Tag archive for "harvest"

General, Occupied Territories

Recurring Attacks on Palestinian Plowing: March 2013 Report

1 Comment 17 April 2013

“They also placed metal spikes on the ground that punctured the tires of the tractors.” | cc: wikimedia

Rabbis for Human Rights has been in contact throughout the plowing season with Palestinian landowners from the villages Jit, Far’ata, Aimtan, Sara, Tel, Kufr Kadum, Burin, Madma, Hawara, ‘Urif, Ein Abus, Awarta, Beit Furik (above the Itamar settlement), Rujib, Salem, Dir Hatib, Azmut, Sinjil, Karyut, Mahms (near Migron) and Mureir. Despite our repeated requests of Israeli security forces to protect the Palestinian plowing, there is still tremendous disorder. There have been repeated attacks, such as: blocked access to agricultural lands but both settlers and soldiers; attacks by settlers; uprooting and cutting down of trees; attacks on herders; damage to equipment and more. A significant number of farmers are still waiting for approval to enter their lands to plow.

Rabbi Yehiel Greinman Continue Reading

General, Occupied Territories

Nothing left to harvest

No Comments 15 October 2012

Last Wednesday Yonatan (A rabbinic student on the RHR OT staff.) and I were on our way to the Nablus region when we received a telephone from our field activist to divert quickly to Mreyer, where the Israeli DCO had informed the mayor that they discovered that 130 of the village’s olive trees had been cut down approximately100 meters from the Adei Ad outpost. (Just one of the many acts of theft and tree destruction we have discovered this olive harvest season.)  Adei Ad is a fierce competitor with the Khavat Gilad outpost regarding who is responsible year after year for the most violence and destruction.  Last year the regional brigade commander told us, “It’s a pity, but after all of the poisonings and uprootings over the years, there is nothing left to harvest or defend next to Adei Ad.”  It turns out that there was something left to destroy, given the fact that brave farmers from Mreyer refuse to give up.


All you wanted to know about the olive harvest and did not dare to ask

Press release: Two serious incidents during the Palestinian olive harvest – according to Palestinian reports, 82 trees cut down in Kriut and olives from 130 trees stolen in Farata

We arrived after a stomach churning ride on rocky paths that can scarcely be called roads.  If the ride was stomach churning, I wanted to be sick to my stomach when I saw an entire olive grove destroyed at the foot of Adei Ad.  “Khilul HaShem (A desecration of God’s Name.) There are no other words for it. This week we read in the Torah of the dove with an olive branch in her mouth, an image that became a symbol of peace.  Here the olive branches felled to the ground were crying to the heavens.  If a dove had arrived toward evening she would have found no resting place for her foot or her soul, “The earth became corrupt before God; the earth was filled with lawless violence.” (Genesis 6:11).  While it is true that God promises never again to destroy the earth by flood, God never promises that human beings will not wreak destruction.

When the first farmers from Mreyer hurried to the scene in the morning, an Israeli came down from Adei Ad and began taking pictures.  The farmers were immediately worried that he intended to spread again the familiar libel that the Palestinians themselves had performed “Deep pruning.” Sure enough, settler news agencies were soon spreading the libel.  However, there was an additional twist the Palestinians hadn’t anticipated.  The claim was now that the Palestinians had destroyed trees owned by Jews.  To anybody who thinks to him/herself, “Well, couldn’t that be true?”, I can only remind you that it was the Israeli army informed the Palestinians about their trees, and that the army had no problem when I spoke to them about guarding the branches until the farmers could collect them and try to salvage the olives.  In fact the Palestinians were allowed to collect the branches.  The Palestinians also report that, before I arrived, the army made it clear to the settlers just what they thought about settler claims to these trees.

Sadly, the settler claims even appeared in Ynet, and we haven’t been able to get them to issue a clarification or give the other side of the story.  From past experience, I know that when we don’t succeed in debunking the lies, they come back to haunt us years later.  To this day the settlers in the South Hebron Hills truly believe that I am responsible for the death of Dov Dribben, even though several courts ruled that “Women and Green” had to pay us compensation and remove some of their original language from their website.  I have no doubt that this incident will become part of the settler mythology and consciousness as “Another example of a Palestinian attack on Jews living in Judea andSamaria,” as well as their data bases.

Towards the end of the day, I experienced a small corrective experience to this bleak reality.  We eventually continued northward, as we had arranged to meet a new DCO officer.  He was supposed to be supervising the harvest of farmers from Farata in their olive grove next to the Khavat Gilad outpost, and we were going to meet between the olive grove and the village.  (We are no allowed to be in the olive grove with the Palestinians because we are more of a red flag to the settlers than are the Palestinians themselves.)  However, there was just one little problem.  The Palestinians had arrived and discovered (Not for the first time.) that there was nothing left to harvest.  All the olives had been stolen.  Khavat Gilad wasn’t going to concede to Adei Ad so easily.  For some time now one of the principle (and not so young) Palestinian land owners has been forced to work as a day laborer.  After years of theft, tree burning and uprooting to make way for more and more prefab settler homes, he can no longer make a living off his land.  The settlers claim that this is “disputed land” (I sat next to the founder of Khavat Gilad in 2004 when the army’s Civil Administration told both of us that this was Palestinian land.), and that there is an “agreement” that they will harvest on alternate years.

Seeing as there was no point in keeping our original meeting place, I made a stupid mistake.  I suggested that we meet at the gas station at the entrance to the Kedumim settlement.  A burly Jewish man with a big kippah sat next to us.  I wrote a note to Yehiel and the DCO officer, “He is recording our conversation.”  The logical thing to do was to invite him to join us, and I asked him to contribute his thoughts how we might enforce the law and High Court rulings, and prevent the theft of olives, destruction of trees, and further desecration of God’s Name.  He and a friend preferred to take our picture and to shout asking why an army officer would be meeting with us.  However, another settler arrived toward the end.  He also recognized us and begin to shout.  However, after the DCO officer left, he accepted my invitation to sit and talk with derekh eretz (In a decent fashion.). We didn’t agree about much.  However, he did hear from me that we also condemned the murders of the Fogel family, why we reject the idea that the murderers gathered intelligence during the harvest or that the entire extended family should be punished, and how our work actually makes a major contribution to the security of Israelis.  We heard from him that he is not opposed to Palestinians harvesting their olives if that won’t lead to murders.  We won’t cease protecting Palestinian human rights and our own humanity.  He won’t stop being a settler.  However, I have learned that neither High Court decisions nor any facts coming from a source somebody doesn’t trust will change their inner truth.  (I think we do a better job than the most radical settlers of honoring Court decisions, but we also disagree with the Court fairly often.)  There is no simple solution even about how to agree on the facts regarding Mreyer’s olive grove or many other contested issues.  For there to be even a minuscule chance of agreeing on anything,  we have no choice but to have direct contact with those who rely on the sources spreading these lies.  In the process, we must also  listen to things that challenge some of our truths.  We also read this week about the Tower of Babel. Since the tower, we don’t all speak the same language.  However, the midrash teaches us that the true sin of the builders was that the tower was more important than human beings.  I maintain faith that one day we will again at least all agree on the sanctity of the human being that flows from the One God who created us all.

Shabbat Shalom,


P.S. We in RHR and other HR organizations currently believe that we are in an emergency situation in the face of levels of tree destruction and theft we haven’t seen for several years, the lack of sufficient preemptive action by Israeli security forces (As in previous years, the army knows how to successfully protect farmers on scheduled harvest days, but they aren’t fulfilling their High Court ordered responsibility to prevent tree destruction and olive theft in the middle of the night. Nor, to they succeed in protecting Palestinians exercising their right to harvest freely in areas not requiring advance coordination.  In “Parashat HaShavua” you will find the letter we have written to the Defense Minister and other army officials, links to the all too few mentions in the press of this terrible phenomenon, including the warning I issued on Reshet B radio at the outset of the harvest that the army wasn’t prepared this year. I ask myself why there isn’t a great outcry from the Prime Minister down, as there was in 2005.  The Prime Minister was Ariel Sharon and Shaul Mofaz was Defense Minister – Not exactly the radical left.  In 2005 the adjacent outposts were put at the top of list of outposts scheduled for evacuation.  The destruction stopped.  In 2009 the army placed a ring or border police 24/7 around Khavat Gilad, starting a month before the harvest. There were almost no incidents that year.

General, Occupied Territories, Press Releases

Press release: Two serious incidents during the Palestinian olive harvest – according to Palestinian reports, 82 trees cut down in Kriut and olives from 130 trees stolen in Farata.

2 Comments 14 October 2012

On Tuesday 9.10.12, Palestinian farmers discovered that 82 olive trees had been cut down in the Palestinian village of Krayut.  In the village of Farata which is near the outpost of Havat Gilad, Palestinian harvesters came this morning, again after coordinating, only to discover that others had already stealthily harvested their olives.  The olives of most of the trees (130 in number) had been stolen.  The olive harvest of the thieves was carried out in an aggressive way which harmed the trees.  The Palestinian owner of the land intends to make a complaint to the DCO.  

General, Occupied Territories

The Olive Harvest is on its way

1 Comment 04 September 2012

By: Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann

Within the next month or so the olive harvest will begin. Every year at this time Palestinian farmers from a number of villages across the West Bank receive threats to their safety, are denied access to their land or have their olives stolen, their trees poisoned, or even cut down altogether. Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

Open the Door to Refugees: Parashat “Vayehi”

No Comments 03 January 2012

Eritrean refugees protest in front of the USA embassy, Tel Aviv, Israel, 25.11.2011. Eritrean refugees protest in front of the USA embassy in Tel Aviv on the 25.11.2011, demanding the American government to protect the human rights. The protest was calling to put an end to the torture, kidnapping and rape the ruggedness face in the Sinai desert, Egypt, on their way to Israel. Photo by: Oren Ziv/ Activestills.org | cc: activestills, flickr

Weekly commentary by Rabbis for Human Rights: Parshat “Vayehi

A fickle struggle to finish the olive harvest: Due to our uncompromising legal struggle, the Palestinian farmers of El Jenia and Quadum received a permit to finish their olive harvest, but the permit was for a day on which rain was expected and, as a result, was not  carried out. We hope that we will soon receive permits for new days to finish the harvest. We are still waiting for a permit to finish the harvest in the village of Sarra. The social struggle continues successfully (additional income tax deduction has been given to fathers). Currently, we have joined the struggle against the new refugees’ law. We should not forget that  Jews were persecuted throughout the ages and no country gave them shelter. Continue Reading

Parasha / E-Letter

JNF for all the People of Israel: the newsletter of Parashat “Vayishlach”

1 Comment 06 December 2011

 The funeral ceremony of public housing took place last week in Jaffa

Parashat Vayishlach: The weekly report of Rabbis for Human Rights

Parashat “VaYishlach” raises for Rabbi Gideon Sylvester question on the meeting of Judaism and Africa. Israel, that is located on the edge of Africa and inside Asia, also did not decided what is the social and status identity of its residents. But we continue to act against the decrees and for a Inclusive Jewish future for all. Continue Reading

General, Occupied Territories

Suspicion of “Price Tag” in the harvest of El Jenia

No Comments 28 November 2011

Suspicion of “Price Tage” in the harvest of El Jenia

The pressure we exerted on the DCO to give permission to harvest the olive groves in El Jenia (near the illegal outpost ‘Zait Raanan’) was successful, but at the same time we discovered in the grove a tree that had been cut down, and there is a suspicion that the settlers in this area did it.

The Palestinian farmers could enter the olive groves and harvest. Although the security officer of the settlement and the DCO officer prohibited the farmers to harvest some trees, after we talked with them they promised to let them harvest the trees in the coming days.

We connected the DCO and the farmers in the area of Talmon A. The DCO told us that the farmers reported to them that they already finished the harvest. We explained that the farmers were very interested to enter their lands.

The Palestinian farmers of El-Jenia discovered one tree that had been cut down. It was difficult for the policemen who arrived there to understand that they were called because of the suspicion that settlers who live in the area had caused the damage.

General, Occupied Territories

Reflections from the olive harvest

1 Comment 21 November 2011

Radical settlers (which is not every settler, it is important to note) see the farmers out harvesting – on the farmers’ own land – and go throw stones or worse. Please Read Shoshana Friedman’s article on her Harvest experiences.

“We’re either too afraid, or too angry, or too indifferent to come here.” – Israeli Ir Amim tour guide, explaining why we were seeing more of East Jerusalem than most Israelis ever do.

Olive Harvest

For the past two Tuesdays, I have gone with Rabbis for Human Rights on their trip that takes Israeli and foreign volunteers to help Palestinians harvest their olives. Only a few weeks long, olive harvest time is a lot of work. It can also be dangerous. Many of the Palestinian tree groves in the West Bank are now in the shadow of Jewish settlements which have been constructed on arid hilltops overlooking the rocky slopes of low trees and scraggly brush. Radical settlers (which is not every settler, it is important to note) see the farmers out harvesting – on the farmers’ own land – and go throw stones or worse. They try to make life as miserable as possible for the farmers in the hope it will force them to leave. They act for the one reason that underlies this whole conflict: desire for land.

Volunteering with RHR is a way to show up. My two hands help the harvest go faster.  The presence of my white anglo face, along with other such faces, deters settlers from instigating violence and helps the farmers be less afraid to go into their fields. And getting up at 5:30am to travel two hours to the field of a family I do not know, who belongs to the other ethnic group in a terrible conflict I am somehow implicated in – well, that is showing up for my own heart, helping her to keep opening.

Olive harvesting is a communal activity. The trees’ branches, covered in dark green slivers of leaves and laden with hard nuggets of olives, are not too high off the ground. But they are dense and may reach far away from the old gnarly trunks. Five to ten people work on a tree at a time. The farmers spread out tarps under the tree, carpeting the ground above her roots to catch all the olives that we harvest. Braced in the crook of the tree trunk, perched on a rickety ladder, and standing around and under the branches, the group of volunteers and farmers labor together until most of the olives of the tree are fallen to the ground, where they are gathered into a huge pile on the tarp and shoveled into white sacks, each one of which will make 18-20 bottles of olive oil.

On Jamal’s farm, the first Tuesday, the tarps were old Hebrew banners. Their giant blue letters translated to “Here We Agree to Peace.” Indeed, while harvesting an olive tree it is not hard to imagine how this plant became a symbol of human harmony. Simply put, harvesting olives should be communal. It needs a cooperative crowd. The trees ask us to come together.

One does not pick olives the way we pick berries, plucking them one by one off a bush that is willing to let them go. One shakes olives, combs olives out of a branch with a thick plastic fork. One rakes olive branches between one’s fingers, the coarse leaves leaving hands tingling, each handful of oblong green marbles a new treasure to be dropped onto the tarp below. The olives shaken from the high branches bounce with soft thuds off the backs of the harvesters on the ground. A massage of olives falling on your back feels like the first swollen raindrops in a tropical storm, but leaves you dusty and dry. Perched in the highest branches, my legs stretched in strange directions as I reached out to grap an elusive cluster of fruits.

At lunch in Jamal’s field, we sat around one of the Here We Agree to Peace tarps and were treated to humus with olive oil from the very trees around us, falafel and pita, tomatoes, cucumbers, freshly fried potatoes and scrambled eggs. As we ate off communal plastic plates with our fingers, I asked Jamal in Hebrew to tell me more about his fields. He speaks much better Hebrew than I do, but I was able to follow that these fields have been in his family for generations, that he learned recipes for zatar from his mother, that the young people harvesting with us were his three boys and one girl, and that he had two other daughters. Looking into his weathered face, straining to understand him speak in a language that was not either of our native tongues, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict faded. A human being was in front of me, someone whose trees had already pulled me into their orbit, someone whose children sat across from me eating potatoes with their greasy fingers, someone who knew and loved this land.

The second Tuesday, the farmers – two brothers – spoke to us as a group in Arabic, with one of our RHR guides translating. They thanked us for coming, and said they have had a very hard time recently. Almost daily, settlers come down and try to burn the mosque in their village. Olive trees have been burned. One of the brothers’ arms was covered wrist to bicep in a thick cast; a settler had come into his home and shot him, point blank, in the elbow, side, and foot. Why him? we asked our translator. The brother explained that his house is close to the settlement. They are trying to push him and his family out so the settlement can take more land. The settler was punished: he went to jail for one day.

We thank you for coming, the farmers said again. We know we have extremists on our side as well. But when you come, we understand there are moderates on your side too.

Sometimes things are worse than I could have imagined. And sometimes they are sweeter. We heard a truck driving by the field, with a loudspeaker announcing something over and over again in Arabic. I immediately assumed it was something scary – we were in a conflict zone after all. But then a friend translated. It was a candy truck, like an ice cream truck, hawking its wares to the kids in the fields. Later, I was startled by a sudden rhythmic pounding from the Arab village valley below. Gunshots? No, that would be the school marching band starting rehearsal, their music echoing between the hill of the settlement and the slope of the olive grove.

General, Occupied Territories

The olive groves of Biliin

1 Comment 15 November 2011

Rabbi Kobi Weiss describes his impressions from the events of the olive harvest. We learn that the State of Israel’s strategy of  controlling the “seam” areas turns the Palestinians into desperate and  frustrated people. Landowners can not access their lands and they are prevented from working their fields. Their lands are surrounded by construction sites and they can not work properly.

We recently went to help harvest the olive groves of Biliin that are located on the Israeli side of the barrier (and on the Palestinian side of the green line). The fields are virtually swallowed by the ultra orthodox town of Modiin Elite. In Modiin Elite, houses are built only for the ultra orthodox population, a group that is facing a housing shortage – because of their fast natural growth – and are thus obligated to leave the centers of the ultra orthodox population such as BneiBrak and Jerusalem and live in less expensive places. These new residents, who will live on top of Omar’s and his neighbors’ lands (lands on which we harvest last season until they were turned into land that is designated for building), are not aware of the human drama that they are a part of it. So Palestinian desperation and Jewish unawareness join together as a tool of Israeli politics. Is this a recipe for a future peace?

The closed gate

When I arrived on Thursday November 11th as a volunteer to help with the olive harvest in the Biliin area and to see the reality in the field, a “routine” harvest day turned into a nerve-racking drama and as a representative of “Rabbis for Human Rights”, I found myself responsible for our side of the cat and mouse game underway with the army and its coordination headquarters.

Around 07:30 the bus with the first group of volunteers arrived at the area of the separation barrier in order to wait for the farmers from Biliin on the other side of the barrier. The gate to the olive groves was closed. The army was not present in the area. We immediately starting making telephone calls, both Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann (Head of the Territories department) and myself, to the local security forces. We asked them to open the gate.

The army’s responses ranged from: “we are dealing with the situation, be patient” to “the patrol is at the near gate. When they will finish they will get to you.” Later on the responses were “we arrived at 8:00 o’clock and no one was there and we left” – which was a lie that made the people on both sides very angry. After two hours of the army deliberately wasting time while Rabbi Yehiel Greniman sought to increase the pressure (he was on the phone for 6 hours), we started to receive replies that had nothing to do with what was going on in the field, Omar’s family, who waited near the barrier, or with the coordination with the army, such as: “the harvest was finished yesterday, there is nothing to harvest any more”, or, “there are no farmers who want to harvest”. After discussions about all the factors in the field, they tried to convince us again and again that Id El Adha (the sacrifice holiday) is coming and there is no point in harvesting now and that permits will be given next week after the holiday.

How to fight desperation

We started to despair. Yariv, the spokesman for Rabbis for Human Rights, turned to local newspaper and Rabbi Yehiel turned to the lawyers of “Yesh Din,” but all of them received the same answer. It was clear to all of us, ten volunteers who remained, after 5 hours of waiting in the open field, and to Omar, the farmer on the other side of the barrier, that this was a case of deliberate foot-dragging done to cause all of to despair and to and to give up on the strange idea we’d had of the land owner to harvest his trees on his land.

At 12:00 o’clock we, Yehiel and I, decided to give up and return home in order not to waist more of the activists’ time. But as Rabbi Arik Ascherman Always reminds, crossing the red see started only after the water reached the People of Israel’s noses. Two minutes after we started returning back home, Yehiel  told us excitedly that an order to open the gate was just given. We returned quickly and picked up Omar and his children (the women left earlier because one of them was pregnant and did not feel well).

What happened afterwards was described by one ofthe volunteers, Edna Morduch, in a letter she sent to me:

“We arrived to one of Modiin Elit‘s extensions, very close to the separation barrier. We got off the vehicles and walked after Omar to his land. We got down to the Wadi (not an easy walk), we passed burnt olive grove to get to down the mountain, on the other side an additional extension of Modiin Elit is being built. During all the hours of the harvest we heard the noise of the bulldozers.

Omar and his family’s olive grove is located on both sides of the Wadi. For year the olive grove was not taken care of because it was impossible to access it with proper agricultural tools. The trees were not pruned and around them there is are weeds and overgrowth growing wild. But there were waking trails on it, and it seems that there were people there before we arrived. We also found food scraps and plastic bottles of soft drinks were scattered all over the place.

There were almost no olives on the trees, due to other people who came and pocked the olives. In three hours of work we picked only 2 buckets of olives.

This is an example of how the seam areas are turned gradually into the State of Israel’s assets. When I asked him, Omar said that for 4 years he had not been on this land. He was not angry or bitter, he accepted this reality quietly and submissively, even when we ran into trees that were aggressively harvested and the branches were broken. For me the whole day was a very difficult experience. The occupation in all its ugliness was present all the time.

Hope to see you in better days.

Accepting the loss

Omar lives now in Ramala, not in Biliin, and it is possible that his desperation and indifference come from his having accepted the fact that he lost the land and he cannot make a living from agriculture. Edna has volunteered with the organization for a very long time, she participated in many harvest seasons and her testimony, especially on the indifference and desperation of Omar, show the process that many Palestinian farmers are going through, from being angry and protesting against the injustice to submissively accepting it and giving up. Is it an indication to the “victory” of the system? The fact that the forces on the other side seem to be less ideological forces, and more economical, can complete the picture.

General, Occupied Territories

Palestinian farmers from Tubas access their olive trees

1 Comment 14 November 2011

Recently, Palestinian farmers from the Jordan valley have been exposed to army and settler harassment, but we are also able to tell of a success relating to farmers from the village of Tubas.

On the other hand, in Bil’in, the farmers who came to harvest their olives found the gate closed.

We are happy to tell you that on Monday, October 31st we succeeded in getting the army to give a permit for Palestinian farmers from Tubas to access their lands. (Last week they were denied the access).

The farmers entered their land 8 kilometers East of Tubas, on the other side of Taisir barrier, in the Jordan valley, in order to harvest their olive trees near the barrier. The army gave the farmers a permission to work there whenever they like.

The closed gate

Despite the coordination with the DCO, when we arrived on November 1st to harvest the olives, we found that the gate that separated the farmers from Bil’in and their groves was closed. We could not get any reasonable answers from the DCO and the army. We hope that such a discriminatory bureaucratic practices will stop. The army has to encourage moderate factions in the area and must not shut the gate in front the Palestinian farmers, leaving them stranded and frustrated. The gate to the olive groves in Bil’in was supposed to be opened every day. We will update you on what is going on with the farmers from Bil’in who wanted to harvest their olive trees.

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