General, Occupied Territories, Parasha / E-Letter

The hope that this year will be our final olive harvest

0 Comments 04 October 2017

When Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled in response to RHR’s 2006 petition that the army must intervene in order to allow Palestinian farmers to safely harvest their olives, we at Rabbis for Human Rights were jubilant and optimistic. We were certain we had brought this issue to a close and could now shift gears to work on preventing other human rights abuses suffered by Palestinians. 

RHR field director Zakaria Sadah stands with harvest volunteer as he coordinates with the army

RHR field director Zakaria Sadah stands with harvest volunteer as he coordinates with the army

Eleven years have now passed, and autumn is again upon us. The Jewish festival of Sukkot is beginning, and Palestinian olive farmers are busy preparing for the impending harvest. To our disappointment, we at Rabbis for Human Rights are also preparing for the harvest.

To our disappointment because —despite the Court’s ruling— we continue to find we must coordinate with the Israeli authorities to ensure a safe and complete harvest for Palestinian farmers in Area C of the West Bank. The legal victory we fought so hard to achieve has yet to reach the fields and the obligation to protect the rights of Palestinians has not been internalized by the army. Extremist settler violence has not decreased, trees are still destroyed, and too often the army takes the easy way out of situations where Palestinians are threatened by declaring the area in question a closed military zone. Yes, violence and confrontations are avoided that way, but harvesting is prevented. In the end, the army’s ‘solutions’ are always detrimental to the Palestinians. Still we must struggle to ensure Palestinians exercise their basic right to earn their livelihoods from the harvest in dignity and in safety.

Therefore we plan, prepare, and schedule with the Palestinian farmers on the one hand, and do the same with the army on the other. We don’t publicize our plans until the day we actually go out to the field, partially because of unpredictable weather but mainly because we have learned that if extremist settlers get advanced notice the threat of attacks on Palestinians increases. Even the fear of this alone could cause the army to completely cancel an entire day’s harvest.

And so, year after year, we find ourselves coordinating with the relevant authorities in the field, bringing out scores of volunteers to harvest side-by-side with Palestinians, and employing the numerous tactics and strategies we have learned over the years to oblige the army to enforce Israel’s highest court’s ruling. Over and over again, we have to deal with the same problems.

Every year as the harvest season approaches I pray this will be the last year we will need to intervene.  Every year I hope the harvest will proceed smoothly and successfully without our help.

Every year I pray our nation will have come closer to a reality where human rights are respected so that we at RHR can invest less work in this direct activism, and more in education for the future generation. But every year I discover again just how critical our presence and aid is for so many Palestinian olive farmers.

Forty years of wandering in the desert in sukkahs (temporary dwellings) was necessary for our ancestors to reach their final destination. Forty years of temporary structures before they finally could rest in their permanent homeland. But the occupation is already in its fiftieth year, and at present there seems to be no end in sight to the complex reality of this region and of the world.

Nevertheless we continue to hope this will be our final year of efforts with the olive harvest, and that next year we too will reach our permanent homeland— one where the human rights and dignity of all people, including the Palestinian farmers, are respected as our Jewish tradition demands. Please donate today in honor of Sukkot and show us you are journeying alongside us to this final destination.

Thank you and have a blessed and joyful holiday.

ayala cropped 2Ayala Levy
Executive Director
Rabbis for Human Rights

Special thank you to Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann for translation.


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