Palestine has been in the olive groves for the month of October, picking despite threats of Israeli soldier & settler violence and harassment. At dawn, generations of the family, from grandmother to grandson, pack up their donkeys or tractors and head to their piece of land to pick each and every olive from each tree on their land. It is hard work, but the people will only complain when they are prevented from reaching their groves by settlers or soldiers. The work is often done with a hint of a rush, knowing that at any moment they could be ordered to leave. When the bags of olives arrive at home at the end of the day, a sigh is released and a prayer is made for the next day.
This year, more than 4000 olive trees have been burned in Burin by the illegal Israeli settlers. (LRC)
“Every year it is getting worse, and this year it is a lot worse. It used to be they burned trees once a year, but this year they have burned trees four times since April. Since April, they have cut down and burned entire areas to clear the land so we can use nothing,” says Ghassan Najjar. “Olives are the most important farming product here for us. Of course the olive harvest is important for the olives and for the resistance. We know for certain that if we leave the land they will steal it, and claim it is their land.” He also added something that is easily overlooked, “we know for certain that it’s not their land, because they burn it.”(Harvesting Olives as a statement of resistance, EI)
The hillside pictured below shows some of the trees that were so damaged by the fire that they had to be pruned down to stumps. Further down you can see that many of the trees are brown and dry from the fire. The ground is still littered with remnants of black ash.
An Int’l recounts a burning in July of this year: “Arriving at the scene we found dozens of local men and boys fighting the fire. Their mouths covered with scarves and shirts they were beating down the flames with olive branches and cloths. A small boy ran up the hillside carrying bottles of water for the men covered in ash and streaked with sweat… around 50 settlers from the Yizhar settlement beside Burin had come down the hills at 11.45am and set fire to the trees and fields. On such a dry day with a strong breeze the flames caught easily and spread rapidly. However, the fire engine and locals were prevented from reaching the flames for over two hours by the Israeli army.”
“We watched as groups of settlers appeared as shadowy figures through the smoke, viewing the inferno from the hilltop, the army standing between them and the villagers putting out the flames. The rest of the team and I wondered what they could be thinking as they looked down on the village’s livelihood being destroyed.” (RightsNi)
This family has had about a quarter of their trees burned in the past year. We were present because their land is high up the mountain, near to an illegal Israeli settlement. They also didn’t have Israeli authority “permission” to pick the land, but seeing as the land is the property of this family, they were determined to pick it regardless. Many Palestinian families refuse to apply for “permission”, or if it is given, will only pick on days without it. Despite having permission, soldiers often appear and inexplicably revoke it, ordering everyone home.
As we picked I overheard a Palestinian man exclaim that “even with a career, a car, a house, friends, the land always comes first. We drop everything and attend to the land because it is the true value we have.”
Below is a view of beautiful Burin from the site of the murders of two young men by the Israeli army. Guys from the village were known to come up here at night, smoke, and hang out. This particular night, there were only two there when a grenade hit the area. One was killed immediately, but the other died after being shot three more times. I’ll bring names and more details as soon as I can, inshaAllah.
Burin has been good to me, hard on my hands, soft to my heart, filling, welcoming, beautiful…