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25 March, 2011

Olive Aid: Plant Hope – Harvest Peace

Olive AidSince ancient times, the olive tree and its branches have been a universal symbol of peace and prosperity and especially to the Palestinian people, who have enjoyed olive orchards as part of their landscape for thousands of years. The olive tree enjoys this special attention amongst Palestinians, not only due to it’s symbolic and religious meaning of peace but also because of the fact that the olive is a valuable source of food. Olive oil and wood production and their sale provide a multitude of jobs and income in the forms of olive oil, wood crafts and olive-based soaps making it irreplaceable as the primary source of income for more than 100,000 Palestinian families in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Considering the fact that the native olive plays such a role in Palestinian economic and cultural life, it is central also to the identity of the Palestinian people.

Olive AidOlives are a staple crop for agrarian based Palestinian society, olive groves constituting more than 40.3% of the cultivated area in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and 79% of cultivated fruit trees. The number of olive trees planted in Palestine today exceeds 12 million, spread over 13.26% (750,000 dunums/185,250 acres) of the West Bank and 11% (11,200 dunums/ 2,700 acres) of the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian olive oil has significance health values:

  • Lowering bad cholesterol (LDL)
  • Maintaining good cholesterol (HDL)
  • Protection against cardiovascular and coronary diseases
  • Prevention of clogged arteries and heart attacks
  • Aids in curing gastric and duodenum ulcers
  • Decline of gastric juices
  • Helps in metabolism in diabetics
  • Helps in prevention of cancer
  • It revitalizes the skin

Olive AidThe systematic attack on Palestinian trees has started with the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory back in 1967 and resulted in the uprooting of more than 2.6 million trees, to date. The reason behind this systematic attack is to build the Segregation Wall, building/expansion settlements and construction of Israeli only bypass roads.

In light of this - and with a desire to support the education of students at Bethlehem University- the OliveAid project was established in 2008 by the Friends of Bethlehem University in England and Wales (FoBU-UK):

 The aims of the OliveAid project are two-fold:

 a.  to remedy the injustice suffered by the Palestinian people by replanting olive groves and providing families with a sustainable income from olives and olive based products - and

 b.  to provide funds to Bethlehem University to offer scholasrhips to students and to support other initiatives and programs at Bethlehem University.

Since then, the team has worked very hard for the success of this project.  Two OliveAid scholarships have been established at Bethlehem University and are funded for four years.  For the 2010-2011 academic year, Bushra Bannoura and Suha Konkar, both of whom are second year accounting majors have been awarded the OliveAid scholarships.

Additionally, with more than 1,400 working days, an area of 102 dunums (102,000 SQM) has been planted with more than 2,100 olive trees in Bethlehem, Palestine, benefiting 35 Palestinian families to date. The plantation process is still underway - as is the offering of additional scholarships and support for other initiatives at Bethlehem University.

This project brings back the hope to these families, as they were not able to plant their groves, as is this case, Grove # OA005:

Owned by Yas Abu Zuluf and his family (parents & brothers – all together 12 members), an area of 2 dunums, located in Osh Ghrab/Beit Sahour.  The land had been confiscated by the Israeli army in 1967, and a camp for the Israeli army was built on it however they were able to retrieve it in 2005.  
The financial and economical situation of the family deteriorated remarkably seeing only one member of the family able to work, as a farmer. They were unable to remove the debris and waste, do land reclamation, and build a fence in order to revitalize the land for agriculture. Enter OliveAid, which enabled their dream of restoring their land.  They are hopeful because the family’s time and effort are utilized efficiently expecting the healthy young trees to be able to provide food and income, in the near future. This is just one example of how ever single of the 35 groves has its own story.

During the olive harvest season, which takes place during (October 15 - November 30) every year, some of the groves that contain mature olive trees yield small quantities and are used to make preserved olives. No part of an olive is wasted.

In addition to replanting the olive groves, the project, which ultimately provides resources for long term improvements, also covers university scholarships for needy students.

Plant hope – Harvest peace, by replanting the olive groves destroyed through years of conflict - and also help to educate the next generation of Palestinians through OliveAid scholarships and support for Bethlehem University. You will be providing employment, income, education, and the most important gift of all - hope for a future free from poverty and suffering.  

Learn more by clicking here.


Bethlehem University Foundation
Phone: +1-240-241-4381
Fax: +1-240-553-7691
Beltsville, MD USA
Bethlehem University in the Holy Land
Phone: +972-2-274-1241
Fax: +972-2-274-4440
Bethlehem, Palestine