Palästina - Israel 
OlivZweig OlivZweig

part 1    part 2

Olive harvest in Palestine

part 3
(some of the photos can be called up in enlarged form by mouse click)



On two days which were four days apart we worked in a grove that belonged to the village Jamma'in and which was not very far from the settlement Kfar Tapu'ak (close to the checkpoint Zaatara, compare map in part 1). We helped the farmer whose mule had been stolen four days earlier. The grove was pretty far away from the village and to get there was rather awkward. We took a collective taxi to the road block near the village, were picked up from there by car and taken into the village, and then mounted the trailer of a tractor which took us to the grove. The grove was located on the other side of the settler road which meant we had to get around two more road blocks.

TreeTopWhile we were waiting at the road block near the village there was occasion to learn more about the daily life. The grounds around the road block were not very steep and therefore it had been possible to set up a detour through a bordering olive grove which, however, could be used at best by small trucks and only at slow walking speed. One morning we could watch how fuel was pumped from one fuel truck that could not possibly take the detour to one on the other side. Karin,  our contact person of the IWPS, came that day from Jerusalem with her friend Matthias. Matthias parked his car which had an Israeli licence plate near the road block. On the hood he had a sticker about 30 inches long with the German national colors. This was apparently a fairly good precautionary measure against Palestinian stone throwers.

The second day was the last day for me in the groves. This day was the first day I started to climb around in the trees without a ladder. The branches support the weight of a human quite well. I had a magnificent view and it was an occasion to take some photos from the top of the tree like the one to the left which shows how you can pick olives with both hands standing on the uppermost rungs of a rather rickety ladder. It probably was our longest working day. Going back we sat on the filled sacks and the farmer's wife was feeding us the whole time with apples, tangerines and pears. Even though she probably had not drunk anything for almost 12 hours it did not seem to cause any discomfort to her.


YTreesWe went one more time with the group of the 'Rabbis for Human Rights'. This time we went to Yanun, a village east of Zataara. Yanun is a special place. Andreas Bock and Günter Wimmer, both members of 'Peace Action for Palestine' were there in the spring of this year and Andreas has described the local circumstances in his report in detail (in German). Yanun is a village surrounded by the settlement Itamar and its outposts from where attacks were - and still are - regularly carried out, leading to murders and severe injuries. That led to the last inhabitants giving up the village in the year 2002. At the end of the same year Israeli and international organizations installed a permanent observation post in the village, a move that encouraged about 80 of the originally 300 inhabitants to return. But at some locations around the village the villagers still do not dare to go without protection into groves that are only 150 m away from the houses.

YStonesYFarmerDuring the trip to Yanun I once more had the occasion to realize the special situation. I was already sitting in the bus when I noticed that I had been travelling around without my passport for days. On the way to Yanun we had to go through the checkpoint of Zaatara. No problem. The bus did not even stop, but just drove past the long line of waiting cars.

As we entered the valley towards Yanun a sort of handmade road block had to be cleared away. The road into the valley was in a deplorable state. Apparently no permission is given for it to be repaired.
In Yanun military personnel was waiting for us in the elevated part of the village. Our Israeli companions told us about their rather mixed feelings about the military in such a situation. The military is primarily engaged in protecting the settlers. However, that does not mean that all the soldiers and their command support this kind of politics as a closed block. We once had occasion to talk for five minutes to soldiers as we were waiting for the bus. They invited us from the other side of the road for a cup of coffee with the explicit remark that they wanted to show us that the military was not as bad as its reputation. We talked about the Palestinian boy that had been killed a few days earlier. Unfortunately we did not get very far into the subject because the bus arrived.

YMilit5In this part of Yanun we picked olives only for a short time and then returned to the houses where some time was spent on some discussion with the soldiers. It was an occasion to have a look at their jeeps at close range. These looked all around as if they had been in a hail storm – a sight that a couple of years ago was not unusual in Munich – but which was not very likely in this area. Furthermore some of these hailstones would have to be of the size of socker balls, so that they actually must have been good-sized rocks.
We drove to the lower section of the village, about 1 km away. Only during this ride did we have a short view of the settlers' buildings on top of the hills. Yanun was the only place during my stay in the West Bank where one could be in an olive grove and in no direction see any settlements. Truly a place like paradise and possibly exactly for that reason particularly dangerous.

After arriving in the lower part of Yanun the group was divided up. One section remained near the village and a smaller group, to which I belonged, was to go on a tractor trailer to a location further away. In the meantime military in a white jeep had arrived. The significance of the deviation in color did not become clear. The soldiers in the car possibly were officers. In any case, they did not want to let us go because they feared that we would be unguarded. Only when it became clear that we would not be completely out of sight were we and another family allowed to drive out to the grove. In the photo above with the tractor, the white jeep is visible as the white dot at a distance above the left side of the tractor.

A settler turned up some time later during the day near the group that remained close to the village and between him and the military there must have been a rather intense debate. Afterwards he drove out in our direction and stopped near the other family which was closer to the road. Apparently he started checking some papers. The Israelis in our group advised us not to go any closer but rather wait and see what would happen. It did not take very long until the white jeep came racing along and the settler took off. Later another settler drove around in the area on a four-wheeled scooter whereupon the white jeep immediately patrolled in our vicinity.

Deir Istiya


DTreeDeir Istiya is the next village north of Haris. We worked close to the road and it appeared that any kind of trouble was to be expected from there. Sometime during the morning a settler actually stopped on the road and came over to us. I was too far away to get what he actually wanted and as a precautionary measure I dialed the number of the IWPS house. As it turned out, he had only inquired whether he could buy some olives.

In this grove was the most impressive olive tree that I saw on this trip. I was kind of disappointed when I learned that it was 'only' about 200 years old. This grove was one of the places where we left earlier. While the others in the group took a taxi, I walked along the road towards Haris because I wanted to stop over at the IWPS house in Haris. At various lookouts there were some nice views, e.g. the one of the village shown above. Not far from Haris a Palestinian boy came towards me on a bicycle. Cyclist were a rather rare sight, but other than that there was nothing unusual about him. Only when he came back soon afterwards did I realize that he probably was using this road 'illegally'. He presumably wanted to use a smooth surfaced road at least for a short time.



Revava is a settlement across from Haris. Construction started 14 years ago. As the photo shows there are quite a few neat houses and at the southern edge some new container homes.
REntrWe helped a family that used to own a large grove at the location of the cleared area at the slope of the hill. About 600 trees had been destroyed by the settlers. Some remaining trees grow inside and adjacent to the settlement. These are some of the trees visible in the foreground. The left photo shows the entrance to Revava from the main road. Several of the street lamps had Israeli flags attached to them. In general, in and around the settlements there was no lack of Israeli flags. The military post visible to the left was not occupied.

The family we helped that day was supposed to be fairly prosperous. Most of the family lived in Jordan. The farmer was a teacher by profession and had returned with his wife and his younger children to stay in Palestine after early retirement. We met them at the entrance to Haris and walked with them along the road the short distance to the groves. We were surprised that the farmer brought only his wife along. His wife was quite overweight and seemed to be suffering. They did not bring anything along other than a few buckets and some sacks. All their children stayed at home. From what we could gather they apparently wanted to find out this first day under which circumstances work could proceed.

RStumpsHansruedi and I took it upon ourselves to somehow make our presence known in the settlement. On the side where we were the edge of the settlement was marked with twisted barbed wire which, however, was not fastened to the existing posts. One could step onto the wire and enter the settlement at any place. First we went to the unoccupied military post and then into the settlement. After a short while we met a man who was walking his dog. He offered to inform the security officer of our presence . To be on the safe side we rang at the house that was closest to the grove. It belonged to a family with two small children. The owner wanted to give us the telephone number of the security officer, but had to search for a while because the number had changed. He had not needed it for some time and thought that was a good sign. The farmer told us later that in earlier years there had been some contact between the Palestinians and the settlers.

Picking olives only with buckets and bags was not exactly fun. But the main purpose of our being there may have been to show some presence. If there is no work going on for more than three years there is apparently the danger that a Palestinian will lose the right to his land altogether.
Before we left on this day we visited the remains of the grove inside of the settlement, charred and overturned tree stumps. A sight that you really would not wish to have in front of your garden, but which you possibly would not have from the houses up on the hill.


JGByeThree of us returned to Jerusalem. I visited some more parts of the old city and got some maps from the UN office showing the road blocks and the course of the wall. Details from these maps are shown above. We met briefly with our coordinator Karin and then had a last meal together. Late in the evening I went to Tel Aviv where my plane was to take off at 6 o'clock in the morning. The check-in went fast. All of the inspectors appeared to be quite young. The inspector girl checking me seemed to be almost more nervous than I. She raced through her questions extremely fast. Somebody looked at my map material at the x-ray machine and returned it to me without saying anything. A more thorough check at Tel Aviv airport is known to take about three hours.

Addenda. Death of a Palestinian boy

During all of the trips in the bus with the 'Rabbis for Human Rights' we talked about the death of the 16-year-old Palestinian boy near an outpost south of Nablus. The details became more and more hideous each time. The starting situation apparently was an expulsion of Palestinians from an olive grove by settlers. Subsequently the boy died under circumstances that the Israelis treated as a terror act and which therefore remained secret.
After my return I tried to get the latest information about this incident from the rabbis. Rabbi Arik Aschermann, the founder of the group, wrote back:" I unfortunately don't have much inside information. I know that the police have not been allowed to investigate because the army declared it a terror incident. I also know that there were things found on the body which make it more difficult (but not impossible) to maintain that he was innocent. As you point out, there were also signs of violence which prompted the family to send him to a pathological institute in Abu-Dis". The talk in the bus had also revolved around the objects that were found on the body and how they got there.
After I had informed Arik Aschermann about this report, he wrote back on Dec. 23, 2004:
"I would prefer that you update the quote, as it was written at a stage when it was much more difficult to know what happened.  At this point, there is mounting evidence that the boy was murdered.  The police were finally allowed to conduct an investigation and have recommended prosecution.  While it is still impossible to definitively know what happened, I do at this point believe that he was murdered."

The olive branch to the left is taken from the logo of the IWPS.
I wish to thank the IWPS again for the way they took care of us and Irmgard and Pete from the International Reconciliation Coalition for their efforts during the preparation of the trip.

top       back to part 2