Every fall, Rabbis for Human Rights brings hundreds of volunteers to work side-by-side with Palestinian farmers during our Olive Harvest campaign. Our presence provides protection against possible settler intimidation, enables farmers to pick within the limited number of days that they can safely do so, and has also become an act of solidarity between Israeli Jews and Palestinians. As the fall 2014 harvest season comes to a close, Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann,director of RHR’s Department of Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, updates us on how it went.
This year, we went out fewer days and with fewer volunteers than past years.
Nonetheless, despite the difficult circumstances in the regions with regards to the recent war in Gaza and the wave of violence in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, there were fewer instances of settler violence during the harvest itself and indeed slightly less harm done to the trees and the yield in comparison to last year. There was felt to be a greater presence of the army and police in the field.
Outstanding Areas that were not harvested include:
1. The part within the security boundary of the Itamar settlement – Amjad, the head of the Regional Council of Awarta tells us that local residents have still not received any dates where security will be scheduled to protect the harvest there.
2. The hill between Achiya and the outpost Esh Kodesh – the lands belonging to Jalud. Abdullah, a resident of Jalud, relayed that, despite their appeal that was submitted over a month ago, for more harvest days, it has gone unanswered by the DCO.
Thanks to the assistance of our Legal Department, we have since started dealing with this issue.
Damage to Trees:
On the Detroit Road between Awarta and Aqraba, 16 trees were cut down.
There was additionally harm to the trees caused by the cows belonging to Avri Ran (owner of Givat Olam, a farm built on illegally expropriated Palestinian-owned lands). We submitted a complaint, but the army has as of yet done nothing whatsoever in response.
In Yasuf, 66 mature trees were cut down.
In Burin (next to Givat Ronen), 20 mature trees were cut down.
We also received reports from Ayad, of al-Janiya (near Talmon), regarding harm to a number of trees there, as well.
Also, in Safa (or, Khirbet Safa) in the Hebron area, a number of trees were damaged.
We aided in the return of a donkey that was taken to Yitzhar.
We were involved as well in the event of two children that were run over next to Sinjil, dispatching First Responders immediately and calling the police.
In Yasuf, settlers brutally attacked a woman and her children who were harvesting not far from Kfar Tappuach.
We volunteered in the villages of:
- Deir Istiya
- Safa (Khirbet Safa)
- Tel Rumeida
- Kadum (Kafr Qaddum)
This year, approximately 165 volunteers went out over 15 days to provide assistance and protection to the harvest. Among them were young people, students, the elderly, rabbinical students, members of our staff and board. Additionally, on 4 days we sent out specially organized groups.
In the villages of Deir Istiya and Kadum, there were problems in the dates that were assigned military security due to interference attempts of the Security Coordinator from the nearby settlement. It also resulted in the cessation of work and only as a consequence of our becoming involved were the harvesters allowed to return to the fields to continue their work.
In addition to our volunteers, who went out primarily with Abu Rami on his minibus or with Rabbi Arik Ascherman or Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann in private cars, we coordinated the participation of other organizations, such as: the “Michigan Peace Team” in Burin, the EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel) in Jamma’in, a group of international Buddhist practitioners and activists (led by long-time partner Zohar) in Deir Istiya, and various groups organized by Yaakov Manor in a number of locations.
Over the course of the harvest, new invasions and takeovers were revealed:
In Jamma’in: near the settlement of Kfar Tapuach, a tent was erected inside the olive groves.
In Farata: next to Havat Gilad, no olives were found on the trees and a new caravan had arrived to the field there.
We would like to express our deep appreciation to the dedicated staff and volunteers that enabled our activities to directly aid Palestinian harvesters and cultivate hope during the harvest this year. Thank you very much!
Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann