WATCH: IDF Fires Tear Gas At Olive Harvesters In West Bank [View all]
By Alon Aviram
It’s that time of the year again and the olive trees are ripe and ready for harvest. I found myself last Saturday picking olives alongside Palestinian families and Israeli activists from Ta’ayush in the Judean Hills in Tarqumiya, northwest of Hebron.
As the morning light crept over us, the only sounds to be heard were those of intermittent conversations, of hands sifting through coarse olive branches as they plucked the fruit, and then of the olives dropping like scattered rain drops on the nylon sheets below. The annual olive harvest is a family affair. Toddlers gather olives which have strayed from the sheets below the branches, men and women work on separate trees, each in their own conversations. Up until midday, sweet tea had been the only interruption to this monotonous but somewhat therapeutic work.
At around 11:30 a.m.., heads turned and we saw an army jeep with some soldiers standing outside peering down at the harvesters from the other side of the olive grove. A few Israeli activists meandered through the shrubs, trees and boulders, finally arriving at a fence which separated us from the four or so soldiers and security guards who had come from the neighboring Adora settlement. As we arrived, a squat young-looking soldier was already directing another one of the men to fire a tear gas canister into the center of the valley. His justification: that some Palestinians had allegedly come too close to the fence, which in itself was deemed to be a security hazard. Within the space of a few minutes, two tear gas canisters and two tear gas grenades had been randomly fired into the valley among the families. People scattered and fell, and those who were fortunate enough to avoid the clouds of chemicals continued harvesting with evermore determined intensity.