Why don’t you want to pick olives with us?

“We know a place where we can pick olives.” A friend suggested. “The owners have invited people to come and pick the olives and take them home with them”.

This was a generous tempting offer that I received over the Sukkot holiday.

Not wanting to have an uncomfortable conversation I responded that I would feel more comfortable if the olives were not situated over the green line, that the picture of the Arabs who are not able to pick their olives in safety resonates with me, and that I keep on seeing the picture of the 80 year old Jewish Rabbi who was attacked whilst trying to help with the olive harvest.

Yes we know about that: that is just Yitzhar and everyone knows that the settlers there are mad. They do not represent the entire settlement movement. Did you know that it is not all one sided. In Alon Shvut there is a cherry orchard which is regularly attacked.”

So I took the coward’s way out and changed the topic.

In an hour, Hoshanna Raba, the last day of Sukkot will end and our chance to change our fate for this current year comes to an end.  So, while I still can I am writing what I should have said at the time.

You may say that the Yitzhar settlers are violent and not representative but Arabs all over the West Bank find it difficult if not impossible  to  conduct their olive harvest.  Some do not have  access to their lands  and some feel or are  they are being threatened.

These same Arabs rely on the olive harvest for their survival.  A  Jewish land owner who invites the general public to pick olives clearly  does not need his  olive trees in order to survive.    Perfect strangers can come from far away to pick the olives but he does not think to invite his Arab neighbors to pick the olives.

Attacking a cherry orchard is wrong.  Yet I suspect that the  cherry pickers do not put their lives in danger when they go out to pick the cherries.  The Jewish residents are thankfully protected by a well-trained army and militia.  Attacks on them can and are investigated to the best extent possible.  Arab victims do enjoy the same protections.

And above all how is it possible that the Arab harvest are attacked over and over and over again year after year and the establishment simply turns a blind eye.   How is it possible that year after year Jews and others, go out to try and help protect the harvest.  This has become a new “normal” in the modern state of Israel and we are silent.

Today is Hoshanna Raba.  So as the dusk sets on Jerusalem, which is the capital of our miraculous independent democratic Jewish State, in a world where the internet is our town square, I chose to write and post my response.

About the Author
Nurit Bachrach made Aliya from Australia in 1985. She is a qualified lawyer who worked for 10 years as a public prosecutor in Israel, founded the Mosaica Center of Conflict Resolution by Agreement in 2003 and has been the executive director of Mosaica , Religion, Society and State since 2016. She lives with her family in Jerusalem.
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