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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

2 April 2001
Subject: Protecting the Olive Trees


A short story that is not over yet:

Yesterday two massive bulldozers arrived at the Palestinian village of Dir Istya to knock down 1500 olive trees that provide a livelihood for many of these villagers. The army used the excuse of “security” – preventing stone-throwing from the cover of the trees – although these were young trees and could hardly provide cover. While court appeals had been filed in previous weeks to prevent this destruction, all appeals were dismissed and the villagers knew their orchard was threatened. When a settler was recently injured badly by a rock thrown nearby, a decision was made to demolish the trees at once, as a kind of collective retribution against the whole village. Yesterday the bulldozers came and began their work.

Not far from here, however, is another Palestinian village where Neta Golan, 29, spends considerable energy monitoring army and settler abuse of the local Palestinian villages, and intervening whenever possible. Neta is an Israeli Jewish woman who is part of the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, and she is often a one-woman show, calling out to the Israeli soldiers from inside the Palestinian village to stop them from shooting in. This has worked a couple of times, perhaps because the soldiers were shocked to hear a fellow-Israeli speaking Hebrew to them from inside the firing zone.

When Neta heard that the bulldozers arrived, she ran to the site together with two other young women – Zipporah Ryter, 28, an American, and Yasmine Jayal, 22, a German-Palestinian. The villagers were already there, and together they all walked in front of one bulldozer and sat down. It stopped in its tracks. After some negotiations, threats, and determined responses by those resisting, one of the soldiers approached the Palestinians and explained that the army would not bulldoze any more, but the Palestinians had to move so the bulldozer could turn around. As soon as the Palestinians gave the bulldozer room to maneuver, it promptly drove through and mauled another tree. The Palestinians and the women returned to block the bulldozers.

Soon army reinforcements arrived and out-numbered the Palestinians and women. They forcibly arrested the three women, who refused to move of their own accord, and also one Palestinian man who had been photographing them. As a result of their action, “only” 150 trees had been bulldozed. And meanwhile, the legal department of the local Quaker center managed to get a temporary injunction to prevent the further destruction of the orchard, pending more legal activity.

Late last night, the three women were released on bail. Now the legal work has to run its course, and the resistance is prepared in case that fails.

Please feel free to donate to pay for this and other activities – bail costs money, organizing demonstrations and protest will also cost money, and everyone is working on a volunteer basis.

Gila Svirsky


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At-Home with Gila Svirsky

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© 2001 Gila Svirsky.

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