Sow good seeds, get good fruit: Encounter the olive harvest


‘If the olive trees knew the hands that planted them, their oil would become tears’, said the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

A symbol of peace, and conflict

The beautiful and versatile olive tree has been a symbol of peace throughout the ages. Sadly, it is also an increasing symbol of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Palestinian culture is rooted in land and agriculture the mainstay of the Palestinian economy. 13.4% of Palestinians are formally employed in the sector but 90% of the population informally work the land with olive products earning more in export income than any other agricultural crop.

Naim’s story

Naim’s is typical of many Palestinians who hold down a formal job but also work the land in what spare time they have.

Naim teaches at a boy’s school in the West Bank and because of the fraught political situation, he can often go months at a time without being paid.  Making his family’s land productive means Naim can provide for his three young children and stay working at the school which he cares so much about.

‘Our roots, our family is here in Palestine,’ Naim says. ‘The tension is always high. We think again and again about leaving, for our kids, for their futures. But we have this small piece of land, which many others don’t have. We look after it, we care for it. If we don’t do this, the Israeli’s may come and take it. We have to stay to look after it.’

Palestinian land is constantly under threat from confiscation by the Israeli military, for the creation of so-called nature reserves or for settlement expansion.

Naim approached Embrace’s partner, the East Jerusalem YMCA and YMCA, who through the Olive Tree Project help Palestinian farmers plant olive saplings, care for them and harvest the crops. The project ensures that the farmer's land is always well tended making it less vulnerable to confiscation.

Naim says: ‘We planted olive trees on our land. This hopefully will mean it is safe. We believe in peace; we believe this is our home and that is a message we want to give to our children. I want to be here to invest in my kids and the kids I teach. I want to invest in their future, to sow good seeds and to get good fruit.’

Encounter the olive harvest

As access to parts of the West Bank is controlled by Israel, many farmers need permits to access their own land and these are time limited.

Without teams of volunteers, farmers would simply not have enough time to get their whole crop in and olives would be left rotting on the trees.

So please, join us this October to support Palestinian farmers and their families by helping them to bring in their crops and share Naim's story with anyone you think may be interested.

As well as helping with the harvest we will immerse you in Palestinian life and bring you face to face with the challenges the people face on a day to day basis.

See our Encounter the olive trip page for more details