PRESS RELEASE: RHR Blocked From Planting 200 Trees By Israeli Army

With an expired “closed military zone” order the Israeli Army prohibited 200 Rabbis for Human Rights (RHR) activists from planting olive trees together with Palestinian farmers, in the Yaasuf village olive groves, some of which had previously been damaged by settlers.

RHR’s Executive Director, Avi Dabush: “It is incomprehensible why the army interprets planting olive trees and eating dried fruit as ‘an attempt to disturb the public order’. It is clear that the only “order” that has been interfered with was to plant trees in accordance with the traditions of the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shvat.”

200 RHR activists came to the Palestinian village of Yaasuf, located in the northern West Bank to participate in a tree planting activity and ceremony together with Palestinian farmers, some whose olive groves had been damaged, burned or vandalized by local settlers. The activists who arrived from all over the country and represented different organizations like Zazim, Stand Together, Combatants for Peace, were confronted by the Israeli army’s refusal to allow the activists to enter the olive groves, presenting them with a “closed military zone” order. When activists asked the army officer why the order was issued the officer responded by saying “you are coming to disturb the public order.” After a lengthy delay it was discovered that the order itself was invalid and out of date. However, in the meantime, the Palestinians farmers succeeded to plant the trees while the activists were confined, by army order, to the center of the village, which is close to the Yitzhar settlement. The activists, prevented by the army from planting trees, left the area shortly thereafter.

Avi Dabush further stated: “We came to plant olive trees with rural Palestinian farmers who suffer from systematic violence and harassment, and honor together Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish holiday of the trees, with the hope that this kind of activity will build optimism and solidarity between us and our Palestinian partners. It is sad and humbling to see how indiscriminately and arbitrarily the army issues ‘closed military’ orders as a way to prevent activity that is only about agriculture and peace. It is beyond my understanding why the army would interpret the planting of olive trees and the eating of dried fruit as an ‘attempt to break the order.’ Surely the only order violated here is the only one that is truly relevant – the traditional call to plant trees on Tu B’Shevat.”

Read Haaretz article here