On Saturday dozens of international volunteers assisted farmers in the southern West Bank village of Al Khader, near Bethlehem, with the planting of some 200 olive trees on their endangered land.The olive tree planting day was organised by the Joint Advocacy Initiative of the East Jerusalem YMCA / YWCA of Palestine, and is part of the ‘Keep Hope Alive: Olive Tree Campaign’. The intention of the project is non-violent resistance of the illegal occupation of the West Bank through ensuring that communities whose land is under threat are actively supported by locals and internationals alike.
The planting of olive trees bears great significance due to the heavy economic reliance on olive produce in the occupied territories.
At 10A.M a bus-load of organisers and international volunteers departed for Al Khader from YMCA Beit Sahour armed with dozens of young olive trees and tools. They ascended up from Al Khader village to the farmland on foot accompanied by families from the village, and several donkeys loaded with the saplings.
After merging with dozens more participants in the fields, including some Israelis, the planting successfully got underway. Under the watchful eyes of armed settlers patrolling a settlement of trailers and huts at the top of a hill, locals and internationals continued to plant hundreds of olive trees. The trees will provide much stability and hope for Al Khader’s farmers if they are not uprooted by settlers or Israeli forces, as sadly is sometimes the case
As the planting continued up the hill towards the illegal settlement, the participants were welcomed by two or three Israeli army jeeps complete with troops. Clutching their weapons, the young troops insisted that the farmers stop planting on their own land and produced a document declaring it a ‘Closed Military Zone’. This ambiguous phrase is commonly used during negotiations with farmers who are trying to tend to their land, and is simply repeated until it loses any integrity that it might have originally had and becomes merely an order to leave your land or face arrest.
The vast majority of the group continued to dig holes and plant trees in the area while some participants attempted to negotiate with troops, whom had been joined by a small amount of settlers.
One settler started showing aggression towards a Palestinian farmer, taunting him to no avail before resorting to striking him with a fist.
As negotiations reached a stale-mate troops started using physical force against people who had continued to plant olive trees, mainly Palestinian farmers. An attempt to brutally arrest a youth was sabotaged by a number of participants who held on to the boy and demanded justification for the soldiers’ overly aggressive behavior towards the young Palestinians.
Despite being met with some hostility, the planting day was successful, and another is planned for March 3rd.
For more information on the Keep Hope Alive campaign visit