Every year, between October and November, Rashid and his family prepare for the olive harvest season. Olives and olive oil are the main or secondary source of income for tens of thousands of Palestinian families in the West Bank and also provide employment for quite a few women from the Arab community. This time of year is accompanied by wonderful weather and renewed growth, and many gather for the harvest all over the country and Palestinian territories. Unfortunately, the Palestinian farmers, including Bashir and his family, have to deal with a rather complicated reality.
Together with the ״Combatants for Peace״ organization, we visited the Palestinian family in Awarta - a Palestinian village in the Nablus district, Palestinian Authority. The village is located in a small valley between the settlements that dominate it from above, one of the best known of which is “Itamar”. Palestinian farmers suffer encounters from the settlements around them. These prevent them from making a safe living from the olive trees on which their livelihood is based. This is manifested in burning olive trees, physical violence, stealing sheep, breaking equipment, and more. According to UN reports, more than 6,200 trees (mostly olive trees) have been damaged in the incidents recorded since the beginning of 2019, almost half of them in the Nablus district.
The manual harvest is the traditional and ancient way of picking olives. This method requires a lot of manpower and is still very common in Israel, especially in Palestinian territories. Most Palestinian farmers use cloth sheets that are sliced under the olive trees and the sprouted olives are dropped into the ground. At the end of the harvest the sheets are collected and the olives on them are poured into sacks or crates. Shortly afterward, the olives are transferred to the oil mill to produce the oil.
Palestinian farmers, whose lands are located in the "seam area" (a strip that extends on both sides of the "Green Line"), need special permits or "early coordination" from the Israeli army to enter their lands. The license allows entry for only several weeks a year. When the harvest is over, they will not be able to return to their lands until spring.
To support farmers who are adversely affected by the situation and maintain a status quo, humanitarian organizations implement a range of activities in the area, coordinating the task force for defense matters, including harvest presence, legal assistance in case of need, and social and defensive support.