|Posted on November 11, 2011 at 9:30 PM|
"Speak the clearest truth you know, and let the dis-ease heal."~ Rumi
Last week I was in the northern West Bank and learned about the difficulties in establishing Palestinian commercial products for the world market. We first visited the Taybeh Beer factory near Ramallah. There we met the only woman brew master in the Middle East. She works with her father to produce the only Palestinian beer. It is certified by Germany and has markets in several European countries. However, they cannot export to the U.S. because the bottles say “Made in Palestine”. They proudly refuse to change the label. (*note - Israeli settlement products are often labled "made in Israel", although they are produced in the occupied West Bank.)
Our group then traveled north to meet some of the fair trade association producers that provide olives and other products for Canaan. These are very persistent and creative people that have a relationship with the land that most of us will never experience. One of the farmers has started a plastic bag recycling factory. The plastic shopping bags that litter the landscape here are collected and turned into new bags.
I listened to the frustration of the farmers with prices for their crops and about the challenges that Canaan has in exporting their olive oil and other products. It is not uncommon for Israel to hold up shipments at the Haifa port for “inspections”. When this happens, Canaan has to pay storage fees at the port that runs into the thousands of dollars. This then has to be reflected in the prices that we pay. This is an "occupation premium" that the competitors in the market do not have to pay.
In the village of Anin I learned about the new challenge the occupation has created for the farmers – wild boars. The Israeli soldiers release wild boars on to the West Bank. The boars destroy the crops (they are very fond of almonds) and tear up the fields. Then, they hide along the wall – not that a Palestinian could shoot it (they don’t have guns). The Palestinian Authority police have guns, but Israel won’t give permits to allow them to shoot the pigs either.
One farmer we spoke with had a grove of 200 ancient Roman (Rumi) trees. He had to watch as the Israeli military uprooted and buried every one of them to clear a path for the segregation barrier. These trees are as children to the farmers. He told us this story with tears in his eyes, then moments later was laughing as he told us about his family. When asked how he could face such tragedy and still find joy, his reply was “You have to have joy – or you will die.” At the end of the week we celebrated the harvest with the farmers at their olive festival. There was much laughter then, as well as wonderful food, dancing and yes, joy.
Categories: Olive Harvest 2011