How to Plant an Olive Tree

General instructions:

Make sure that you are in West Bank, the Palestinian side of Green Line. Do not fear settlers or armed soldiers who are trying to distract you, but leave the discussions for the owner of the land. Enjoy the beauty of the Palestinian country side and the co-operation with your hard-working team.

Planting in the sun:

  1. Locate the spot
  2. Dig a hole, 40 cm deep and wide
  3. Remove the plastic around the root of the tree
  4. Carefully place the tree in the hole
  5. Use the surrounding soil and fill the hole to give space for the roots to grow sideways
  6. Celebrate with a dance around the trunk to put a pressure on the soil
  7. Put a supporting stick right next to the tree
  8. Say “Good night, darling” when you dress him up with a yellow plastic tube for protection from animals

Planting in the rain:

  1. Have a look out of your hoody and get a glance of the spot
  2. Wait for the farmer to dig a hole
  3. Pray for Gods help to remove the cold stones and the wet heavy mud and do not get pissed off when the clay wouldn’t let go of your tools
  4. Guess that someone else already removed the plastic
  5. Drop the tree in the hole
  6. Push the clumpy mud back in there
  7. Leave it for the rain to put pressure on the soil
  8. If the tree is still there, provide it with the stick
  9. Ask someone else to put on the tube while you’re served a warm cup of tea

This planting recipe reflects a part of the experience among 50 international participants who attended the Olive Planting Program of 2012, arranged by the Joint Advocacy Initiative of Palestine. The main reason for the initiative is to contribute to the Palestinian farmer’s struggle for cultivating their own land. Due to Israeli laws, Palestinian land is constantly confiscated by the Israeli government and army in order to expand settlements, continue the construction of the wall, establish military zones, or claim it as state land that belongs to Israel. These illegal processes according to international law, create huge difficulties for the farmers. Despite documents which prove the farmer’s ownership, and several cases taken to Israeli courts, the land-grab is still ongoing. The presence of the international olive planters will send a message to the state of Israel, saying: This is not acceptable.

One of the farmers who invited us for planting was Abdul Hakim Salah. He owns the land, Wadi Ash in Al-Khader, surrounded by the Israeli settlement Neve Daniel and two other settlements. Salah grew up here, and the ruins of the house where the family lived for generations illustrate the attachment to this land. The Palestinian land owner pointed out the spot where he once fell as a five-year old boy and broke his leg: he will never forget the memories from his childhood in Wadi Ash.

Even though the land requires a lot of work, profit is not what motivates Salah. The income from his cultivation is not enough to support his family, and nowadays Salah works in town as well as on the farm. His continuous and stubborn work in the field is an act of resistance against the Israeli occupation. Salah is steadfast “because there are no other alternatives”.

The fifty Olive Tree Planters were all more or less prepared for ten days of an intense experience; exploring discrimination and separation, hatred and fear. Despite the diversity among the people, a common ground was established even before take-off: a desire to show solidarity with the people of Palestine and contribute to their struggle of existence.

The week’s program consisted of four days of tree planting, four political guided tours to different towns in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, lectures and an optional evening program. The participants were optimistic and seemed to be aware of the situation of the Palestinian people. The theme of the program is taken seriously by the organizers and participants. 1500 olive trees were brought to life in four different fields located south of Bethlehem – Al-Khader, Beit Umar, Beit Eskariya, and Jabber.

The mood during planting was generally high, and three of the German participants even entertained the hard-working people with music. They had brought instruments from home and created a relaxed atmosphere with trumpets and drums. Martin from Holland came up with an idea for how to benefit from the wasted presence of the Israeli soldiers and suggested that we should charge them for the concert.

In total, the lectures and the personal meetings with Palestinians gave the participants an idea about the injustice that the people are facing in their everyday life. The situation could be difficult for anyone to comprehend. “The more you know, the more you understand that you don’t know anything” one of the participants said. But this would not stop any of us from trying. At one point Sindy was overloaded with information: “It’s ludicrous! The evil strategy of humiliation and discrimination is so much worse than I expected”. And this discrimination was about to become clearer when pointed out to us during the political tour around East Jerusalem.

But there is hope. Because injustice never rules forever.

Further reading:

See more photos:

Video promoting the campaign:

Attend a program:

Support an olive tree:


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