An Afternoon of Olive Harvesting

We were fortunate to participate in the harvesting of olives.

Our group was welcomed warmly as we walked to a stand of trees, where men and women had gathered to tend to the various tasks of the day. Black tarps were laid upon the ground under the trees to collect the olives picked or shaken off of the branches. Ladders were placed. We were introduced to wooden sticks about 1 meter long, which were used to whack the branches to liberate olives in great numbers.

Our hosts were patient as they showed us how to wield the stick and to manipulate the tarps most efficiently to move the olives into burlap sacks. We learned that stepping on olives ruined them and that we should be careful about where we walked and stood.

I suspect we weren’t very good olive harvesters! There were roughly 20 of us, and we harvested from only a few trees that afternoon. I thought to myself… I hope we haven’t wasted too much of their time. I hope I didn’t step on too many olives and break too many branches.

As we sat or stood enjoying a generous lunch prepared by our hosts, it was humbling to watch two of the young Palestinian men work their way through the trees we’d just harvested. They recovered many more olives from those limbs. We just weren’t very good.

Our work that day was symbolic. It was clear who was leading the effort and that we were there in an expression of solidarity.

The parallels are not perfect, but perhaps this is an image of the struggle overall.

The Palestinians will be the architects of their liberation. We stand in solidarity.