We have so far worked in the following villages: Dir Istiya, Jamain, Awarta, Burin, Sinjil, Sawya, Harres and Bilin. We have averaged about ten volunteers going out per day, but there were four days when the bus was full, i.e. 20+, and the group of (approximately 15) rabbinic students who went out last Friday. Since we have had 14 picking days that approximates at about 180 volunteer days in the field.
The volunteers were mainly Israelis, but we have had some foreigners as well, mainly from Zohar’s Buddhist group, but also some Americans (mostly Jews) and Germans. Twice we had foreign journalists go out with us – German t.v. (national) and The Irish Times, and once Noam of the “Social TV“.
There have been no special problems with the army or settlers during these coordinated days but we have heard many stories of harassment from settlers and sometimes army, and damage to trees. We have also ourselves experienced harassment of our Minibus driver Abu Rami, and the volunteers at the “Sharei Shomron” checkpoint (between Ariel and the coast – a private company subcontracted to the Ministry of Defence). The bus has been held up for very thorough and humiliating searches on at least three occasions, twice for an hour or more. We have lodged complaints about this.
We know of theft of olives in a couple of places, particularly in Farrata near Havat Gilad (Palestinians do not access there other than with army protection a few days a year) where more than 100 trees were completely stripped of their olives. In Yanoun, Krayut, Ein Abus and Mureyer there were reports of extensive damage to trees, approximately 350 trees. The main damage was through cutting down of most of the tree but leaving a stump (Mureir) but there were also cases of arson, and use of poison (for instance in Krayut).
These are photos of our friend Kamal happily picking olives a few days ago near the radical and illegal settlement “Givat HaRoeh”. This was a day with army protection and presence of about 10 volunteers from RHR. As you can see Kamal is showing the V for victory sign as he is delighted to finally have access to his own trees there! This would not have happened without our help.
If you found this story important/shocking/touching, and you want to help us to change the situation, please donate here and strengthen the Jewish voices that see in every human being the image of God.