As a primary crop and source of income for many throughout Palestine, the olive harvest is a critical time for Palestinians. Unfortunately, harvesting has been dangerously difficult or impossible for many farmers as a result of Israeli military control and opposing settlers.
One such man is Hashem Azzeh, who said he had been unable to harvest his olive trees since 2000. Azzeh lives on Tel Rumeida — a street in the H2 part of Hebron — and settlers live mere meters from his home.
For those who live in H2, which is under Israeli military control, a permit from the Israeli Army is required before olives can be picked. If the permit is granted, the farmer gets one day to harvest all of his olives, but the army can turn down permit applications without providing any reason. For the next six years, Azzeh was unable to obtain a permit.
Azzeh was finally granted a permit in 2007, but he had watched as his olives were stolen and destroyed year after year, so he knew that having permission was no guarantee that things would go well. Even with the help of two activist organizations — The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) — Azzeh said he was attacked during the harvest, bringing it to an end.
Azzeh didn’t get another permit until 2013. He was scheduled to harvest on October 8, but his olives were again stolen five days beforehand. This year, his permit allowed him to harvest six of the more than 50 trees he owns on October 20.
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ISM and CPT helped Azzeh this year too, and though there were protests by settlers, all six trees were successfully harvested.