that in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, in the heart of the West Bank, the sun is still shining brightly as the olive harvest comes to an end.
This year’s olive harvest has been particularly tough for Palestinian farmers living under military occupation. Violent attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinians have escalated by over 50 per cent in 2011 compared to 2010. Settlers have also destroyed or damaged nearly 10,000 Palestinian crops, including olive trees, during this year, undermining the livelihoods of hundreds of families. The perpetrators act with virtual impunity, with over 90 per cent of complaints of settler violence closed by the Israeli police without indictment in 2005-2010.
Top: Pilgrim lighting a candle in the church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Middle: left, Umm Fathi an olive grove farmer from Sinjil and right, Palestinian women chat in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Bottom: Fathi Shabaneh and Rebhi Hosen standing in front of their olive groves. Many olive trees were destroyed by settlers.
All Photos: Mark Condren.
According to Trócaire’s partner organisation, Rabbis for Human Rights, “for Palestinian farmers, settler violence against them or their property is a practically a daily occurrence”. Rabbis for Human Rights is a human rights organisation which challenges aggression from Israeli settlers and the Israeli military, taking individual cases to the Israeli military and courts.
Trócaire supporters have also provided much needed assistance to Palestinian olive farmers through the Global Gift of an olive tree. Gamiel Hassan Hader, an 87-year-old Palestinian farmer had a field of 1000 olive trees destroyed by Israeli settlers.
“The settlers uprooted and burned all the olive trees,” said Gamiel. He complained to the Israeli authorities “but they didn’t do anything, even though the land is just below the standing security cameras of the Army”.
Gamiel has received 500 olive tree saplings through Rabbis for Human Rights, and they have made a huge difference to his family.
“If they had not helped me replant there the settlers would have stolen my land and they would have continued expanding into other neighbouring lots,” he said. “This action helps me survive on a daily basis. Olive trees live a long time and can give fruit for a long time. This will eventually help me live off the sale of oil and the olives.”
This year you can buy the gift of fruit trees for famers in Guatemala. The gift of a small orchard will supply a family in Guatemala with nutritious avocados, lemons, oranges and papaws to eat for many years to come.
See what happened when we visited a busy marketplace in Jerusalem and asked 50 ordinary people 1 extraordinary question.