It was six o’clock in the morning and Abdel gripped the yellow iron door tightly, looked at the horizon and continued in this state for an hour. I asked him, where are you looking? He pointed his finger at the distant lands on the horizon behind the barbed wire and said lamentingly: “Since I was young, I have been working on this land with my father every morning, and there were no barriers. Years later, the Israeli occupation prevents me from freely entering my land to work,” says Abdel Fattah.
These weeks are celebrated in Palestine olive harvest season. A very important cultural, family and economic moment, since the olive tree is for the Palestinian population a symbol of rooted to the earth and strength.
However, what should be a time of union, celebration and harvest becomes for many a time of sadness and frustration.
In 2002 Israel began building the west bank wall that cut across and cut off Palestinian-owned land, thus controlling thousands of acres of Palestinian agricultural land. Since then, the Israeli occupation prohibits farmers from villages like Biddo enter their land without prior coordination with the Israeli authorities.
Biddo is a village northwest of Jerusalem. Its entire population fled to it during the Nakba in 1948. Abdel Fattah lives there and recently, along with the rest of the community, came to collect olives from his land. All of them had to wait two hours for the arrival of the Israeli army to be allowed entry. Many of them were prevented from passing under the pretext of “security restrictions”.
Although 2004 the wall was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice, the situation remains the same. “This land is mine, I am the one who cultivates it, harvests it and takes care of it. It is I who planted their olive trees, but the Israeli occupation built the West Bank wall and isolated them. We tried to protest this injustice, and as a result, my older brother, Muhammad Hmidan, was seriously injured in one eye and today he cannot see,” said Abdel-Fattah.
In addition, in 2016 the israeli settlement of Hadasha near the village of Biddo. Israeli settler attacks while they are working their crops further complicate the situation. This year, according to OCHA, there have been 22 incidents against Palestinian land and farmers. Israeli settlers have burned or damaged more than 800 Palestinian olive trees in the West Bank. And large amounts of produce and harvesting tools have been stolen.
The members of the village used to live from what they grew on their land, from tomatoes, cucumbers and all kinds of vegetables. But the situation now is different and it is impossible to continue living from their harvest when so they are only allowed to visit the estate once or twice a year.
Israeli regulations also do not allow them to enter their crops with any type of transport to help them move the harvest. The tools necessary to work such as mattresses, ladders and bags also have to be carried, even when their crops are tens of kilometers from the front door.
Even when they enter their land they are not allowed to pick olives after 3:30 p.m. For this reason, farmers and farmers run to their trees and begin to collect quickly, to finish before the fence closes again.
“The occupation causes us to neglect our land. We no longer work the olive trees as we should. Before the construction of the wall and putting up this gate, the earth was like paradise. Back then I cut down the trees, fertilized the crops and plowed them, today I look at the dry land and the weeds with great sadness”.
When I asked Abdel-Fattah how he feels when the occupation prevents him from visiting his land regularly, he looked at me sadly and said, “I feel oppressed and extremely unhappy. I respect trees as if they were people. I love and care for them, and I know that the more I care for the trees, the more bountiful the harvest will be. I hope that the situation changes and the restrictions are removed so that we can visit the area regularly.”