Every year at the beginning of October, the annual olive harvest begins in Palestine. The survival of tens of thousands of Palestinian families is more dependant than ever on their ability to harvest their olives and market the oil they yield. This is not something that can be assumed as the Israeli settlement, closures and the construction of the separation wall cut off people from their land thereby destroying their livelihoods.
On the invitation of the Joint Advocacy Initiative of the East Jerusalem YMCA and the YWCA of Palestine, 34 international volunteers joined the Palestinian farmers harvesting their olives in the Bethlehem area since 21st October for a 10 days period.
The programme is not only about picking olives, but also to get an exposure of what it means to live under occupation, including the checkpoints, confiscation of land and what can be done to end the occupation as well as how to help open the collective eyes of the world to the oppression and injustice taking place in Palestine. Through the participation of internationals in activities such as this olive picking programme, the Palestinians feel that they are not isolated.
The closing of the olive harvest will take place on 12th November with The Olive Harvest Festival at Bethlehem’s Manger Square, next to the Church of Nativity. This festival is an annual event aimed at both locals and internationals, to encourage them to see and buy olive and olive-related products. It also features traditional dances and songs about olive trees and their value in Palestinians’ lives.
The Festival is organized together with the Bethlehem Peace Center, the Environmental Education Center, Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Beit Jala Cooperative Society, in cooperation with the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture.