Occupied Territories

This Fall, Palestinian Olive Farmers Need Your Support!

0 Comments 07 September 2017

By Zakaria Sadah, Director, Field Work in the Occupied Territories


This fall, Palestinian farmers need your support. September is here and as the annual olive harvest approaches, the olives, green, purple, and black, are growing plump and ripening, making the West Bank— my home — so wonderfully beautiful. Of course, those olives are on the trees that have not been chopped down, burned, or poisoned by extremist settlers.

With your generous donation, we can protect those trees and help ensure Palestinian olive farmers from more than 35 villages in the West Bank complete the masik (olive harvest) free of violence from extremist settlers or army interference.

The staggering beauty of the olive trees in the West Bank is undeniable, but the calm and peace that radiate from these ancient groves is sadly deceptive. For over a decade now I have worked with RHR’s dedicated staff and rabbis. Together we have established successful strategies to ensure that Palestinian farmers are able to safely and completely harvest their olives. We recruit dozens of volunteers — Jewish, Israeli, and international — to pick side by side in solidarity and friendship with Palestinian farmers. The presence of the volunteers is a moving show of respect and fellowship that also, critically, deters extremists from violence and threats. RHR also serve as liaisons with the Israeli army, ensuring the farmers are permitted to enter their groves as guaranteed by Israeli law. Over the years, my Palestinian friends, family, and neighbors have come to trust Rabbis for Human Rights, and they do not hesitate to let us know their needs.

The olive harvest is supposed to be a time of joy and community cooperation for Palestinians. Women, men, and children come together in the fields and accompany the hard work with songs, laughter, and food. Afterwards, we gather at small local olive presses and turn the bitter fruit into savory table olives, golden, fragrant olive oil, and luxurious olive soap. But for farmers in Area C who have found their historical lands increasingly encroached upon by settlements and outposts and threatened by violent Jewish settlers, the harvest is a time of worry and anxiety. Will the masik proceed unhindered? Will the olives be stolen, will guns be brandished and assaults made? Who will be hurt —or worse— this year?

In 2016, the UN body OCHA recorded 26 incidents of harvest-related settler violence and property damage. This number is down from 33 in 2015, but for those of us who value human rights, and especially for us Palestinians, this is 26 incidents too many. Hundreds and even thousands of trees are destroyed each year.

Last year RHR brought out 130 volunteers for 16 days of hard work harvesting and sorting olives. This October we will continue this tradition, but the costs increase and become harder to cover: There are buses to book for our volunteers, gas to purchase, drivers to pay, and staff expenses. Each day in the field can easily cost upwards of $800. We are blessed to have large foundations helping support this work, but we rely on people like you to make up the difference. We are so grateful for each and every donation, in any amount, but if forty of you can commit to $108 dollars each, that will cover the total bus expenses for eight full days of harvesting in the West Bank. Rest assured your contribution will truly make a difference to farmers from villages such as Burin, Awarta, Yassuf and Jit — the village where I myself was born and now raise my young family. Be sure to select “olive tree campaign” in the projects pull down menu from our online donation page.

zakaria cropped olives

Zakaria Sadah

Thank you so much.  I hope to see you one day soon in the groves.

Zakaria Sadah, Director, Agricultural Work in the Occupied Territories

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