CS Monitor: Why Rabbis Are Helping Palestinians Defend Their Olive Harvest

By Mairav Zonszein

On Sunday, four people were attacked by masked Israeli settlers wielding iron bars and stones as they picked olives in the West Bank village of Burin, resulting in light injuries – a common occurrence during the annual olive harvest in the West Bank. While most of the settler violence is directed at Palestinians, two of those hurt in the latest attack were Israeli volunteers with Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR), an organization comprised of rabbis and rabbinical students which has, for more than a decade, sought to protect Palestinians and their trees during the olive harvest.  Olive trees are not only a major source of Palestinians’ livelihood, but a mainstay of the West Bank landscape and a symbol of their roots in the land. According to RHR, the situation has improved somewhat in recent years, but more than 1,600 olive trees have been vandalized by settlers in the past two months alone, including 100 trees destroyed in Qaryut near Nablus this weekend, and 400 olive trees burned down in Jalud a week before.

“Non-Jews have property rights in the Land of Israel, and protecting the ability of farmers to safely access and make a living from their lands is part of honoring the image of God in every human being,” says Arik Ascherman, the president and senior rabbi. RHR derives its mandate from the Biblical declaration that every human being is created “in God’s image” – b’tselem in Hebrew – as well as international law.

“RHR follows in the footsteps of the Jewish and Hebrew leaders that have historically called for justice and fairness, whether that be the Prophet Micah and his imperative of righteousness, or Professor René Cassin, one of the crafters of the UN Declaration of Human Rights,” says Moriel Rothman, a former intern for RHR who coordinated volunteers during the 2011 olive harvest.

To read the rest of the article: http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Middle-East/Olive-Press/2013/1022/Why-rabbis-are-helping-Palestinians-defend-their-olive-harvest