Updated: Oct 24, 2018
"if the olive trees knew the hands that planted them, their oil would become tears." - mahmoud darwish
everywhere you walk in the holy land there are olive branches that reach out to you. the subdued green color decorates open spaces along sidewalks and in yards. the rolling hills are defined by terraces lined with the trees. they are strong and many are hundreds (sometimes thousands) of years old. the olives on these trees are harvested and pressed for rich bounties of oil. the trees are a symbol of peace, growth and steadfastness. under occupation they have developed an identity of resistance.
millions of trees are scattered all across palestine accounting for over fifty percent of cultivated land, yet the olive trees functions as more than just crops. olive trees are a national symbol of connection to the land. They can grow in poor conditions with little water, resilient. Almost every family roots itself to this land through olive trees. past generations plant the trees with the knowledge that they will be fruitful to their families in the future. many trees have been passed down for generations and each year families come together to help with the harvest.
my yagm cohort had the opportunity to participate in the harvest. we spent the day up in the strong branches of olive trees, "milking" the olives off the trees. we started from the very top of the tree, some on ladders and some climbed up through the branches (climbing up the middle was my harvest route of choice as i trust trees much more than ladders). olives rained down to the tarps below and others collected them in buckets, leaving none behind regardless of the color or size.
in the past 40 years an estimated million olive trees have been destroyed as a result of isaeli occupation. families are restricted from access to their land or in many cases their crop is uprooted or burned suddenly and violently. these trees, with roots that have been rooted in the earth for hundreds of years are ripped up, and along with it take livelihood and tradition from palestinians.
and still they harvest. each year they plant trees with hope and care for the future as their ancestors did for them. as resilient as the trees themselves.