The Oasis Project: First Harvest

On Saturday, 20th of October 2012, dozens of volunteers, Jewish and Arab, from Tel-Aviv, Jaffa, Haifa nad Nazareth arrived to take part in the first harvest at Sindyanna of Galilee’s organic olive grove. The grove is the first multicultural plantation in Israel, promoting fair trade and Arab-Jewish solidarity.

Neither the hot sun nor the rocky ground could dampen the energy and enthusiasm of the pickers, who went to work, armed with buckets and sacks, and plenty of motivation. How joyful, seeing the green-red olives ripening on the trees, particularly as some of the pickers also took part in planting this grove back in March of 2010. For some pickers, especially the younger ones, this is a first experience of olive picking, certainly of picking olives of Jewish-Arab solidarity.

The pickers were greeted by Eng. Mugira Younis, the agricultural consultant who has overseen the project from its inception. He talked about the types of olives in the grove – Kortina and Barneah – and about the modern organic agricultural methods used in order to optimise production and maximise oil percentage. To finish, he said, “Make the most of today, because there’s nothing more enjoyable than picking olives with friends.”

During a communal lunch we heard from Hadas Lahav, Sindyanna of Galilee’s C.E.O. She told us why it was that Sindyanna chose this land in Rochah, hard and rocky as it is, and also lacking in road and water infrastructures. “These are the only lands which are still in Arab hands, and even they were occupied by the army until the beginning of the millennium. It is thanks to cooperation between Sindyanna and the land owners in Arrah Village that we have been able to turn this once barren land into a modern, organic, fruit-yielding grove.” She added, “It should not be taken for granted that this grove is here, planted in only half a metre of top soil, with just stones underneath. But, fortunately, the saplings have managed to get their roots through the rocky ground, as they too have understood that Arab-Jewish cooperation must bear fruit.”

At the end of the day we sorted the olives we have picked, washed them and started the process of pickling by placing them in containers of salted water. Every picker took home a jar of solidarity olives. In about two months they will be ready to eat – Bon Appétit!