Creating new perspectives since 2009

Delayed by war, Gaza's olive harvest is too little, too late, say farmers

November 28, 2023 at 7:41 pm

Palestinian farmers harvest olives at olive tree fields in Khan Yunis, Gaza. [Mustafa Hassona – Anadolu Agency]

Farmers in Gaza were taking advantage of the true between Israel and Hamas to harvest what was left of their olives after weeks of fighting, during which they dared not go to their lands for fear of getting killed, Reuters reports.

In a normal year, the harvest would have started weeks earlier, but until the truce farmers were afraid of being mistaken for Hamas militants and targeted by Israeli forces if they ventured out into the olive groves.

Some lands were also damaged by fighting or the passage of military vehicles, while some farmers were displaced from their homes and unable to get back to their groves.

This war destroyed us. There’s hardly any production. The majority of the harvest was wasted

said Fathy Abu Salah, who was picking olives with a small team, sorting them from leaves and twigs on a groundsheet and collecting them in a wheelbarrow.

He said that, normally they would harvest enough olives to fill 12 containers, but this year they would fill just one. There were other problems linked to the war, he said, such as a dearth of fuel to transport the olives to the nearest press.

READ: Israel settlers uproot, destroy 70 ancient olive trees in the occupied west Bank

We are trying to do this with all of the resources we have in these six days (of truce). This fruit is all we have. This is how we make a living year after year

said Abu Salah.

At the Wafy press in Khan Yunis, the machinery had cranked into operation weeks late. Sacks of olives were being brought in on the backs of carts, pulled by donkeys.

Olives were coming down a chute that rattled from side to side before falling into the press. Thick golden oil poured out into a metal vat, while men waited to collect it in yellow jerry cans.

“When the truce started, we were thinking about whether or not we were going to work. But then came the problem of the olive press which needs electricity, and there is no electricity, meaning we had to find fuel, and finding fuel is a crisis that everyone is facing,” said manager, Mohamed Wafy.

“There were some who were able to transport their olives to us and had to buy fuel in the black market at much higher prices. As soon as we secured access to fuel, we were able to open the olive press, even if it’s working at minimum capacity.”

Wafy said almost all of his own olives fell to the ground before he was able to get to his land. He said some farmers had found nothing, while others had harvested a fraction of what they would normally expect.

“The season is gone,” he said.

VIEW: 1,000-year-old Palestinian olive trees burnt down by Israeli settlers