For over forty years, ongoing conflict and illegal settlement have led to over 1 million olive trees in Palestine being uprooted. Palestinian sources claim the destruction is even greater, with over 2 million trees being destroyed since 2000. For many Palestinian farmers, these trees provide their sole income, with some trees having provided fruit for over 600 years. With so many families dependent on olive tree farms, their destruction is a devastating blow to a community crippled by increasing levels of poverty and unemployment. In Gaza alone, 1 in 4 people is now living below the poverty line.
However, the generosity of donors like you is giving Palestinian farmers renewed hope. We have spent the last week distributing 30,000 olive tree saplings donated by you through our Great Charity Gifts programme to farmers across Gaza and Jerusalem. Thanks to you, families like Ziad Ayyad’s, will once again be able to support themselves and their communities through one of Palestine’s oldest and most important industries.
When Ziad Ayyad’s land was razed during the latest Gaza conflict, he lost all his beloved olive trees. ‘I watered them with my blood, sweat and tears’, he says. ‘I really considered them as my sons and daughters’.
The 63-year-old father of nine has worked the land since his childhood. The trees not only provided a secure income for Ziad and his family, but they were inextricably bound up with their sense of belonging and identity. For Palestinians, the olive tree is an integral part of their culture and heritage and Ziad referred to his olive grove as his ‘paradise’.
Since his land was destroyed, Ziad has been struggling to support his family on the 168 dollars he receives from the Social Affairs Ministry each month. But now, thanks to your generous donations, Ziad has received a special delivery of 180 olive tree saplings from the Muslim Hands Palestine team. When the team unpacked the trees, they were so moved by Ziad’s happiness, that they struggled to hold back their tears. Ziad told them:
‘The Muslim Hands donors have placed their healing hands on a wound I thought would never heal. They have restored a smile to my wife’s face and for the first time since I lost my trees, I can face life’s obstacles head on because I have my independence and my dignity back. May Allah (swt) bless you all and reward you well for your kindness’.