In West Bank, olive groves are on the front line in struggle over land
Tuesday, October 12, 2010; 7:39 PM
TURMUS AYYA, WEST BANK - When members of the Shalabi family went out recently to harvest their olives, they discovered that a few dozen trees had been chopped down, their branches hacked by vandals. In other groves belonging to this Palestinian village, there were scores of dead trees that had apparently been poisoned, with holes drilled in their trunks.
The groves are near Adei Ad, an unauthorized Jewish settlement outpost, and villagers, citing past incidents of assaults and harassment, pointed an accusing finger at the settlers.
"You work hard for years to tend the tree, like raising a child, and when you see it destroyed, the feeling cannot be described," Nahil Shalabi, a family member, said as she surveyed the damage. "No one stops them," she added, referring to the vandals.
The olive harvest is an annual ritual in the rocky hills of the West Bank. Families take to the groves to work and picnic together, climbing ladders to pick the hard green or black fruit, a traditional staple of the Palestinian economy, or knocking it off with sticks onto tarps spread under the trees.
But the harvest is also a time of heightened tension between Palestinians and militant Jewish settlers, with some of the olive groves near the settlements becoming a front line in the struggle over land in the West Bank...READ MORE