How to plant an olive tree in Palestine

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First, dig a hole with a pickaxe or a mattock.  The ground is really full of stones.  Then make it bigger than you estimated!  Put in an olive sapling and firm up the earth around it.  Don’t forget the wooden stake to prop it up and the white plastic sleeve over it all to protect against marauding animals.  Done. And now to the next one, and the next…

In February five women from Iffley in Oxford joined a group from eight different countries to plant over 1,000 trees (well saplings really) in fields that their owners – the Palestinian farmers –  felt were under threat from illegal Israeli settlers.  The charity Keep Hope Alive has been organising trips twice a year to either help with the olive harvest or plant trees for more than ten years.

Pictured are Shirley Hoy, Eunice Martin          Corinne Grimley Evans and  Jane McBain from Iffley.

Sarah McKearney  digs a hole for an olive tree

Sarah McKearney, one of the women, said: “Here in Iffley we have been supporting them for more than five years.  The charity, which was started by a partnership between the Joint Advocacy Initiative, East Jerusalem YMCA and YWCA Palestine, champions the farmers in their non-violent resistance to increasingly hostile land grabs by both the Israeli government and the illegal settlers.

“In the UK the media does not report the facts about what is happening on the ground in Israel/Palestine. A visit like ours gave us the ability to see for ourselves.  The sentiment of the Christmas carol O little town of Bethlehem will never be the same.  Bethlehem is divided by the apartheid wall and often overhung with tear gas fumes fired by the military.

“You can do something. The Christians are asking us to go and see. These trips will give you a totally different and accurate understanding of the situation and amazingly they are full of energy, fun and what the Palestinians are world leaders in SUMUD.  This Arabic word means faithfulness/ steadfastness/hope staying put. As you can see even at the end of a planting session we were catching some of it.”