Olive Tree planting in Palestine

For this podcast episode I joined a group of volunteers who were planting olive trees on the land of a Palestinian farmer. The olive trees are sponsored by people from all over the world. They are sponsored and planted through the Olive Tree Campaign ‘Keep Hope Alive’. The main reason for planting olive trees is to support Palestinians whose land is threatened to be confiscated. The State of Israel and Israeli settlers are trying to get as much Palestinian land as possible. They build settlements and roads on the land. They separate the Palestinian towns and villages from the agricultural land with walls and fences. Palestinians do not live on their agricultural land. They live in villages and the land surrounds these villages. By building walls, fences and checkpoints the Israeli authorities make it hard for the Palestinians to reach their land. If they don’t work their land, chances are much higher that they will lose it.

Palestinian land confiscations by Israel

Israel used an old Ottoman law to legally claim Palestinian land as State Land. This Ottoman law was used originally by the Sultan when Palestinians did not produce on their land and therefore they didn’t pay taxes. Today Israel says that this law is still in place in the occupied territories. The land, however, is not claimed by the Turks but by the State of Israel. Therefore Palestinians are planting trees so that they can prove in court that they are producing on their land.

Keep Hope Alive olive tree campaign

In 2002 the East Jerusalem YMCA and the YWCA of Palestine started with a campaign to support the local farmers. By collecting sponsorships from individuals, churches and organizations around the world, they do not only financially help the farmers, but they also create a network of solidarity and support. When a farmer finds that settlers or the army uprooted olive trees, something that happens all over the Westbank, they can reach out to the sponsors. The sponsors can take action by writing to their media outlets, contacting their representatives, writing letters to human rights organizations and complaints to the Israeli authorities.

Olive tree planting and picking, volunteering in Palestine

Since the start of the Keep Hope Alive campaign, the JAI has organized annual olive tree planting and olive picking programs. Foreigners from all over the world sign up for a week of work on the land to help the farmers. They get to understand the situation in the Westbank. Besides volunteering on the land they also do excursions and they meet with local organizations. There are lectures and films for a deeper understanding of the geo-political situation.

To learn more about this campaign and how you can either sponsor an olive tree or join of their programs check out the website: https://www.jai-pal.org/en/campaigns/olive-tree-campaign