Zyara, a personal journey of discovery          Khareef (Autumn) 2010

 Humble, gracious, fruitful, and deeply rooted that tree is, just like the people who look after it.

Did you know that Palestine is home to over 10 million olive trees?*

Olive harvest in Palestine is a way of life for farming families spending their harvesting days in their groves, turning October and part of November into picnics on their land. A heritage carried on the shoulders of farming villages and the livelihood of its families; either turning the picked ‘fruit’ to pickles feeding the families for the rest of the year, or pressing them for oil, constituting family income.

Described as a ‘labour intensive practice’ by one of the ladies in our group, Zyara Khareef (autumn) visit to Palestine was honoured to take part in this national event.

The first tree we picked produced one and a half sacks of olives (sack capacity 50-55 Kg). 1 Kg of olives sells for 5 Sheikels (around $1.5), so 9 ladies work of nearly two hours amounted to $123 worth of olives for the family.

We were pampered by the family and their friends, with lots of tea and coffee breaks and a warm welcome from many who came to pay us a visit just to have a chat.

Two interesting facts we learned about olives:

1-     Ba’el is the name referred to an olive tree that is not watered. Olives from such trees are used for pressing oil. Olives picked from watered trees are used only for pickling (ras3 or kabees) consumption.

2-     An olive tree not heavily bearing olives is left to turn its production to black olives. How enlightening to know that the farmer abides by the decision of the tree for the season.

We picked two types of olive trees: Baladi type, the smaller olive of the two, used directly for pickling, and Nibali, a larger olive that can be de-stoned and stuffed with a variety of vegetables before pickling.

Family members remember when every tree was planted (if during their life) or tell you stories about how they used to help their parents or grand parents look after the land and the tree when they were young children. They teach you how to pick olives gently.

This was in Badaan village (North East Nablus).

Did you know that Israel has uprooted more than 460,000 olive trees in the West Bank and Gaza (between Sep 2000 and Dec 2005)?

(Ref  http://www.poica.org/editor/case_studies/view.php?recordID=903 )

Whether to build the separation wall, clear agricultural land for ‘security’ or ‘military’ use, or confiscate land for colonies or their expansion, the Palestinians end up witnessing the murder of their livelihoods (uprooting, burning, or chopping of olive trees) and rape of their land.

Bureen Village (Southwest Nablus), visited by Zyara, is a living testament to all that. Attacking villagers, poisoning their sheep, stealing horses, unleashing wild boars and stray dogs to destroy crops, setting homes and trees on fire, and threatening to destroy the village mosque are some of the horror stories told.

This is one of the ‘little Nakba’s’ Palestinians continue to live.

A Little Nakba is taking place in a neighbourhood, street, village, town, or city while you’re reading these lines.

A Little Nakba on Al Qirsh Family when settlers forced themselves onto their home in Jerusalem Old City while they were attending a wedding.

A Little Nakba on Al Bustan neighbourhood in Silwan area to demolish 88 houses and build a Garden, and a similar Nakba on Sheikh Jarrah residents, already made homeless in 48 as they fled the west side of Jerusalem.

Walking through Al Shuhada ghost street of Hebron, where Hebronites cannot walk unless they were Jews is another Nakba. But so is the sewage flooding of crops and farmers fields in Beit Ommar.

Is it not a Nakba when your village is not recognised by the state? A state much younger than the village, but controls its power supplies and water pipes.

Is there another place where discrimination among citizens (by Law, institutional, or community driven) is directed towards the indigenous population?

Did we meet a man who wasn’t imprisoned at some stage in his life, at least once? Hardly..!!! Tiny Nakba’s to suit families.

No closures mentioned yet, no curfews or checkpoints, no monstrous walls and stealing of water wells.

So where does the energy and the determination come from? To go to school? To perform a dance or a drama play? To pick every olive with such care? To sing tunes of resistance and steadfastness? To dream of a beloved homecoming? To paint a canvas or excel in a sport? To play Jazz or be part of a growing rap movement? To host a vibrant beer festival? Or even to smile to a passing stranger? To welcome visitors into their lives as they did with us every single moment.

Their deep belief in the power of humanity and the short life span of injustices is not matched by anything witnessed previously in one’s life. The capacity to dream for a better world is endless. That is the beauty of visiting Palestine. A simple Zyara will enable you to discover. From a simple act of picking an olive from a tree, one will discover the relationship between man and land.

Humble, gracious, fruitful, and deeply rooted that tree is, just like the people who look after it.

* According to local and international statistics, there are more than 10 million olive trees in Palestine, comprising about 938,000 dunums of land. A dunum is about a quarter of an acre. About 24 million tons of olive oil are produced in a good year, though less has been produced in recent years. The wall runs through these lands, separating about 40,000 dunums and preventing landowners from reaching them. In the past year, settlers have destroyed about 13 million trees, most of them olive trees. (source: Palestine News network)

The first tree we picked, Badaan Village

The mosque in Bureen targeted by the settlers.

Part of Al Bustan neighbourhood, marked for demolition to build a garden.

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