Olive trees have long been an economic staple of Palestine, constituting the traditional livelihood of the Palestinians. Many products such as olives, olive oil, olive wood, and olive-based soap are extracted from the olive trees. But the olive tree is far more than an economic resource for Palestinians. To Palestinians, the olive tree is sacred and symbolically represents Palestine. The older trees, their gnarled, ancient trunks attesting to a life span of 800 to 1,000 years, have been passed from one generation to another, over hundreds of years.
Since 2000, however, over half a million olive trees and thousands of acres of farmland have been destroyed by the Israeli Occupation Forces to clear land for the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, for construction of roads that only settlers can use, and for the building of the apartheid Wall that has been declared illegal by the International Court of Justice. In addition, thousands of olive trees have been destroyed -- burned, poisoned, chain-sawed -- by militant Israeli settlers in an attempt to drive the Palestinian farmers from their land. The settlers even uproot ancient olive trees and replant them in their settlements.
Some of the 95 trees destroyed in Burin by settlers last month.
Kick-off of the "10,000 Trees for Nablus" Campaign in Burin
On Thursday, October 29th, MPTers joined international activists in accompanying the farmers and villagers of Burin to the planting of approximately 50 olive trees as part of the “10,000 Trees for Nablus” campaign. Burin was selected as one of the communities to participate in the program as it has endured numerous Israeli Army and settler attacks this year; just in the last two months the village endured an arson attack, settler harassment, and the cutting of 97 trees by settlers with chainsaws.
The morning of the tree planting the “winter rain” began, prompting concerns that the tree planting would have to be postponed, the rain and winds were so intense. However, by the appointed noon hour, the rain had stopped. The drought-stricken land was so thirsty, that it had rained was not readily apparent.Burin schoolgirls join in the walk to the field for the planting.
There was a significant outpouring of villagers, including about 30 students from the Burin Girls School in their green and white striped tunics, and a comparable number from the Burin Boys School, the boys sporting their blue shirts. Eighteen members of the Civil Campaign for the Protection of Palestinian People, a French solidarity organization, participated in the effort. Although a total of 200 trees were slated for Burin for this first planting, only 48 were planted that day, and not on threatened lands near the illegal settlements of Yitzhar and Bracha so that the children could participate.
Carefully unwrapping an olive tree.
Students planting an olive sapling. Teachers from the Burin Girls School in the background.
Villagers and internationalists celebrate a successful planting, giving hope to the future of Palestinian children.