See more photos of the program.
The Olive Picking Program 2016 of the YMCA-YWCA Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI), in cooperation with the Alternative Tourism Group (ATG), is finished for this year with lots of olives picked out in the fields. The Program lasted from the 15th to the 24th of October and hosted 65 international participants from 12 countries including: Belgium, Sweden, United Kingdom, Ireland, South Korea, Netherlands, France, Spain, Japan, United States, Switzerland and Germany.
After five days off picking in Wad Fukin, Battir, Tequa, Beit Jala, Al-Khader and Husan (all off them in the Betlehem area). The families in the olive fields greeted the participants and showed their hospitality. Palestinian food has been served at the fields and the participants got to taste different traditional dishes from the Palestinian cuisine. The families has showed and told us about the significant important of their olives, from the economic to the sentimental value and how the Palestinian identity is deep rooted in their fields. The Farmers has in one way or another got in conflicts with the Israeli military or settlers whom have tried to erase their connection to the land.
The program included guided tours in Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Hebron, during the trip to Jerusalem the participants went on a bus tour to a Bedouin community and had a presentation about the Bedouins situation under occupation. With the guided tours the participants got a better understanding to the present situation that every Palestinian and Bedouins goes through under Israeli occupation. The tours gave examples of confiscated Palestinian land and concrete example of how life is under occupation with settlements, checkpoints and the apartheid wall.
But the participants also got to experience the thriving Palestinian culture when they visited a glass and Kufiyeh factory in Hebron. With the program the participant got to witness the olive press process that the olives go through. The program as well included interesting geopolitical lectures from organisations such as BADIL and ARIJ on the issues of refugees and the Israeli measures to continuously displace Palestinians.
In the evenings the participants had an optional program including presentations from the founder of BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Omar Barghouti, Ivan Karakashian had a presentation about protecting the rights of Palestinian children with the "Defense for Children International - Palestine Section" (DCI-Palestine), Nassar Ibrahim from the Alternative Information Center (AIC) gave a critical analysis on the Palestinian and Israeli societies, as well as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and JAI manager Nidal AbuZuluf presented Kairos Palestine - A Moment of Truth with a theologically perspective of the conflict. The lectures ended with discussions and Q&As. Every other evening there was an screening of critically acclaimed Palestinian documentaries such as "3000 Nights" and "the Wanted 18". The last night of the program ended with a farewell dinner with a traditional Palestinien folkdancing (Dabka) performance.
Thanks to all energy and commitment that the participant showed during the program, we from the JAI and the ATG can say that we had a very successful Olive Picking Program this year with many good conversations, laughs, smiles but also the sadness and the injustice that the Palestinians have to endure under the occupation. We wish you good luck with your advocacy work in your home countries!
Some participants' reflections:
- "The lectures that we have had has been so professional done and there has been so much research behind what we have heard and it encourages people". Isabel - Scotland.
- "We have seen so much, we have seen how they putting pressure on the Palestinians and I have learned really much". Fredrik - Sweden.
- "The situation is horrific but what I take away with me is how many people are hopeful". Shahidah - Pakistan/Ireland
- "The best thing about the olive picking is the fact that we all working together as a team with people all over the world form different country's different languages". Margaret - United Kingdom