It just breaks your heart, because all our work and effort is in vain. After tending to the trees every day, you see it all wiped out in an instant. It leaves a heartache that won’t go away.
Mahmoud Samhan, Ras Karkar, 19 August 2018
The olive harvest was once a joyful time for Palestinian families, celebrating the crop and their ties to the land. Yet for many years now, olive gathering has been taking place under the shadow of landgrab, restrictions Israel imposed on access to the plots that remain, settler attacks on harvesters and vandalization of trees.
Some olive groves are located in close proximity to settlements, or even within them, so farmers have no access to the trees. In some places, the Israeli military allows farmers to go to their land only twice a year – and for a limited number of days, at that – during the harvest and plowing seasons. Even then, farmers are often turned away from their land on various grounds. Because farmers are prohibited from accessing their land, they are unable to tend to the trees properly. As a result, the trees yield poorer crops and farmers incur financial losses, forcing some to find other ways to make a living.
In addition, farmers and their trees are subject to settler violence. Over the years, B’Tselem has documented hundreds of cases of settler attacks on Palestinians or their property. These attacks persist despite the near constant presence of soldiers – either in military posts or in observation towers – and despite the fact that they recur in known locations, near the same settlements and outposts.
In some cases, the harmed parties never even reported the incident. In others, they informed police officers who came to the scene and documented the damage. In other cases, victims lodged an official police complaint. Whatever course of action chosen, the outcome has been the same: the vast majority of investigations launched were closed with no action taken. Settlers take full advantage of the freedom they are given by the Israeli authorities. They do as they please without suffering any consequences.
This reality, which forces farmers to abandon their lands, is no accident. It is the outcome Israeli policy seeks to achieve, facilitating the takeover of more land in order to expand settlements or advance other Israeli interests.
This year’s olive harvest officially began on 12 October 2018, but as in years past, settlers began their attacks on the groves weeks earlier. Between mid-August and 24 November 2018, B’Tselem recorded two physical assaults against olive harvesters in the Nablus and Ramallah areas as well as nine instances of property damage, with settlers cutting down or uprooting some 500 trees and stealing olives from at least 310. Below are further details regarding some of the incidents documented by B’Tselem field researchers. Farmers who persevere in cultivating their land despite all the obstacles Israel puts in their path tell of the difficulties they have been facing this year:
The Ramallah area:
Around the same time, five incidents in which settlers cut down a total of 377 olive trees and three grapevines were recorded in the Ramallah area. In one of the groves, settlers had cut down all the trees six years ago. The farmers had planted new saplings and waited five years for the trees to bear fruit, only to find that the settlers cut them down again this year. In an additional incident, settlers cut down 22 lemon trees in the village of Deir Nidham.
Below are some of the testimonies collected by B'Tselem field researcher Iyad Hadad:
Turmusaya, 24 November 2018:
On 24 November 2018, some 15 settlers entered an olive grove owned by ‘Abdallah Abu ‘Awad, a resident of Turmusaya – a village that saw the establishment of the Adei Ad outpost about four kilometers away in 1998. The settlers began vandalizing the grove, breaking the branches of 23 of the 130 trees there. At that point, five Palestinians who were harvesting olives in the next grove noticed them and tried to film them. The settlers then moved on to a different grove, owned by another resident of Turmusaya, Shukri Za’atar, where they broke the branches of 25 of his 200 trees. At that point, harvesters who saw them from afar alerted one of the landowners and the staff of the Israeli DCO. Before the settlers left, they also trampled some barbed wire fences around the groves.
The DCO personnel, who arrived only an hour or so after the settlers left, took a statement from Shukri Za’atar, who was called to the area, and from one of the witnesses.
The owner of the first grove, ‘Abdallah Abu ‘Awwad, 76, described how he found out his grove had been vandalized in a testimony he gave the next day:
Yesterday, Saturday, 24 November 2018, at around 6:30 in the evening, I was watching TV when I got a call from the village council informing me that trees on my land, near the settlement of Adei Ad, had been vandalized. I’m an elderly man and couldn’t go there alone at night, so I went only the next morning, at 8:00, with my daughter-in-law and sister. My grandson joined us later on. When I saw the chopped trees, my heart sank. You can't imagine how much pain I felt, and such frustration. My trees were very well cared for. I tended them with love, just like I treat my children. They hadn't torn off the branches and didn’t even use saws. I’m not sure I’ll be able to restore the trees so they can bear fruit again. It might be better to uproot them and plant new ones. They were only five years old and hadn't borne much fruit yet. I waited every day for five years for them to start bearing fruit. Now I’m scared to send my sons to tend to the land, because the settlers might hurt them or kill them. They want us to abandon the land. They're pushing us into a corner so that we let the land go and they can take over.
They answer to no one. There’s an army observation tower between the settlement and my land that’s staffed around the clock. They vandalized the grove in broad daylight. I’m not planning on filing a complaint about this incident because it won’t do any good. Haj Hazmah from our village filed many complaints with the police over similar incidents and nothing came of them.
While the incident was taking place, ‘Abdallah Muhammad, 62, a married father of seven, was harvesting olives as a hired hand in an adjacent plot with three other laborers and the plot’s owner. In a testimony he gave the next day, he recounted:
While we were harvesting the olives, sometime between 2:30 and 3:00 in the afternoon, I saw a group of about 15 settlers breaking olive trees in a grove that belongs to a resident of Turmusaya. Some of them had shirts over their faces. They were about 200 meters away from us. I drove with ‘Abdallah Na’asan, the owner of the grove where I was working, to a higher lookout to see what they were doing exactly. We got closer until we were about 100 meters from them. ‘Abdallah tried to film them, but they saw us and ran towards Adei Ad. They stopped at a distance of about 500 meters from us, went into another grove that belongs to another resident of Turmusaya, and started breaking the trees there, too. ‘Abdallah called an Israeli DCO officer and told the landowners, too. The settlers spent another ten minutes on the land and then they left.
After about half an hour, the Adei Ad security patrol car arrived and parked near the second grove they had destroyed. Half an hour later, the military and the police came too. ‘Abdallah Na’asan, the three other workers and I went down to talk to them. They questioned ‘Abdallah and one of the landowners who had arrived in the meantime, but they didn’t ask me or the other harvesters anything.
Turmusaya, 7 October 2018:
Muhammad ‘Awwad, 60, a married father of fourteen from Turmusaya, owns 1.1 hectares of land east of Turmusaya. The settlement of Amihai (part of the Shilo bloc), which was approved in 2017, was built about a kilometer away from his land, as well as the outpost of Adei Ad, which was established in 1998. On 7 October 2018, after returning from a family visit abroad, ‘Awwad went to harvest olives in a grove on one of his plots which stretches over 0.7 hectares. On arrival, he discovered that 60 of the 110 trees had been cut down.
In a testimony he gave the same day, he recounted:
Half of my children live in the US. I visit them, but I won’t move there because I’ve never liked living abroad. I prefer to come back and work my land. It’s my living, and my land is as dear to me as my own soul. I can’t give it up or stay away from it. The Israeli authorities coordinate days for us to access the land only twice a year, for plowing and for the olive harvest. This allows the settlers to roam out land all year round, whenever they want, while we get set days.
This morning, two days after I returned from a visit to the US, I went to my land. I got coordinated days from 2 to 10 October, but I had to miss a few because I was away. I got to the land at 7:00 in the morning with my son ‘Abdallah, who’s 17. When I arrived I saw major destruction. It looked like the trees had been slaughtered. They were cut off at the point where they branch out from the trunk. I was shocked. I thought I was having a nightmare. I felt like I couldn't breath. I sat down for a while and didn't know what to do. Then I called a farmer from al-Mughayir who has experience with this sort of act and he advised me to complain to the DCO. A DCO officer came to the land and told me to file a complaint with the Binyamin Police. I told him there was no point wasting my time on a complaint that wouldn't lead to anything. I had only three coordinated days left and I preferred to harvest the remaining trees.
There were quad bike tracks on the ground. The branches that had been cut off were very fresh and farmers in the land near mine told me that my trees had looked fine the day before. That’s why I think they did the damage at night. Palestinians can only access this area when there’s coordination and during the day, so I’m convinced it was the settlers who did it. Half a kilometer from my land, before Adei Ad, there’s an army guard post.
Half my crop is gone and I’ve lost between 12,500 and 15,000 shekels (USD 3,343 – 4,011). I don’t know what we’re going to do now. I’m scared the settlers will continue damaging my other trees, or hurt us. There’s no authority that supports us or gives us any real protection.
Ras Karkar, 18 August 2018:
Brothers Lutfi (41) and Mahmoud (27) Samhan live in the village of Ras Karkar and own about one hectare of land, most of which consists of olive groves. About 18 months ago, the brothers planted some 75 olive saplings in one of their plots, about 0.2-0.3 hectares in size, north of the village. In 2001, the settlement outpost of Zayit Ra’anan was built about 500 meters from the plot. On 18 August 2018, when the Samhan brothers arrived at their plot, they discovered that settlers had uprooted or cut down 70 of the new saplings, and cut down four mature trees and three grapevines. The settlers also broke the cover off the water cistern the brothers used to water their crops and drink, and threw rocks into it.
In a testimony he gave on 19 August 2018, Lutfi Samhan, a married father of three, said:
Yesterday, Saturday, 18 August 2018, we went to our land to water the new saplings and check on the family grove. I went with my children Khaled, 11, Jud, 10 and Awais, 6, as well as my nephew, Khaled Samhan, 11, my brother Mahmoud and our friend Muhammad Nofal, 28. We like to go there to water the trees, tend to our land or just sit and spend some time in nature, among the trees. We have a water cistern there too, which we dug ten years ago. We use it for irrigation and for drinking.
When we got to the grove, we were shocked at what we found. Seventy young saplings, a year and a half old, had been uprooted or cut down and all the barrels that had protected them from the wind and from animals were turned over. Some of the branches and the trunks of four more mature trees were also broken and the cistern cover had been torn off. We also saw some graffiti. Later I was told that it said: “Revenge for the detainees of the land of Zion”.
It really hit us hard, emotionally. What hurt the most was to see my young children sad. It was also very painful to see the destruction. My little boy Awais asked me sadly: “Dad, why did the settlers uproot them?” He had heard us mention the settlers when we were talking about the graffiti. He also asked why they had broken the tree he had planted. I had helped him plant the tree and we named it after him. He said we’d plant another tree in its place on Saturday. My daughter Jud, who was in shock, started crying and asked why they had done it. These were the first trees the kids helped plant and they were waiting to see the fruit. That night, Jud woke up at midnight and came to me. I was awake because I couldn’t sleep either. She sat down next to me and I hugged her to cheer her up. She asked when we would go back to the grove to plant new trees. She said we would continue to plant trees, that we weren’t afraid and that she didn’t want to lose the land because they like playing there. That spot is their only outlet, because there are no playgrounds or parks or gardens nearby. I worry that the shock from what was done to the trees is going to emotionally scar my children. I do everything to give them a safe environment, to keep violence away, and try my best to support and encourage them. This isn't the first time the settlers harmed our trees.
Mahmoud Samhan also described what he saw in a testimony he gave on 19 August 2018:
It’s really painful, because we see no blessing in our work and our efforts. After caring for the trees every day, you see it erased in just a fleeting moment. It leaves heartache that doesn’t go away.
Al-Mughayir, 14 October 2018:
‘Abdallah Na’asan and his family own 200 hectares of land. Among their crops is an olive grove covering a 0.8-hectare plot with 90 trees, located about five kilometers north of the village. The settlement outpost of Adei Ad was built about 500 meters away from the plot in 1998. For years, the family has been able to access the land only on coordinated days, twice a year. About six years ago, settlers cut down all the trees in the plot before the olive harvest. The family replanted and waited for five years for the trees to grow and bear fruit. They were horrified to discover, on 14 October 2018, that settlers had once again cut down the trees.
‘Abdallah Na’asan, 50, a married father of five, gave his testimony on the day he and his family members discovered the decimated grove:
We were really looking forward to the olive harvest this year, because we'd waited five years for the trees to regrow. This morning, I was in another grove, across from the plot with the new trees, with my cousin Yasser, 35, and a few other farmers. We saw, in front of us, that the grove with the 90 trees had been completely destroyed again. All the trees had been cut down. I called the Palestinian DCO to have them inform the Israeli DCO. I went over to the plot to check on things. When I saw the trees all chopped, it broke my heart. It was so painful. They didn’t miss a single tree! Judging by the state of the leaves, it was clear it had happened in the last day or two. Palestinian farmers can’t go to that area without coordination. Only the settlers roam freely in our land whenever they want. There’s an army observation tower not far from our land, too. Soldiers can see the whole area from there.
At 9:00 in the morning, people from the Israeli DCO came. They checked the damage and told us the Israel Police would come to investigate the incident. Not one year goes by without one of our groves being targeted. We file complaints with the Israeli DCO and the Israel Police every time, but it doesn’t do help a bit. They’ve never investigated the incidents. We’ve filed so many complaints that we’ve given up. We filed the most recent complaint last July, when 25 of our olive trees were cut down in a different plot. The Israeli police officers come to take record, as if there’s an investigation, but they don’t do anything else. We live in constant fear, not just for our crops and property, but for our lives. What can we do? There is no institution or organization that can help and protect us! We have no way out of these exhausting troubles that plague us every day. How long will this go on?
During these months, B’Tselem documented five cases of settler violence – including one in which two farmers were assaulted with rocks, and another case in which a farmer was harassed – the theft of olives from some 310 trees, and the chopping down of another 120.
Below are some of the testimonies collected from landowners by B’Tselem field researcher Salma a-Deb’i:
Yasuf, 15 September 2018:
Rajeh (53) and Rida (58) ‘Atyani are brothers. They share ownership over a 2.7-hectare plot of land located about three kilometers away from the village homes. There they cultivate, among other things, some 160 olive trees. About a year ago – as part of the expansion of the settlement of Rehelim, approved by the government in 2012 – settlers set up trailer homes about 500 meters from the plot. On 15 September 2018, Rajeh ‘Atyani arrived at the olive grove with his nephew, Mujahed Radi (31) to harvest the olives. On arrival, they found that 37 trees, almost a quarter of the grove, had already been harvested and most of the olives stolen. Some olives remained on the ground.
In a testimony he gave on 17 September 2018, Rajeh ‘Atyani, married and father of six, said:
On Saturday, at around six thirty in the morning, my nephew Mujahed and I went to harvest olives on our plot. We prefer going to the plot on Saturdays because we are afraid of settler attacks, especially since they recently put up trailer homes near the plot. When we got to the grove, I noticed there were a lot of olives and broken olive branches on the ground and that some of the trees had no olives on them. We discovered 37 trees had already been harvested.
I called the village council and the Palestinian DCO right away and they informed the Israeli DCO. I went back home, and at about eleven o’clock, the Palestinian DCO called and said people from the Israeli DCO would be coming to the plot. The Israeli DCO people got there at 11:45 A.M. as did an Israeli police car. The officers took pictures of the trees and of two metal bars the thieves must have used to strike at the branches to get the olives to fall to the ground. They took pictures of the broken branches on the ground too. The extensive damage to the trees indicates they struck the branches very violently. Branch breakage is very damaging to the trees. They aren’t likely to bear fruit next season. It broke my heart to see the harm to the trees that my brothers and I so carefully tend.
Burin, 13 October 2018:
Harbi Dik (51), a father of nine from Huwarah, is a shopkeeper. He also owns a 200-tree olive grove on a 0.7-hectare plot northeast of the village of Burin. In 1999, about a kilometer away from the plot, the settlement outpost of Giv’at Ronen was built as an extension of the Har Bracha settlement. On 13 October 2018, Dik arrived at his plot to harvest the olives. He came with ‘Amer Darawsheh (31), who works at his store. Three settlers then came into the grove and assaulted them with stones. Dik and Darawsheh then moved away to the other side of the grove and, after some soldiers intervened, the assault ended. However, a few hours later, about 15 more settlers arrived, and redoubled the assault. Dik and Darawsheh were forced to flee the area, leaving behind three sacks of olives they had already managed to harvest. The settlers stole two of the sacks and emptied the contents of the third on a thorn bush.
In a testimony he gave on 14 October 2018, Harbi Dik described the attack:
I got to my plot at around eleven o’clock in the morning, together with my employee ‘Amer Darawsheh. I have a store, and though I have a lot of work to do there, I still harvest the olives myself because most of the hired hands fear for their lives because of the settler attacks and won’t come to my plot. I thought the settlers wouldn’t attack since we went on a Saturday.
After we worked for about two hours, three settlers came with slingshots and started hurling stones at us from about 200 meters away. We decided to get away from them and moved to the other side of the grove. They kept following us and we had to switch spots every once in a while, to get away from them.
After about an hour, a military jeep came from the direction of the settlement. The soldiers spoke to the settlers and then the settlers went toward the settlement. I thought it was over, but then they sat on a big boulder about 300 meters away from us. They shouted at us, telling us to get out of there, and swore at us. That went on until about four o’clock. Then, about 15 settlers suddenly showed up and started throwing stones at us. One stone flew right by my ear. I told ‘Amer we had better leave. He quickly climbed down the ladder, picked it up and we ran away. We had no time to take anything else with us because we were being chased by the settlers. There were about 15 of them and they had split up into two groups, one behind us and one to the west of us. I felt that we were in real danger. We ran all the way to the car, about 100 meters, with stones landing all about us. We got in the car and, with the settlers still running after us and throwing stones at us, drove about 100 meters until we reached Hassan al-‘Ajuli’s home. His house is at the entrance to the village. It’s the closest to my plot. We went in and waited there until 6:00 P.M.
When we were absolutely sure the settlers had left, we went back to get the olives we had harvested. Before we had to run we had managed to fill three sacks, each weighing about 50 kg. Two of the sacks were gone, and the settlers had emptied the contents of the third among the thorns. They also stole two tarps we use for the harvest. I got so mad! We had worked so hard to harvest those olives! I insisted on retrieving as many olives as possible from the thorns. I even set fire to the thorns so I could get as many of the olives as possible.
I called the Palestinian police and told them what had happened, but they said they couldn’t do anything about it and that I’d have to call the Palestinian DCO. I didn’t, because I’m sure they won’t do anything. It’s just a formality. There’s obviously not going to be any real investigation. The settlers do whatever they want without answering to anyone. They even get protection and support from the military.
In a testimony he gave on 14 October 2018, ‘Amer Darawsheh, 31, a married father of two from ‘Awarta recalled how terrified he been during the assault
When the settlers threw stones at us and we ran, I got hit by a stone in the left leg. We kept running until we got to the car. The settlers continued chasing us until we got to Hassan al-‘Ajuli’s house. I couldn’t believe we got out of it in one piece. The stones flew right over our heads. I got back to my home in ‘Awarta at around 7:00 P.M. When I saw my kids, I hugged them because during the assault I thought I was going to die. I have two little kids, a one-year-old and a two-year-old and we’re expecting a third. I told my wife: “I almost died today. If it weren’t for the grace of God, you would have become a widow and your children orphans.”
Tell, 14 October 2018:
On 14 October 2018, farmers from Tell arrived at their olive groves, located about six kilometers west of the village, to find their trees had already been harvested by settlers and some had been vandalized. The outpost of Havat Gilad was established in 2002 near the olive groves. The military denies access to the owners of these plots throughout most of the year and allows them to cultivate them on a handful of days which they must pre-arrange with the DCO. This year, the farmers were given only three days for the olive harvest. Tareq and Iyad Silwadi are brothers whose family owns a plot of about two hectares. They arrived there with hired hands to find out all of their 220 trees had already been harvested and the olives stolen. Khaled ‘Asidah, who also arrived with two other village residents to harvest his own olives found that 53 of his 70 trees had already been harvested. On his 0.3-hectare plot, settlers broke 50 of 70 olive saplings he had planted three years ago. When ‘Asidah tried to restore and save what was left of the saplings, the soldiers who were present at the scene would not let him tend to them, saying access had been coordinated for harvest purposes only.
In a testimony he gave on 17 October 2018, Muhammad ‘Asidah related:
When I went to check on my plot and saw the broken saplings, two soldiers came and asked me what I was doing there. I told them it was my land. One of them told me I couldn’t be there. I asked him: “Why? There’s coordination for today.” He said coordination was meant for the harvest only. I said to them: “This is my land. Look what the settlers have done! I want to check on my saplings, fix what I can and put back the tires we’d placed to protect them from the wind and from animals.” The soldier said I had half an hour. I told him it wasn’t enough, but he insisted. I tried to put back the tires that were protecting the saplings and the soldiers kept insisting I leave, saying this type of work had not been pre-arranged and that coordination was only for the harvest. They kicked me off the plot after fifteen minutes. I asked the soldiers to let me go get water to water the saplings. I told them they were still small and needed water, but they refused. Instead, I went to help Khaled with his harvest. He was very upset because the settlers had stolen his olives off the trees and he only had some left on the high branches.
In a testimony he gave on 17 October 2018, Tareq Silwadi (39), the married father of two, spoke about discovering his olive trees had already been harvested:
Our land is about 300 meters away from the tents and the new trailers the settlers from Havat Gilad put up in the last few years. Ever since then, we can’t go to our land without coordination. There are 220 olive trees in the grove. My father planted them. They’re big and the olives make for high quality oil. I came there with my brother and with hired hands who help us with the harvest because we are only given three days to do it and we can’t harvest it all by ourselves. It takes at least ten days, even if you have laborers. We were surprised to see there were hardly any olives on the trees. All that was left was on high or hard-to-reach inner branches. I walked around the grove, hoping to find some tree that still had olives on it, but they didn’t skip a single tree! I got so upset! The soldiers don’t let anyone go to the land except the settlers. We managed to collect the olives that had been left behind. It’s enough to make 90 kg of oil. We produced one ton of oil in previous years.
Deir al-Hatab, 15 October 18:
Amjad ‘Awwad, 46, is married with eight children. He owns a 3.1-hectare plot of land less than a kilometer away from the last homes on the northeast side of the village. The Elon Moreh industrial park was built several dozen meters away from his plot, and the homes in the settlement, which was established in 1980, are located some 500 meters away from the plot. ‘Awwad has been barred from accessing his land for the plowing season since 2000, and has received coordinated days, on which he is allowed to enter it, only for the olive harvest. As the trees are left untended through most of the year, their yield has declined.
On 15 October 2018, one of the two days ‘Awwad was given for the olive harvest, he was attacked by settlers while working in his plot. Soldiers who arrived removed the settlers, but then proceeded to remove ‘Awwad from his land as well, claiming this was required “due to the security situation”. The soldiers did not arrest any of the assailants.
In a testimony he gave the day after the assault, ‘Awwad recounted:
On Monday, 15 October 2018, at around 8:30 in the morning, the village local council called and said coordination had been confirmed for the harvest for that day in the area that includes my plot. I went out there with a few dozen other residents who have plots near mine, but I was supposed to harvest my trees on my own. At the intersection leading to the road to the Elon Moreh settlement, there were a few military jeeps and soldiers who checked our equipment and ID cards. After the check, one of the soldiers told me to wait because there were no soldiers at my plot. I was about 300-500 meters away from it and waited for more than an hour. Every time I asked the soldier how much longer I’d have to wait, he said: “Another minute or two”. Finally, he said: “Now you can go. There are soldiers there”. I went to my plot and laid the tarps out under the tree. As soon as I began working, a settler came on a quad bike and stopped about ten meters away from me. I asked him what he wanted and he said, in Hebrew: “This is my land.” I said: “No, this is my land”, and we started arguing.
The settler phoned someone. I didn’t want the settlers to attack me while I was on my own, so I went to another part of the grove, closer to where other people from the village were working, about 200 meters away from them. I called the head of the village council and asked for help. Within a few minutes, about seven to nine settlers arrived. One of them was also on a quad bike, and the others were in a jeep. Suddenly, the settler who had arrived first started circling me on his quad bike. I noticed that he was carrying a gun on his hip. He accused me again of being on his land. I told him it was my land and that the army had given me permission to enter it. One of the settlers in the jeep said to him, “bring him to us” and “hit him”. Then, he punched me in the face. I tried to fend him off and he hit me again. In the meantime, some of the village residents who were working in the plots nearby came over because of the noise the quad bikes were making. The settler with the second quad bike drove off and the others stayed.
Other village residents cried out for help and seven or eight soldiers arrived, and others in an army jeep. After they talked to the settlers, the settlers left. I told the soldier who had spoken to me while I was waiting outside the grove: “You said there were soldiers on my plot, but there was no one. The settlers could have killed me, and no one would have noticed!" The soldier answered: “I didn’t know they were coming”. I said to him: “You’re sending me to die. What is this? Who’s responsible for this?!” Then the soldier said to me: “Okay, now leave because of the security situation”.
I went home. I had no choice, especially since I'd gone to work on my own and it’s not safe. The other farmers, who were in groups, continued harvesting in their plots. At 6:00 in the evening, an officer called and told me, in Arabic, to come to my land the next day (today) with at least four more people. I went to the plot this morning with my wife Tahani, 42, and my children – Nadia, 16, and Muhammad, 15. We were escorted by seven or eight soldiers until we finished our work. It took us less than four hours because there are very few olives on the trees. That is because they let us go to the land only a few times a year and we can’t tend to the trees properly. I haven’t been allowed to plow since 2000.
The settlers have been gradually taking over our land for the last five years. We see it every year, when we come on the coordinated days. One of the settlers put up some shacks and a pre-fab near my plot. He raises more than 1,000 sheep and goats there and lets them graze in my plot. They eat the branches of my trees. The trees are in bad shape. They’re dry and have no new leaves because the livestock eat everything. These trees were planted by my grandfather. We used to get more than thirty cans of olive oil from this land. Now, although I have such a large plot, I don’t even have enough olive oil for myself and have to buy it.