This autumn the annual olive harvest takes place despite the escalation of violence in Israel and occupied Palestine. The harvest is an unbroken tradition of land cultivation which has been passed on from one generation to another. However this November brings an olive harvest without trees for local landowner Issa al Shatleh.It is now over three months since the Israeli contractors began clearing the ancient olive groves in the Cremisan valley to make way for the expanding separation wall. EA Tone, recently returned to Europe, writes about the events she witnessed and the stories she heard behind the wall in Bethlehem.
“What will the Nativity church be if there are no Christians left in the area? The stones will be without spirit and soul.” Issa al Shatleh laments.
On August 17 Israeli soldiers and security personnel supervised the the bulldozing of land and the uprooting of over 100 ancient olive trees in the Bir Ouma. Many of the trees that were uprooted were as old as 1500 years old. The land is being cleared to facilitate the routing of the separation wall through the Cremisan Valley. The planned route for the wall is three kilometers inside the 1949 Armistice ‘green line’ and is set to be built on privately owned Palestinian land in Beit Jala.The clearing of the land is taking place despite a previous court ruling and without any warning being given to the local landowners. Local Christians have been gathering daily at the site of the bulldozing to protest the illegal confiscation of their land and to pray for the protection of the Cremisan Valley.