Taxi's Articles

Olive Picking in the Levant is a Form of Resistance

It’s that time of the year when rural Levant populations rush to their olive groves to pick the year’s harvest: generally used for pressing olive oil, pickling olives, and for making olive-based soap and beautification salves.

The timing of olive picking  is crucial:  it must take place after the second autumn rains – then waiting for two days thereafter for the soil to dry a little.  Picking olives any later than that will embitter the flavor and ruin the benefits of the harvest.  As you can imagine, this causes an insane rush to pick literally millions of trees in the region, with everyone working to a deadline.  This tradition has been going on for thousands of years –  even way before the enigmatic Abraham was born.  Here in the south of the Lebanon, the pickers are mostly local villagers joined by Syrian refugees who have taken refuge in sleepy villages.

This year, yet again, I am volunteering to join a local team of pickers who pick trees belonging to poor senior citizens who are not physically fit for the task and who have no money to pay for hired pickers.  It’s an occasion that I earnestly look forward to.  I get to spend all day with native volunteers – they sing old folk songs as they pick and everybody gets to picnic under olive trees for lunch.  A most splendid and friendly atmosphere.

I’m especially enamored by the singing during the olive harvest.  The locals here sing to help pass the time and sing to remember their ancestors who sang the same songs before them.  And they don’t just sing old folk songs from Lebanon, they also sing folk songs from Syria and especially songs from Palestine.  Palestine olives are particularly remembered  here in the south of Lebanon.  This is the case because when Lebanon was under Israeli occupation, Lebanese olive trees too were either destroyed or olive fields were turned into inaccessible so-called ‘security zones’ – thus many olive seasons were lost to their owners while the Israeli occupation lasted.  Lebanese olive pickers have perfect empathy for Palestinian olive pickers.

I love the simple ritual solidarity between Lebanese olive pickers and their Palestinian brethren in occupied Palestine.  My favorite song lyric sung by Lebanese pickers in support of Palestine is (translated):  “Our olive trees will live longer than the invaders; our olive trees are nature’s soldiers; olive branches are our peace with god and our weapons that will liberate Jerusalem”.

Olive picking in the Levant has become an act of resistance.  Enjoying the bounty of the land has become an act of resistance.  The olive branch is not just a symbol for peace in the Levant, it is a confirmation of the natives’ undying attachment to their ancestral land and way of life.

For the next few days, my blogging time will be limited, but I will endeavor to keep you all posted with important and select news of the day.

Here I send my warmest wishes to Palestinian olive pickers under duress and under the boot of the  insatiably cruel and violent Zionist dictatorship.

Keep picking, Palestine.  Keep picking your way to freedom.

For every olive tree that the enemy destroys, plant ten saplings in defiance.

Long live the land of Palestine; long live the songs of the olive harvest.

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14 comments:

  1. Thank you, Taxi , for your heartfelt and very moving paean to the olive pickers and their peers in Palestine.

    You’re a true trooper !
    “Keep picking, Palestine. Keep picking your way to freedom.
    For every olive tree that the enemy destroys, plant ten saplings in defiance.
    Long live the land of Palestine; long live the songs of the olive harvest”

    • Taxi says:

      Thanks bintbiba.

      I wrote this piece in such a rush that I don’t feel like I did the theme justice. I still feel pregnant with thoughts and emotions especially about Palestine and Palestine olive groves.

      Not enough time to write right now except in drops and quick whispers.

      • It is the spontaneity that has such a strong effect on one, Taxi.
        Just stay as you are…. you don’t have to even try !
        You always shoot straight to the heart and core of the matter!!

  2. Great story, Taxi.
    Feel like I’m there.

    As a kid I once asked my grandfather as we worked in his orchard if I could try some of his olives. Sure, he said. Help yourself. I’ve been playing his trick on others ever since…well, until I left California.

    • Walid says:

      “What kind of people destroy life just for the pleasure of destroying?” (American)

      It’s actually about destroying the livelihood of the Palestinians and destroying their culture that’s centered around the olive tree. It’s the Zionists mission to ethnically cleanse the land. I think the Judaic religion forbids the destruction of fruit-bearing trees but Zionists have nothing to do with that religion.

      A few years back, Israel enacted a law forbidding the picking of the zaatar (oregano) plant that grows in the wild.that’s also part of the Palestinian culture. Israel gave as a reason for the law, that the zaatar plant was in danger of extinction in Israel. This was bullshit of course, it was about disappearing the Palestinian culture.

  3. Bornajoo says:

    “I get to spend all day with native volunteers – they sing old folk songs as they pick and everybody gets to picnic under olive trees for lunch. A most splendid and friendly atmosphere.”

    I have to say that sounds wonderful. I wish I was there picking those olives with you.

    Thanks Walid. Ramzi Jaber and his team’s site is amazing. the statistics about the razing of the olive trees in Palestine is utterly sickening and the perpetrators are the embodiment of pure evil

  4. Walid says:

    Each year, the Joint Advocacy Initiative made up of the East Jerusalem YMCA and the YWCA of Palestine and in coordination with the Alternative Tourism Group (ATG) bring in from other countries and from Israel volunteers to help Palestinians harvest their olives. They pay for their own travel and other expenses for the annual 10-day harvest this year from the 10th to the 19th of October.. These are the volunteers in Western dress we see on the news getting chased and beaten by the settler fanatics.

    http://www.jai-pal.org/en/campaigns/olive-tree-campaign/olive-picking-program

    A video was made a couple of months back of Israelis uprooting thousands of years old olive trees to make way for the apartheid wall at Beit Jala., Some very old olive trees have been uprooted with their roots and replanted decoratively in settlements’ roundabouts and parcs.

  5. Walid says:

    A very telling video from a couple of years back of Jeff Halper giving a tour of the squatting Ma’ale Adumin to Phil Weiss that points to very old and income producing olive trees uprooted from the Palestinians’ lands and replanted for décor in gardens expensive houses in TA and in the settlement being visited. Halper notes that 85% of the West Bank’s water is used by the settlements or by Israel::

  6. Walid says:

    A few years back on a forum, I used to get into long winded arguments with a fanatical Zionists that participated in the annual Palestinian olive harvest . and because of it, she considered it her beatitude towards the Palestinians. For the remainder of the year, she was a diehard colonist living in a house built on the remains of the destroyed village of Umm al Faraj that was depopulated in 1948 and renamed Ben-Ami. Her second claim to beatitude was her hiring of local Palestinian peons to fix things around her house and she maintained that she slept with a rifle under her bed for the day when Hizbullah would come across the border.

    This week of picking olives for the Palestinians was her way of cleansing her soul.

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