Olive Trees
Olive trees hold symbolic, agricultural and economic meanings for Palestinian farmers. In a nation where almost one-third or 1.6 million people face food insecurity and do not have access to “nutritious food,” essential crops, like olives, are vital for many communities’ survival. Here is some information about the importance of olive trees in Palestine.

Harvesting Crops Despite Denial of Access

The rise of Israeli forces and conflict on Palestinian lands in May 2021 forced Palestinian farmers from their olive tree harvesting grounds. However, after the olive harvest season started earlier in 2021, a cohort of Palestinian olive farmers decided to take the risk of returning to their farmlands despite the armed Israeli guards in their path.

Residents and landowners from the small Palestinian town in the Northern West Bank of Palestine returned to Jabal Sabih, Mount Sabih, to handpick olives from their trees. Israeli guards are still present at the site. However, the Palestinian farmers successfully harvested their trees despite the Israeli presence.

Impact of Growing Tensions

Tensions between Israeli and Palestinian communities have remained high throughout history, but escalated tensions between the two occurred in May 2021. Israeli settlers attempted to take over Palestinian lands, and 50 Israeli families set up camp on the Palestinian olive farming grounds in May. Israeli families then evacuated in July. Palestinian farmers said these farming lands have passed through generations of family members and the trees are “part of their souls and more.”

The farmers emphasized that olive trees are one of only a few arbors that can grow in their mountainous farming areas. The trees do not need water, which means they can grow in drought conditions. Farmers said that transporting water into the region would be extremely difficult due to the terrain.

The Many Uses of Olives

The production of olives is a main source of income for more than 80,000 families in Palestine, showing the importance of olive trees to the country. More than 90% of the oil that farmers harvest from olive trees goes toward making olive oil, with them allocating the remainder to making olive soap, table olives and pickles. In the West Bank, farmers have planted more than 12 million olive trees. The nation exports some of the olives to Jordan but the rest are for local consumption.

Following the second Palestinian uprising in 2000, the Israeli army began destroying or uprooting olive trees in farmlands. The army stated that it needed to use the grounds for military operations and to provide pathways between villages. However, later reports suggested that the military specifically targeted the farmers to make it difficult for them to earn a living.

Foundations Wanting to Help

Some local organizations are helping olive tree farmers. The Arab Group for the Protection of Nature started a campaign after the severe removal of the olive trees. In 2011, AP Nature replaced 1 million olive and fruit trees. To date, the campaign has planted more than 2.5 million trees.

The Near East Foundation, an organization with a focus on building more sustainable communities in the Middle East and Africa through education, community organizing and economic development, directly supports Palestinian communities through three programs. These include early childhood education and school feeding, support for the olive oil groups and support for women’s economics.

The Near East Foundation renovated and upgraded 18 olive oil mills in Palestine and Israel due to the importance of olive trees and olive oil production to the Palestinian economy. The organization also facilitated training for oil producers to increase their production and quality of olive oils.

The ongoing tension between Israel and Palestine has extreme effects on Palestinians’ ability to access their crops to provide food for themselves and earn a living. Though permits for Palestinian farmers are available to access the lands that the Israeli army now dominates, these permits are hard to obtain and there is still no guarantee Palestinian farmers can access their land even with a permit. A group of Palestinian olive farmers had the bravery to enter into Israeli military grounds to harvest their olives, but tensions between the two nations must subside before Palestinian farmers can have full access to their own lands once again.

– Makena Roberts
Photo: Flickr

About Poverty in Israel
A steadfast ally of the United States and one of the most influential countries in the Middle East, Israel has played a key role in global politics and technology. For millennia, Jewish people experienced persecution as a minority across Europe, with others often using them as convenient scapegoats in times of crisis. This culminated in the Holocaust, a genocidal campaign that Nazi Germany waged to exterminate the Jewish population. Millions died and the collective suffering forced upon the Jewish people led to calls for a Jewish state in the Middle East. Several facts about poverty in Israel illustrate the progress the nation has made over the years, despite its history of conflict and strife.

Dividing the Palestinian Territory

The British answered these calls when it divided the Palestinian territory in two: one half for the Jewish population and the other for Palestinians. Israel began as a majority Jewish and democratic state. Once again, however, the Jewish population faced a lack of acceptance by their neighbors. Arab countries attacked Israel on numerous occasions, seeking to expel them from the region. All the while, a growing conflict simmered between the Israelis and Palestinians that would come to be a defining issue in international relations for decades to come.

More recently, Israel has successfully emerged as a highly developed country, equipped with world-beating technology industry. Acceptance has risen among its Arab neighbors through the signing of the Abraham Accords, which featured the normalization of relations between Israel and several Gulf states.

Still, the conflict with the Palestinians is ongoing with no clear end in sight, and Israel has one of the highest rates of poverty for an OECD country. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has now added further uncertainty to an already tenuous situation. Uncertain times lie ahead.

5 Facts About Poverty in Israel

  1. Poverty is rising. OECD studies indicate that Israel has the highest poverty rate of all developed countries. In 2013, roughly 21% of the population lived below the poverty line. This was slightly higher than Mexico, which had a poverty rate of 20%. Preliminary estimates also show the situation getting worse, not better. In 1995, the same figure was only 14%. For the same period in the United States, poverty remained stagnant, again suggesting less encouraging trends for Israel than in other developed countries. Still, the overall rate of extreme poverty — $1.90 a day or less — remains low, just 0.2% in 2016. This is an increase from 0% in 1979, albeit small.
  2. Life expectancy is high in Israel. Despite its ongoing struggle to alleviate poverty, Israel has one of the highest standards of living on Earth. From a low of 71 years in 1969, Israel has made dramatic strides to improve life expectancies for both men and women. In 2019, the Israeli life expectancy of 83 years was much higher than the 79 years in the United States, even approaching the Japanese average of 84 years, the highest rate in the world.
  3. Israel is one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Measured in GDP (PPP) per capita, Israel in 2020 was almost four times better off than the typical emerging economy and more than two times as prosperous as China, the mainstay of the developing world.
  4. Israeli economic growth is unusually fast for a developed country. In the last two decades of the 20th century, Israeli economic growth was record-beating, peaking at 10% in 1995 — a rate only exceeded by large developing nations like China. In the 2000s, Israeli growth has slowed but still remains faster than many of its counterparts. Then, in 2019, shortly before COVID-19 sent the global economy spiraling into recession, the Israeli economy expanded by 3.4%, faster than the United States, Japan and Germany.
  5. The disposable income gap — the amount of money citizens retain after taxes — is widening. Along with growing poverty, the last cloud in the sky is income inequality. Since 1986, the Israeli Gini coefficient for disposable income has increased, leading to a higher rate of inequality than the United States, Germany, Britain and France.

Looking Ahead

The country’s weaknesses are twofold: growing poverty and income inequality. Both challenges exacerbate one another and show no signs of abating. However, unlike many nations, Israel has a strong foundation to build from. Israel possesses some of the highest standards of living and enjoys steady economic growth. Additionally, the country is receiving help from other avenues too. NGOs have cropped up across the country with dedicated missions of poverty reduction. One of the largest is Pitchon Lev, founded in 1998 and active in 50 individual municipalities within Israel. For more than two decades, the organization has worked directly with the poor, providing food and key necessities to 250,000 people a year. Going forward, the rise of these organizations can help turn the tide and usher in a brighter period for Israel.

– Zachary Lee
Photo: Flickr

Poverty after the Israeli-Palestinian ConflictWhile the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been brewing since 1948 after Israel became a sovereign state, the two regions’ dispute reached a boiling point in May 2021. While each side exchanged fire, the citizens of both nations were in the middle of the crossfire. However, conditions will hopefully improve as the two nations continue to make amends.

What is Happening Now?

In May 2021, after a multitude of Palestinian demonstrations, Israel launched both lethal and nonlethal attacks on the Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Israel raided a mosque in Gaza which caused Hamas to retaliate. The Global Conflict tracker says that Israel launched more than 100 rockets during the attack leaving dozens of Palestinians dead.

Although both sides declared outright victory in the recent battles, both Hamas and Israel agreed to a ceasefire on May 21. The United States has offered to orchestrate an agreement between Israel and Palestine during both the Trump and Biden presidencies. While Palestine denied the Trump agreement, Biden is still working to alleviate tensions.

The Impact on Citizens

The conflict has impacted both Israeli and Palestinian citizens. Refugees in Jerusalem face removal amidst the debate. According to Amnesty International, Palestinian citizens in Israel experience discrimination as they cannot obtain marriage licenses or education, and experiencing home evictions and torture. Gender-based violence and racism are also running rampant.

The BBC has stated that the nations have lost electricity and have lost their homes due to the rocket attacks, however, the power is slowly turning back on. Gaza City faces severe overpopulation; 9,000 people inhabit the area per square kilometer. People have experienced limitations in regard to health, water and food convoy services. For example, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has left a million citizens in Gaza City who is “moderately-to-severely food insecure.” Over 40% of those citizens are also unemployed in the strip.

How is the World Helping?

The United States Senate recently passed the Israel Normalization Act of 2021. The bill, according to Congress, “[promotes] the normalization of relations between Israel, Arab states, and other relevant countries and regions” and by improving relationships between Israel and other Arabic countries including Palestine. Another facet is that “the State Department must report on options for U.S. international efforts to promote the strengthening of ties between Israel, Arab states, and other relevant countries and regions.” The State Department also announced that it would donate $360 million worth of assistance to Palestine; many of the funds are supporting the U.N. and other humanitarian organizations. The Palestinian government will receive another $75 million for “economic assistance.”

The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also stated that global aid efforts are present in Gaza, including many of the same teams that helped with recent Haitian earthquakes. The focus of these teams is to promote medical transfers and international aid. The International Red Cross has also delivered more than 1,000 household items to Gaza residents and deployed a surgical team to the area. In late May 2021, the BBC reported that aid had arrived in Gaza via a convoy only hours after the implementation of the ceasefire. Recent reports state that conditions are steadily improving as more help comes from international partners.

– Laken Kincaid
Photo: Flickr

Ways to support PalestineOn May 10, 2021, Hamas launched a rocket attack on Jerusalem in retaliation for recent police clashes. Subsequently, this led to over a week of ongoing violence leaving hundreds dead. While the history of this conflict is long and complicated, there are ways to support Palestine right now. With millions living in the region who do not have access to basic necessities such as clean water and electricity, support from the international community is vital.

Educating Oneself

The history of the conflict in Israel and Palestine is long and complicated, going back over 100 years. Therefore, one of the best ways to support Palestine is for one to garner education on what has led to the current circumstances. For example, a few good sources where people can learn the history of the conflict are:

  • The History Channel. The History Channel offers background on what is happening in the region as well as the history of how things got where they are.
  • Britannica. Britannica offers a deeper look at the Arab-Israeli wars that have happened since 1948 to show how violence has spread throughout the region.
  • The United Nations. The United Nations has a fact sheet about the history of “The Question of Palestine” which explains the international community’s role in the situation.

Economic Boycott

Another way to support Palestine is through targeted consumer boycotts. Some companies that benefit from the conflict include:

  • Hewlett-Packard. Hewlett-Packard (HP) is responsible for the biometric ID system that helps Israeli officials restrict the movement of Palestinians.
  • Sabra. The Strauss Group partially owns Sabra. This is an Israeli “company that provides financial support to the Israeli army.”
  • Pillsbury. In contrast to Sabra, Pillsbury has factories on occupied land that belongs to Palestinians.

Despite their involvement, none of these companies have issued a statement on the current conflict.

Contact Elected Officials

On April 15, 2021, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) introduced the Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act. This act would prohibit Israeli authorities from using U.S. funding in Palestinian detention camps, demolishing Palestinian homes and annexing further Palestinian lands. Contacting elected officials and urging their support for this bill is one of the most effective ways to support Palestine.

Share Palestinian Voices

Today, social media is an immensely effective tool that people can use to communicate with others across the globe. For instance, among the ways to support Palestine, sharing Palestinian voices on social media is one of the easiest to do. Additionally, some informational social media accounts to follow include:

Organizations Already Helping

There are, in fact, already many organizations finding ways to support Palestine. Some of these organizations include:

  • Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres. Services include remote counseling, supporting local hospitals and providing hygiene and sanitation training. Additionally, it has provided basic first aid training to hospital staff. Over 90,000 outpatient consultations occurred in 2019.
  • United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA). The UNWRA provides humanitarian aid such as education, healthcare and infrastructure improvement within 27 refugee camps throughout Gaza and the West Bank. With access to clean water and electricity at crisis levels, support from UNRWA is vital to the people in these camps.
  • Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. This organization provides medical care to sick and injured Palestinian children. To do this, it sends volunteer doctors overseas, sponsors orphans, runs humanitarian programs and works on infrastructure projects. Since its founding in 1992, PCRF has sent over 2,000 children abroad for free medical care and built two pediatric cancer departments in Palestine.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine goes back decades and has complicated roots. However, there are people in the area that need help now. The good news is that there are ways to support Palestine from right where you are. By educating oneself, donating, boycotting, contacting elected officials and sharing the voices of those in Palestine, anyone can help support the people who live there.

– Taryn Steckler-Houle
Photo: Flickr

increased poverty in PalestineThe Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has been ongoing for more than 70 years, has placed strain on the economic stability of Palestinian citizens. In the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has further contributed to the economic challenges that people have faced in Palestine, leading to a widespread and worsening state of poverty. Increased poverty in Palestine calls for increased international aid and support.

Poverty in Palestine

A large portion of Palestine’s population lives below the poverty line and cannot afford food, clothing and shelter. In 2017, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) found that one in every three Palestinians lived in poverty, equating to almost 30% of people. The Gaza Strip had the highest concentration of citizens living in poverty at a rate of 53%.

Inadequate work opportunities and low wages play a large role in poverty in Palestine. Research indicates that the job status of the head of the house greatly impacts the risk of poverty. The PCBS also found that 42.1% of households whose heads did not have a steady job lived in poverty compared to 25.8% of households with an employed head of the house.

This is especially alarming when one takes the unemployment rate into account as 43.1% of Gaza’s citizens were unemployed in the last quarter of 2020. The average monthly wage for those with a steady source of income in Gaza is a mere 682 ILS (about $207). Many people earn below the minimum wage, making it difficult for Palestinians to pull themselves out of poverty.

The Effect of COVID-19 on Poverty

The COVID-19 pandemic destroyed the little progress that Palestine made toward economic stability. While Palestinians were able to narrowly dodge the first wave of the pandemic, the next two waves destroyed economic gains. The World Bank predicted that “after growth of a mere 1% in 2019,” the Palestinian economy may contract by a minimum of 7.6% in 2020. In addition, due to decreased revenue, the financing gap could increase from $800 million in 2019 to more than $1.5 billion in 2020. Vaccines have become an issue as well.

Although the U.N. released a statement declaring that Israel is responsible for providing equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, Israel excluded Palestinians from the vaccination campaign until recently. Israel prioritized only Palestinians working in Israel, overlooking the millions of Palestinians living in or near Gaza, for whom Israel has allotted only 5,000 doses.

Without vaccines, Palestinians are unable to leave their homes for work and food, plunging them further into poverty. The international COVAX scheme, backed by the WHO, should cover up to 20% of vaccine requirements for Palestinians. Palestinians have also sourced “limited quantities of vaccines from elsewhere” but have a long way to go to achieve herd immunity.

Education in Palestine

Many Palestinian children no longer have access to safe schooling. A U.N. report detailing the violence keeping children out of school mentions “threats of demolition, clashes on the way to school between students and security forces, teachers stopped at checkpoints and violent actions of Israeli forces and settlers on some occasions.”

These conditions impacted more than 19,000 children in the 2018 school year, limiting their ability to safely obtain an education. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the struggles of securing an education, especially for the impoverished population of Palestine. The Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights reports that 34.83% of Palestinian students could not join virtual classes due to a lack of resources and internet connection.

Due to a lack of education and opportunities, Israeli officers have arrested many children trying to cross the Israeli border for a better life. As of April 2021, 71.4% of children who attempted to cross the border were school dropouts trying to escape increased poverty in Palestine.

Organizations Working to Reduce Poverty

Organizations like UNICEF are addressing the education crisis through initiatives such as the Life Skills and Citizenship Education Initiative, which began in 2015. The program focuses on enhancing life skills and improving citizenship education. UNICEF also conducts “entrepreneurship skills programs for adolescents to support their future employment.” The program includes internships and career counseling.

In 2020, the World Food Programme (WFP) spent $57 million of U.S. funding to ease poverty in Palestine, assisting more than 430,000 citizens. This included 33% of women-led households and 4.3% of the disabled population. The WFP provided cash-based transfers, food packages and “agriculture assets and training” to address increased poverty in Palestine.

The Road Ahead

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict has severely worsened the state of poverty in Palestine as citizens end up in the crossfire. However, the ceasefire that Palestinian and Israeli officials announced in May 2021 may be a step in the direction of safety and stability for Palestinians and Israelis alike. Greater international support will help lower poverty rates and raise the quality of life in Palestine.

Mariam Abaza
Photo: pixabay

VaccineAs is the case in much of the world, the need for COVID-19 vaccines in Israel and Palestine is significant. However, amid the Israel-Palestine conflict, Palestine has been struggling to obtain and distribute COVID-19 vaccines. This is especially true in the West Bank and Gaza. Many obstacles have impeded an equitable distribution of vaccines in Israel and Palestine. Israel’s military restrictions, laws and refusal to offer COVID-19 vaccines to Palestinians have made it difficult for Palestinians to get vaccinated.

A Human Rights Issue

According to the United Nations’ human rights body, it is Israel’s responsibility to provide vaccines for the five million Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank. Providing differential access is legally and morally unacceptable under international law.

However, despite vaccinating Israeli citizens since December of 2020, Israel did not offer the vaccine to Palestinians until March of 2021. So far, Israel has vaccinated more than 50% of Israelis and about 5% of Palestinians. Increasing violence in the region has left thousands of Palestinians even more vulnerable to COVID-19. Despite many efforts for a ceasefire, conflict continues to engulf the citizens of Gaza and the West Bank. This has made it even more difficult for Palestinians to gain access to the vaccine.

Other obstacles have made it difficult to equitably distribute vaccines in Israel and Palestine. Gaza has been under blockade by both Egypt and Israel since 2007. This military restriction has made it difficult for resources and aid to reach the Palestinians living there. Today, an Israeli citizen is 60 times more likely to have a vaccination than a Palestinian citizen.

International Response

Thankfully, with the help of the international community, there have been several shipments of COVID-19 vaccines to Palestine. On March 17, 2021, Palestine received 37,440 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 24,000 doses of the Astra Zeneca vaccine through the COVAX initiative. COVAX is an international organization working to distribute the vaccine to the entire world, particularly to low-to-middle countries, and is backed by the World Health Organization.

Many communities and celebrities around the world, including Gigi and Bella Hadid, have been raising awareness of Palestinians struggles. Awareness is imperative as it highlights the unequal access Palestinians have to COVID-19 vaccines. The international support for Palestine can hopefully encourage leaders and nations to continue to fight vaccine inequity in Israel and Palestine and around the world.

China and Russia have sent thousands of vaccines to Gaza and the West Bank over the past few months. Many within the international community, including the U.N., continue to urge Israel to provide Palestinians with equitable access to the vaccine. Providing the COVID-19 vaccine to Palestinians helps the whole international community in its fight against the COVID-19 virus.

– Ariana Chin
Photo: Flickr