The temperature at night is becoming cooler, dark clouds begin to roll in, and there is the smell of rain in the air, children begin to dress in sweaters, it is autumn and olive harvest time in Al Khalil.
The olive tree is very special to the Palestinian’s for a number of reasons. Palestinians, historically, have had a strong connection to the land, and the olive tree being drought-resistant and able to grow in poor soil can be looked at as a metaphor for the Palestinian samoud or steadfastness. These trees live to be as much as 3,000-4,000 years old, while continuing to bear fruit. The olive tree provides olive oil, oil for soap, and table olives, and most of the olives picked in Palestine are consumed within the local community.
CPT and other International organizations are often asked to be a presence during the harvesting, due to the constant threat of settler attacks. Many, if not most, of the families that are harvesting, live in close proximity to an illegal settlement.
CPT was able to help with the harvest twice this autumn. One, a family that has a large settlement behind them, an Israeli watch-tower beside them, and a road being constructed by the settlers in front of them. The second harvest was on a joint plot owned by two families. At each grove we were welcomed as the families picked with us, offering tea, and at one a sit down lunch, and the other a picnic lunch outside under the trees of cheese, oil, aztar and taboule bread. It was the first time for this CPTer, that there was no interference from either settlers or soldiers. (Unfortunately that does not ring true for much of the harvesting in the West Bank).
Though Al Khalil is often quite volatile and difficult for the Palestinian people, these two small examples of a successful, trouble-free harvest, gives one hope, that like the sturdy olive tree, Palestine will persevere and survive.