Palestinian Village Harvests Olives

In Palestinian territories farmers are picking olives, which is a seasonal ritual. Olives are important to the region's agricultural sector. However, the construction of an Israeli barrier is making harvesting olives difficult for the farmers in the West Bank village of Al-Walajeh. Al-Walajeh, which has a population of only 2,300, is located southwest of Jerusalem and is surrounded by Israeli settlements. More than 90 percent of the village's land has been confiscated and bulldozed in preparation for the barrier's construction, which has uprooted thousands of olive trees. The Palestinian villagers say that once construction is complete, this barrier will isolate them from accessing their farmlands, cemetery and water source. The villagers harvest a 3,500-year-old olive tree to celebrate their resistance against the Israeli occupation. "We combined two occasions, a day for Palestinian heritage and the olive harvesting season," said Maha Saca, the event's organizer. "This is all related: olives are a part of our heritage, identity and our existence on this land. We are here to stay, like the olive trees. This olive tree represents 3,500 years and gives us 60 bags of olives annually. It is proof that the Palestinian people have existed and lived here for thousands of years," Saca added. According to an Israeli Defense Ministry map, the proposed barrier will entirely surround Al-Walajeh by a fence, isolating it from the open land around it. Israeli cities experienced the highest number of suicide bombings when the Israeli government initiated construction of the barrier in 2002. According to Palestinians, they deem the barrier as an excuse by Israel to occupy or break up land that Palestine pursues for a possible state. The International Court of Justice has declared the 370-mile-long barrier -- more than half of which is completed -- illegal, but Israel has ignored the non-binding ruling. By: Nadia Idriss Mayen Al Arabiya with Agencies

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