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Another casualty of escalating clashes in the West Bank: The Palestinian olive harvest

Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

TURMUS AYYA, West Bank — Abdullah Abu Awad first harvested his family's olive grove decades ago with his father and grandfather. He knows the trees as well as he knows his own children.

But he hesitated before driving across the field one morning in December, unsure what the nearby Israeli settlers might do. The settlement of Shilo sits just beyond the fence of his 12-acre property.

"Do you see anyone coming?" the 45-year-old farmer asked his son, who sat beside him in their SUV, scanning the road ahead.

"It seems OK," replied Judeh, 25, his voice tense.

They proceeded into the olive grove. The plan for that early December day was to harvest olives — an annual job that expanding Israeli settlements have made increasingly difficult over the years for the more than 100,000 Palestinian families in the West Bank that rely on the crop for their livelihood.

Since the start of the war in the Gaza Strip in October, collecting olives had turned dangerous. Abu Awad and his family say they have been beaten up and repeatedly threatened with expulsion from their land. Their house has been vandalized, and some of their farm equipment has been confiscated or destroyed.

 

Farmers throughout the region worry that their way of life may be on the verge of extinction — as settlers and Israeli forces use the war as a pretext to shut them down.

"The last season, they allowed us to get only a part of this grove," Abu Awad explained. "This time it's even less."

"I don't know why they won't let us harvest," he continued, pointing to the trees laden with plump fruit. "Look, it's a sea of olives."

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