Olive Harvest – Impressions of Burin

During the last days we have been picking olives with different families in Burin, a Palestinian village south of Nablus. Our time in the fields was spiced with cooking Arabic coffee and frying eggs over small fires, eating homemade hummus with our hands full of soil and olive oil and listening to stories of Palestine.

Some Characteristics of Burin

Burin hosts around 3.000 inhabitants and is surrounded by several illegal Israeli settlements and outposts such as Bracha and Yitzhar. The village’s land and water resources have been reduced drastically since the 1967 Israeli occupation. Burin stretches over approximately 30.000 dunams (1) of land from which only seven per cent is theoretically still in hands of Palestinians. Burin’s land, as well as the land of other Palestinian villages, is often declared as ”state land” before it is handed over to inhabitants of illegal settlements.

Map Courtesy of POICA

Map Courtesy of POICA

Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and an obstacle to peace and to economic and social development … and have been established in breach of international law.” International Court of Justice Ruling (July 2004)

With the Oslo agreement the West Bank was divided into three areas. Area A, seven percent of the West Bank, is under full control of the Palestinian Authority and consists primarily of urban Palestinian areas. Area B, about 27 percent, is under Palestinian civil control and shared Palestinian and Israeli security control and includes the vast majority of the Palestinian rural areas. Area C, 63 percent of the West Bank, is under full Israeli control. Palestinian agencies are responsible for education and healthcare.

Burin is separated into zone B and C. A vivid example is the mosque of the village which is split between the two zones. For this reason, the mosque’s lights can only be turned on in zone B. Israeli settlers have claimed the minaret to be a hiding place for snipers, forcing the authorities to disintegrate the minaret from the mosque. Until today this issue is still in debate.

Olive Picking

The season of olive harvest is also known as the bloodiest months of the year for many farmers. Palestinians owning land in zone C are obliged to request permission for harvesting their olives. These are valid, however, for only one to three days, which are rarely enough and can be withdrawn at any time. Sadly, having a permit does not protect the farmers from experiencing harassment and attacks, burning and destroying their property.

Because of these threats we have been accompanying farmers and their families to their land. We spent many moments on and  under the trees with songs and stories. However, these moments could not take away fear and tension which are a result of these permanent threats. Therefore, it is not surprising that every Palestinian family has their own personal story of loss and cruelty.

  • Karim*, 16 years old son of farmer Ahmed* who we accompanied during the harvest, was attacked by a settler in his car on the way to his uncle’s wedding. He was in a coma for two months.

  • Ismail*, another farmer, lost his 18 year old son on the road next to his olive fields. He was shot dead.

  • Many family members who were released from prison and are now under probation are not allowed to be on their own land.

  • Ahmad’s* trees were burned by settlers two days after we finished harvesting his them.

Olive harvest and showing presence on their land is a risk in many ways, but an essential part of Palestinian life as well as an important act of resistance against the illegal occupation and the oppression by the Israeli state.

* Names changed.

(1) A dunam is a unit of land area enclosing 1000 square metres.