<  Report Two:  The Warmth of Personal Connections -- Home Stays and the Olive Harvest Festival >

Olive Harvest Delegation to Palestine/Israel
November 3, 2013

Report Overview

Most of this report chronicles the delegation’s trip north to Jenin to stay with Palestinian families and participate in the Olive Harvest.  Before getting to Jenin,  Martin K. provides perspective on the development challenges facing Palestinians.  Both Gail B. and Guillermo M.-S. write about the way that their Jenin trip has given them hope.  Stories about specific home stays follow.  Casey S. relays a family’s struggles around imprisonment and housing.  Ariel G. meets a grandmother that reminds her of her own.  Gail B.’s home stay reveals more about the challenges facing farmers, and Carolyn and Martin K. end up going to the village medical clinic.

This report also features several videos that have been uploaded by delegates.


photo link

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A percentage of your purchase supports IFPB's ongoing efforts in delegation-based education and advocacy!

De-Developing Palestine
By Martin K.

For someone like myself who has been dealing with economic development issues in developing countries throughout the world, a visit to Israel/Palestine raises troubling questions about the strategy being pursued by the Israeli government in relation to the Palestinian Territories under its control.

When designing road projects for World Bank financing, for example, one of the main concerns is how to reduce vehicle operating costs, including travel times, for cars, trucks and buses.  In contrast, in Greater Jerusalem and the West Bank, this consideration seems to apply to Israeli traffic only, and not to Palestinian vehicles which are often forced to take more circuitous routes, and travel on roads of significantly lower quality. 

Similarly, in other parts of the world, a railway project would cater to all rail traffic, regardless of the ethnicity of the passengers, whereas here some of the new railway lines systematically bypass Palestinian neighborhoods. 

In agricultural development, not only are Palestinians often kept out of land that originally belonged to them, either by the Separation Wall or through some complex regulatory mechanisms, but they are often prevented from cultivating the land for lack of irrigation water and access to seeds and extension services.  In the worst cases, their land may simply be taken away from them and in extreme cases their olive trees may be uprooted and destroyed. 

Similar situations exist in housing, where Palestinians have an extremely difficult time obtaining prohibitively expensive permits to build and may have their house demolished at short notice if built without proper permit.

These are just a few examples of the highly discriminatory regime confronting Palestinians and impeding the development of the Palestinian economy in Greater Jerusalem and the West Bank.   Since the conditions are getting worse and worse, one can only conclude that the Israeli development strategy for Palestinians is a de-development strategy, something not seen since the time of colonization.

The Olive Harvest

By Gail B.

Well, after a day of hopelessness, anger, utter fatigue, we ventured out of the Bethlehem, out of Jerusalem into the West Bank and on to Jenin.  The Olive Harvest!  Finally, we were in the midst of farmers and their families for the 8th Annual Olive Harvest Festival. I suspect the whole Interfaith Peace Builders delegation needed this as much as I did.

The air was fresh, the olives - mostly picked - were plentiful and the hospitality spectacular.  We arrived at the Canaan Fair Trade Center midafternoon.  This oasis is right down the road from where a Palestinian boy was shot amidst unrest last night.  But here, international visitors and locals mingled, ate chicken and rice, danced and drank in the beautiful view of olive trees as far as the eye can see.

Olives are the mainstay, the bedrock of this community.  Olive trees take a long time to mature.  We sat beside one to eat our dinner tonight that was at least 100 years old.  And some are much older than that.

Canaan Fair Trade ships their delicious olive oil all over the world - including to the Fair Trade Shop at Coral Gables Congregational Church in South Florida!  And, we were told that they just signed a contract with Whole Foods for all of their 'spreads' - tapenade, fig, and who knows what else.  I am anxiously awaiting the opportunity to step into Boca's Whole Foods, buy a truck load of tapenade and thank them.

These are organic, pure, close to the earth products.  Canaan supports scholarships for young people, the telling of the agricultural wisdom from generations, and research for the future. 

We are off to spend the night with families tonight who are opening their homes to us.

I am grateful and, once again, hopeful.


Deadline: January 24, 2014. Two big prizes (and a host of smaller gifts) will be awarded for IFPB's May 31 - June 13, 2014 Delegation to Palestine/Israel!

Make more scholarships available to students, youth, people of color and activists!

There Still Is Life

by Guillermo M.-S.

After some very difficult days that were taking their toll on my heart, I applied a healing balm.  In the same manner that laughter with people who love is the remedy for grief, I experienced that interaction with people who hope is the remedy for despair.  We traveled north to Jenin and we were part of a harvest festival.

We danced and sang with the Palestinian farmers at a Palestinian Fair Trade Association headquarters in Burqin.  The experience was equivalent to a wild night on Prozac. These farmers work hard and they celebrate hard … without alcohol because they are Muslims. The Fair Trade Association sells a shirt that describes the attitude of this inspiring community:  “Insisting on Life.”

We then spent the night at homes of Palestinian families and learned their stories and met their loved ones.  My host was a handsome Geography professor and farmer named Abed who I think is a Palestinian version of Steve McQueen.

It was a very long night, because Abed would not let us go to sleep without sharing one more story and more cup of coffee and then one more story and then some more food followed by more coffee and more stories. I am not sure how late it was when I finally fell asleep… still twitching from all the caffeine.

picking olives

In the morning we went to a family owned olive grove and helped pick olives off a tree that is easily 100 years old. The little boy in this 50 year old body was unleashed as I climbed the tree and found ways to remain up there.

We visited another field where they grow onions and tobacco. The separation wall (in this part of the country it is a barbed wire fence) was placed over the town’s cemetery.

Consequently, Abed dedicated a portion of his farm for family plot, where his father is buried. We stood in silence observing the 7 pre-dug graves, not wanting to comment on the morbid reality before us.

We left for Nazareth and I heard one of my travel companions comment, “In the midst of all this sadness and despair, the Palestinians still live, laugh and love.”

Maybe they have discovered the key to happiness.

Videos Online

Click below for three short videos delegates have recorded.


ICAHD tour at the Wall

A number of other videos are also on our online youtube page. Click here for the playlist for the 2013 Olive Harvest delgation.

A Family’s Struggle
By Casey S.

Last night we participated in the Palestine Free Trade Association’s Olive Harvest Festival and had our first home-stay with the farmer families.  It was amazing to interact with the family.  Never have I met a more hospitable people, and never have I been offered so much food! 

Our house mom, Sahar, welcomed us with open arms and a big hug.   We all sat in the living room and began chatting with the family.  I even smoked Hookah with the father, Mustafa.  The mother spoke English very well, and even though the rest of the family spoke only a little bit, communicating was surprisingly easy. 

The conversation varied from serious to light, but a few of the topics really resonated with me.  The first story that really impacted me was of Sahar’s son, Mahmoud (age 26), a dental student in his last semester.  He made the lethal mistake of supporting Gazan resisters through a Facebook post and has been in prison for a year now, without trial and without an expected release date.  All because of Facebook!

The second story was of the family’s housing struggle.  Their family has been in this area for over 500 years, but because of the Israeli laws, they have had two homes demolished.  They had to move from Nazareth after their original family home was destroyed to rebuild and start over in Jenin, only to have their second home bulldozed once again by Israeli forces.  Hearing the father, Mustafa, discuss these instances with tears in his eyes really broke my heart. 

https://fbcdn-sphotos-b-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/996944_10100923776915794_1972909972_n.jpgThese people have such a love and pride for this land, which really touched my heart.  Talking with this family that night and harvesting olives with them the next morning really was one of the highlights of my trip. 

LEFT: Sahar holds a picture of her son, Mahmound, who has been in prison for a year because of a Facebook post he made, supporting the resisters in the Gaza Strip.  She is allowed to visit him for 45 minutes every 2 weeks.


Fair Trade Olive Harvest Festival and Home Stay in Anza, Palestine

By Ariel G.

We arrived in Burqin in the afternoon. We had taken a tour of the Jerusalem’s old city in the morning and seen the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish quarters. We boarded the bus for the Olive Harvest Festival and traveled there easily without getting stopped at any of the checkpoints (not surprising as a bus of American tourists and not such an easy travel route for Palestinians).

The Palestinian Fair Trade Association building, where the festival took place, was modern, beautiful, and full of internationals. Out front they had freshly baked flatbread to dip in freshly pressed olive oil. The oil was amazing by any foodie standard with various flavors and tapenades of sundried tomato, sesame fig, and more.

We toured the factory where they told us that the olives are grown organically in accordance with their ancient farming traditions that honor and preserve the land and press the oil. They cut each olive open individually by hand to release the acid and then press the oil at low temperatures to make various, but all virgin, grades of olive oil. I cannot describe the flavor of the oil, just to say that it was of the highest quality and most delicious flavor that I have ever experienced.

There were also almonds from women’s cooperatives where the Fair Trade Association is tapping into the international organic and fair trade movements and creating hope amid what is still long and treacherous uphill struggle. After eating dinner there were thanks to the international community and music and dancing into the night. You could see the joy at finishing hard work and knowing that it was time to celebrate in ecstatic dance. 

That night I stayed with a Palestinian family whose welcome and generosity was of the most beautiful character and not the individualistic culture of the West and the United States.

The grandmother reminded me so much of my own grandmother, my Jewish Bubbe. Like my grandmother, she was referred to as the boss of the family. Her care of me provided me with the warmth that I miss of my own home so far away. She insisted that I take extra clothes from her to keep me warm and then held up a dress she thought would look lovely on me to take home with me.

Our host showed me his UN resolution 194 Right of Return document for his family’s original house in Haifa and the keys to that house he keeps on his wall to this day. The next day we picked olives in their field and I found figs, almond trees, and passion fruit (a personal pleasure) on the walk there.

The love of the land and sense of community that I experienced makes me want to return for harvest next year to pick olives with them and protect the trees from settler destruction.  I have been warmly invited to do so and I recommend others to help as well.

Great great great great great great....many greats

By Gail B.

We stayed last night with farm families near Jenin. Jan and I are with an olive tree farmer named Ahmed, his wife Jalila, and his 20 year old son, Abo, in a small village called Amin. Abo is studying Arabic at the local university.  He wants to be a teacher.

He showed us the village of Amin on Jan's iphone Google map app with great pride.

He took us up on the roof last night to show us the peaceful landscape around his two-story home.  Then, he pointed down below, just 600 yards from his home.  "That is the wall," he said. "The soldiers are way down there", pointing quite far down the road.  Ahmed must take his farm equipment and himself through a narrow passage point and be checked by soldiers whenever he wishes to pass over to his own land.   Normally, he can do so only two days a week - Mondays and Thursdays.  During the olive harvest, a new law has made it possible for him to cross every day until the olives are harvested. 

The wall goes right through the middle of his olive trees.  Some are on the house side; most are on the other side of the wall.  Why is the wall there?  Because, just up on the top of the hill, there is an Israeli Jewish settlement. The wall is to separate the Jews from the Palestinians out here on the West Bank.  

Ahmed says: "My mother tells me that my family has been here, in this house, on this land for 500 years - my great, great, great, great, great, great....many greats.  And now, it is very sad."

Ahmed continued, "In 1996, I built a new house on my land here.  Israeli police came and wanted to demolish my house because I didn't have a permit. I needed a permit to build my own house on my own land.  I went to court to get a permit.  It was $7000.  I am now behind 12 years in my life."

More than Just Olives

By Carolyn & Martin K.

Our home stay was different from everyone else's. Our family owned a vegetable farm, where they grew zucchini, cauliflower, tomato, and other vegetables, but only some very young olive trees - the husband's sister had sold the parcel with olive-bearing trees - so we did no olive harvesting. At first we felt let down, but in the end our experience turned out to be very enriching in a different way.

Our family seemed to be in straitened circumstances. The husband had been deaf and dumb since the age of five due to an illness. He could communicate only with a limited range of gestures. It made us sad to think that this must have been an arranged marriage. Both husband and wife were very warm and hospitable in spite of the obstacles, and the wife impressed us as very enterprising. She told us she was taking a computer course, and she showed us pictures of their vegetable farm on the computer. She also goes to the nearest town to sell their vegetables, operates two sewing machines with which she makes crafts sold at the women's cooperative, and volunteers once a week at a mobile health clinic. So instead of harvesting olives, we accompanied her to the clinic.

The waiting room was overflowing with women of all ages, children, and some men, who played with and cared for the children as tenderly as the women. Different rooms were set aside for pediatrics, neurology, orthopedics, a pharmacy, etc.

About an hour after our arrival, there was a sudden influx of Israeli members of Physicians for Human Rights. We spoke to a Palestinian Israeli doctor who has worked with the organization since 1988 and goes to Gaza every week to perform operations and teach Gazan doctors how to perform them. We also talked to an elderly Israeli nurse who spoke and wrote Arabic fluently. She convinced women and men to let her take their blood pressure while they were waiting, and in cases of high blood pressure, she tested their blood sugar for diabetes. She seemed to have a warm rapport with the patients.

A group of Palestinian soldiers, some with weapons, showed up during the session. They were actually quite friendly and keen to talk to us. The Israeli nurse didn't appreciate their presence - even though she took their blood pressure as well, but when we told her that that there had been a shooting the day before at a nearby village at which a Palestinian boy was killed, she agreed that this may account for their presence. When I asked them about their family, two of them mentioned that their respective fathers had been killed at age 56 by the Israelis. Under the circumstances they thought that it would take a long time for these wounds to heal.


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