Farmers struggle in Bethlehem and Salfit to pick olives
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Farmers struggle in Bethlehem and Salfit to pick olives

***image1***With the olive harvest beginning this month, farmers and their families across the West Bank will spend their days picking, cleaning and sorting olives. They will also face settler attacks and restricted access to their groves, which are often isolated behind the Wall, in settlements or adjacent to military bases and closed zones.

Despite restrictions, several villages in the Bethlehem area were able to successfully pick some of their olives on Saturday. 35 farmers and international supporters harvested olives in al-Ma’sara, but were unable the 3,500 dunums isolated by the Wall and settlements.

The following day, 70 farmers and their supporters undertook another successful harvest in Um Salamuna, near al-Ma’sara, where they managed to cover 200 trees. The land is located near the Afrat settlement, and soldiers stationed in the area questioned farmers about the work and remained in the area to monitor the situation throughout the day.

In the Salfit area, however, a number of communities were not able to access their lands at all. In Iskaka, residents reported that armed settlers, accompanied by dogs, have taken to occupying a nearby spring every Saturday, effectively making the area off-limits for harvesting. In the village of Haris, located just north of the Ariel settlement finger, a farmer and his family were barred from reaching their land located inside a nearby settlement.

Similar problems faced farmers in ‘Azzun, east of Qalqilya, who were barred from entering an area south of the their village. In the Ramallah-area village of Deir ‘Ammar, farmers have been fearful of returning to their lands since armed settlers destroyed 190 trees last week.