Keep Hope Alive: Olive Tree Planting in Palestine

One of the Five Marks of Mission widely adopted as an expression of contemporary Christian mission is “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth”.

Stephen has just returned from participating in the Olive Tree Planting Campaign organised by the Joint Advocacy Initiative of the East Jerusalem YMCA\YWCA in Palestine and the Alternative Tourism Group (ATG). The JAI-ATG Olive Planting Program, lasts for 10 days in February each year.

People of any age and background from all over the world can join. This year the international team of 20 ranged from teenagers to senior citizens and came from Denmark, Holland, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK to participate.

A total of 12,000 olive trees were funded by international donors this year. We managed to plant 800 during the week on four farms threatened by Israeli settlement expansion and land confiscation.

The program included planting internationally-sponsored olive trees in Palestinian fields, with Palestinian families, that are under high threat of confiscation due to the Israeli colonies (settlements) expansion, israeli apartheid wall, settlers’ bypass roads, or Palestinian farmers facing difficulties maintaining their land due to the frequent settlers’ attacks. Hence, the presence of internationals was not only to provide physical support, but also to provide protective presence, show solidarity to the farmers’ families in order to Keep their Hope Alive.

How to plant an olive tree…

Participants were given the opportunity to listen to Palestinian farmers’ stories of how their properties are threatened by settlers, the Apartheid Wall, bypass roads or Israeli settlement expansions. We also visited Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Hebron, Ramallah and Nabi Saleh during the week.

Our first day planting 175 internationally-sponsored olive trees, at a threatened Palestinian field, belonging to the family of the farmer Adnan Salah, in the agricultural land of Al-Khader village, west of Bethlehem.
The second day of olive tree planting in the fields of a farmer from the village of Irtas, 12 km south of Bethlehem. The fields are surrounded on three sides by the Gush Etzion settlement bloc and Gush Etzion police station well known to rather too many Palestinians. We planted 200 olive trees right up the settlement fences. The saplings have been sponsored by international donors and were planted by a team from Holland, Ireland, Switzerland, Sweden and the U.K. The saplings are an expression of our solidarity and will help provide security for vulnerable farmers.
An introduction to a cold and windy day three of the JAI-ATG olive tree planting project on terraces high above the village of Khalayil Al-Louz near Bethlehem.
Muhanad introduces day three of the JAI-ATG olive tree planting project on terraces high above the village of Khalayil Al-Louz near Bethlehem which is threatened by an illegal outpost of the Israeli settlement of Efrata. It was very windy and exposed but we managed to plant 200 more saplings on the hillside.
Our fourth and final day olive tree planting with the JAI-ATG in the village of Al-Khader. The hill top farm was used as an Israeli military base during the Intifada but the farmer regained access through the courts.

Photo albums:
Olive tree planting
Jahalin Bedouin
Nabi Saleh

Interviews with:
Jonathan Kuttab on antisemitism and anti-Zionism
Angela Godfrey-Goldstein on the Jahalin Bedouin
Wissam Salsa on the Walled Off Hotel’s latest art gallery exhibition
Ahed Tamimi on boycotting of the Israeli occupation
Rafat on being a Palestinian tour guide
Hebron Keffier Factory

How to join the olive tree planting project in February 2020. You can also help with the olive picking program in October 2019.