MADISON, Wis. — Every October, Palestinians celebrate the Olive Harvest.
Olives are a major source of income for Palestinians, and the region is known for producing some of the finest olives in the world.
Celebrating this festival in the U.S. allows Palestinians to connect to their homeland and share their customs.
Sunday’s Olive Harvest in Madison took on a much more somber tone, after the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
Samir Elormari, a Palestinian native, said olives are revered because they have long provided a source of income for farmers in his homeland.
“Palestine, or the West Bank, is very well known with olive trees. Most of the farmers actually since centuries back 1000s of years. They harvest olive,” Elormari said.
Elormari moved to the U.S. from the West Bank in 2007. He said the symbolism of olives is so entrenched in Palestinian culture, that the fruit is commonly captured in the patterns on scarves.
“Keffiyeh is composed of two main things: the fisher’s net and olive leaves. And olive leaves are known for resilience,” Elormari said.
The Olive Harvest should be a time to celebrate, but with the start of the war, Elormari said he is filled with profound sadness. Just like many other Palestinians, Elormari has family trapped in the war zone.
“I heard one of my cousins just moved from the north to the middle, which was bombed yesterday. So now there’s no — almost no — contact because they don’t have internet. So we are very worried about them,” Elormari said.
Cassandra Dixon is an organizer of the Madison Olive Harvest. She’s traveled to Gaza and the West Bank multiple times over the past 15 years. Dixon said she hopes this event would serve as a time to remember the lives lost because of the war.
“We hope that it will be a time to mourn together for the horrendous loss of life and safety and wellbeing and the loss of children — the loss of families,” Cassandra Dixon said.
Dixon also said she wants this Olive Harvest to help further peace efforts and address some misconceptions about Palestinians.
“I hope that people are able to take in a chance to mend some of that missing context for themselves. To more deeply understand that this is a people that is suffering a horrendous onslaught right now,” Dixon said.
In addition to the loss of human lives, Elormari said Palestinian’s beloved olive trees are being destroyed.
“The conditions, especially in the West Bank now where most of the olive trees are, is hard — of course in Gaza too. Settlers are coming into the fields and cutting all of the trees and burning them because they don’t want to see the Palestinians harvest there,” Elormari said.
Elormari said like the olive, Palestinians remain resilient and bound to their land.
“The only way for living in peace is to live together in this land, and to find another solution other than the force and land wars,” Elormari said.
This event was sponsored by Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, Palestine Partners, Madison Playgrounds for Palestine and Madison Jewish Voice for Peace.