For me, olive trees are not only ancient but noble, patient, quiet and very beautiful, their colors harmonious with the dusty, muted terrain. I respect these trees because for sometimes hundreds of years they’ve been the primary livelihood for Palestinians.
Farmers are prevented from tending their trees by a series of punitive rules that regulate the hours during which Israeli soldiers allow access through guarded gates and the issuance of permits to who will be allowed this access. Uniformed soldiers are a threatening presence in the olive groves and heavy equipment a terrifying weapon that uproots, slashes and burns the trees.
It is estimated that as many as four million olive trees have been taken out of production, by one or other of these means.
These pictures tell the story. There is no need here for my explanatory words. I must however express the deep outrage I feel as a Jew that people of my ‘tribe’, a people for whom a belief in justice has always been fundamental, can destroy these ancient, beautiful living things and at the same time deprive another people of the right to their traditional livelihood.When we buy olive oil from Spain or Italy or Greece, we don’t think much about the journey from the olive tree to the bottle on our kitchen counter.
And when we think about olives we probably don’t think about Palestine and many of us don’t even know that we can buy Palestinian olive oil in North America. And even if we know all that, we may not realize the many, many obstacles that stand between those Palestinian olive trees and the Palestinian olive oil that is available to us in this country. I owe my first bottle of this excellent olive oil to Zatoun, (zatoun means olive in Arabic), a grass roots organization in Toronto and its founder Robert Massoud. Please visit the Zatoun website to place your order.