Global Lens Reflections on life, the universe, and everything

Olive woman

A Palestinian woman winnows olives during the yearly olive harvest in the West Bank town of Turmus'ayya. She throws the olives in the air and the wind blows the leaves away. Olives play a central role in the traditional Palestinian diet and economy.

In this November 2006 image, a Palestinian woman cleans olives during the yearly olive harvest in the West Bank town of Turmus'ayya. She throws the olives in the air and the wind blows the leaves away. Olives play a central role in the traditional Palestinian diet and economy; about 45 percent of agricultural land in the West Bank and Gaza is planted with about 10 million olive trees. The olive harvest is just now getting underway this year, and so I've been thinking of this woman, and other Palestinians I have photographed over the years working in their olive groves, in one case cleaning up the shattered trunks of ancient olive trees after a U.S.-built Israeli bulldozer passed through. I remember one wonderful evening in the village of Aboud when the parish priest took me late at night to the olive processing plant where farmers arrived on donkey carts with their bags of olives to be washed and sorted and prepared for shipment, something that the Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints make extremely difficult. There's a lot of potential for Palestinian olive oil, particularly in the organic and fair trade markets, yet the destruction of olive trees near settlements and along the route of the separation barrier continues. Micah's vision of peace, where farmers could each sit under their own vines and trees in peace and unafraid, is still just a dream.

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