Palästina - Israel 
OlivZweig OlivZweig
part 1  part 3

Olive harvest in Palestine

part 2
(some of the photos can be called up in enlarged form by mouse click)

Escort and helper

By definition our purpose was first of all to be present if anything happened and possibly to avert danger and escalation. With time we became aware that the various situations were difficult to judge. The majority of the settlers lives in the Palestinian territories mainly for economic reasons and is hardly concerned with the Palestinians. However, the security forces can apparently be rather unpleasant and in some areas certain groups of settlers are extremely dangerous. While we were there, a sixteen year old Palestinian was killed in a confrontation with settlers (see also below). One of the farmers we worked with was relieved of his mule during a settler attack four days before we arrived. It seems that no authority cares about such thefts. Sometimes it is important that the helpers turn up in great numbers because the military will allow access to the groves only for a few days.

Ariel-Security next to the grove of our farmer.
Two weeks earlier the farmer was fired at with rubber-clad iron bullets

Once in a while we had the impression to be mainly workers. This possibly had to do with the fact that it was the time of Ramadan when people had to get through the day without drinking or eating, where not drinking apparently was the more difficult part in this fairly warm weather. In addition, harvesting the olives is not very profitable, since the farmers have difficulties to market their products and prices are hence not cost-effective.
With time we noticed when the farmers were simply very grateful for the help and tried to make life for us as comfortable as possible. Occasionally we were invited into their homes, but in each case we had to refuse for various reasons.
At the end of our time it could happen that we left earlier, when e.g. some male family members settled down for a longer chat while pregnant women were dragging the ladders around.

For three days we went along with the 'Rabbis for Human Rights' who organized daily bus trips to the harvest for Israeli volonteers from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv with one or two busses holding about 25 people. At least during two of these days it must have been truly dangerous. On these days we were guarded by Israeli police or military who kept an eye on us for the whole time.

Detail from a UN-OCHA map of the district of Salfit. This section connects to the western side of the map shown above (in part 1). Between Masha and Az Zawiya a dirt road goes through an underpass below the four lane settler highway no. 5. After the completion of the wall this will be the only access to all the villages towards the south.

Az Zawiya

After the first four days in Salfit we moved to Az Zawiya. We left Salfit in westerly direction past a sewage creek in which the untreated sewage from Ariel ran off towards the western border. A narrow green strip along which cows were grazing.
Hansruedi later became very interested in the sewage problem, especially with respect to the question of who was sending his sewage to whom. It seems to be relatively simple: In all of the West Bank there is no sewage treatment (see C. Messerschmid). The Israelis are not building any and the Palestinians are not allowed to build any even if somebody provides the money. On this trip we came past an aborted construction site of a sewer that would have been financed with German money. For the Palestinians the problem is more severe since in many places the supply of water is less than 20 % of what is available to the Israelis.

The first part of this trip ended at an extended triple road block across which we had to drag all our baggage to the other side.

view from the main road back to the road to Salfit across several earthwalls

In Az Zawiya we were lodged in the quite spacious ground floor of a fairly new private house. The apartment  had a large furnished kitchen, good bathroom facilities and bedrooms with mattresses on the floor. The house belonged to a couple where the husband was working in an Israeli industrial park and the wife was a teacher. This way they were probably fairly well off economically. She spoke very good English and was unusually aware and politically interested. She also was a very good cook. They once supplied us with a complete evening meal and brought other things every now and then. Normally we prepared our meals ourselves from the things we could get in the local stores, purely vegetarian, but always well seasoned and quite tasty.

AHouseThe house was located at the edge of town. The first evening a military jeep was standing next to the house for quite some time with blinking yellows lights. Then it drove down into the town with a search flood light turned on, accompanied by the screeching insults of the children who must have been waiting for it.

stumpsOne evening our host took us to the north-western corner of town to the location where the planned course of the 'security' wall approaches the town to a distance of about 50 m. In the spring the Israelis had started to clear and level the grounds, cutting and uprooting the olive trees. There were massive protests by the local population which were supported by Israeli and international activists. Probably influenced by the running hearings in the court case against the construction of the wall at the International Court of Justice, the clearing action was stopped and the planned course of the wall was changed afterwards.
In October we still had the view of a ghostly landscape, jutted with stumps of completely bare olive trees. The farmers had replanted the uprooted trees, and there is apparently a chance that these trees will take root again.

In the mornings we always had to get a collective taxi to the roadblock at Qarawat and from there we went on in various directions with the orange colored taxis.

Public transportation

QarawatReloading of doors at the roadblock at Qarawat. Settlements on the hills all around.

The way in which the public transport was managed in the exclave, to which Az Zawiya belonged,  and on the settler roads, was somewhat surprising. If we went down to the main road at 6 o'clock in the morning we usually did not have to wait for more than a few minutes before we were picked up by a collective taxi. The trip to Qarawat was about $ 0.60. From there were we usually also had only a short stopover. The trip to Haris was about $ 0.40. That appears cheap, but it is not for the local population. Our hostess told us that previously one could go by bus to Nablus for 5 Shekels which is about $ 1.20. Now one has to take three different taxis and has to pay 15 Shekels, i.e. three times as much – disregarding the fact that during the end of our stay nobody could get in or out of Nablus because the occupation force had closed all access roads for several days.
Within the exclave the taxis were in a fairly wretched state; in one case a side window was missing. On two days we stopped at a gas station in the morning in order to get not quite two gallons of diesel fuel for 20 Shekels (about $ 5), indicating that the taxi drivers live from hand to mouth.

The Wall

When we stayed in Az Zawiya I took two days off for some tourism in Israel. That way I was able to see from the outside the 'security' wall around the completely enclosed town of Qualquiya and the one at Tulkarem. Both cities are located near the green line, i.e. the border between Israel and Palestine. A turnpike is located close to the wall. At the same time some of our group were taking photos on the inside, a gruesome sight that has been widely publicized.


first photo: the wall at Qualquiya on the Israeli side
second photo: the same wall on the other side
third photo: the wall at Tulkarem which is hardly visible from the Israeli side


I was returning from Jerusalem with the bus of the 'Rabbis for Human Rights' and we went to Jit,  which is located on the road that goes north at Haris. For me the trip in the bus was a welcome opportunity to talk to Israelis, even though it was clear that this was a selection of people with a basic political attitude that was not so much different from ours.

Outpost at Jit

JitPolJMothDaughtNear Jit a small outpost consisting of container homes is located. From there one could evidently expect problems. For that reason two Israeli police cars moved into position above the tree line. The presence of the police apparently caused a jeep approaching from the settlement to turn around half way along.
The grove was not very big, so that we were finished soon and moved to a grove closer to the village which was unproblematic. In the village a number of women and children were waiting for us and provided us helpers with beverages.

Among the women was an unusually good looking 39-year-old mother of 12 children and prospective grandmother with her youngest offspring on her arm.


The next day we also went with the group organized by the rabbis, this time directly into the settlement of Qedumin. As I learned later through a letter from the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom, Qedumin is the oldest settlement in the West Bank, founded by Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Perez.

In the beginning also several police cars also turned up which, however, disappeared after a while. Once in a while cars drove by and pedestrians were also passing by. One of these pedestrains must have been irritated by the situation because he began to sing loudly.
QDRobertQDBranchThe farmer was not allowed to bring his tractor into the settlement. For that reason he had to bring along his donkey to be able to carry the olives to the entrance of the settlement. At least this gave reason for a nice souvenir photo with the farmer and with Robert from our group.

Shortly before we left there was some disturbance. An older Palestinesian woman had picked her olives near the entrance all by herself and was repeatedly taunted by people coming by. At some point it became to much for her and she came over exitedly to where we were, asking for help. Unfortunately we were about to leave and could't do anything for her.

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