Picking olives to save the land of the Palestinian people

By Anita Andersson


Anita Andersson was the World YWCA President from 1995 to 1999. She visited Palestine to participate in the Olive Tree Campaign, which is a joint advocacy initiative of the YMCA of East Jerusalem and the YMCA of Palestine. It seeks to replant trees in areas where they have been uprooted and destroyed, or in areas where the fields are threatened to be confiscated by the Israeli Occupation Army, or Israeli settlers.


In November I was in Palestine where I spent two weeks picking olives and visiting friends. In Palestine it was like summer in August – hot and sunny. This olive picking programme is now a tradition each October by the Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI) of the YWCA and YMCA of Palestine and East Jerusalem and the Alternative Tourism Group (ATG). I participated in the programme in 2007, and at that time I was the only person from Sweden. This time I had company from my old friend and colleague Barbro. Both of us have been in Palestine many times before, mainly for work, and now we both are retired. In total there were 70 people participating in the campaign, from over 15 countries, and in addition several who joined just for the olive picking for a day or two.

The olive tree can live very long and it is a symbol of identity to the land and the generations who have lived, and will continue to live, on that land. During the occupation not only people, but also trees have been uprooted to give space for Israelis and for security fences, the wall, by-pass roads, etc. Some farmers have problems with settlers living too close, or that their land is considered to be a security area, or that the land happened to be on the wrong side of the checkpoint. To work their own lands, farmers sometimes need permits, and very often it is a problem to get the permits for enough people during harvest time. Land that is not used during some years will be confiscated due to a very old law in the area. Being in possession of other passports, we are considered “internationals” and can move more freely, and by picking the olives we 1) help the farmer with his harvest, 2) prove that this piece of land is active, and 3) learn more about the Palestinian situation.

In my group the youngest was 12 years old. He came with his mother who had been on a kibbutz in her youth and wanted to come back and see how things have changed. The oldest person was 83 – a strong peace activists, he had participated in the programme several times. Another interesting person that I met is an 80 year old named Rei. I asked Rei how he got involved and he sad “because of my bad conscience”. Earlier on in his life Rei worked with Isreali trade unions, assisting them to develop. We stayed in Beit Sahour in the Bethlehem area and we also visited Hebron.

Barbro and I came a few days before the programme started, and we were thus able to meet some of our old friends – especially in the YMCA and to be in the old city in Jerusalem. In the old city we encountered more tourists and pilgrims and Israeli flags than we have ever seen before! It was good to see the tourists and the businesses, but very sad and alarming to realise that it is now a priority from the Israelis to make Jerusalem less Palestinian and more Israeli. By tradition East Jerusalem is considered Palestine and West Jerusalem Israel, but now the borders of Jerusalem have been changed to include former parts of the Palestinian West Bank. Settlers are getting permits to build on Palestinian land and Palestinian houses are being demolished. Palestinians living on the West Bank (or in Gaza) need permits to get into Jerusalem, however it is hard to get a permit and you don’t get one for wanting to see family members of going to a holy place. It is hard to get a permit even to go to the hospital! If you are a resident in Jerusalem but have not stayed at your address during some time (maybe because your home has been demolished) you loose your residency rights.

During our free day, Barbro and I went to the YMCA and the old city. Some of the other participants attended the Friday demonstrations and experienced tear gas in Bili’in, close to Ramallah. Other particpants went to the Shejk Jarrah area, close to the YWCA and not far from the legendary American Colony Hotel. That area has been in the media a lot due to the long conflict between some families with correct ownership documents for their homes and the Israelis who want to evict them. The houses have now been demolished, and demonstrations continue each Friday. Jimmy Carter, ex President of the United States also participated in these demonstrations! I think it was the first time that an ex-president was in Jerusalem participating in a pro-Palestinian demonstration!!

My experience in Palestine has been, yet again, very inspiring. If you get involved in the olive tree campaign – by buying a tree or participating in the planting in February or picking in October, you will feel rewarded. It is nice to be part of this network!

Re-conceptualizing Security: Where are the women?

By: Leanne Baumung

Leanne Baumung from the YWCA of Kauai in Hawaii, USA and World YWCA Intern 2008.


What types of images does the term conjure up for you? Locks and keys, barbed-wire fences, and metal detectors? Men with badges? Three-ounce shampoo bottles in little plastic bags, perhaps?

I myself have had to come to terms this year with my own perceptions of security. As a graduate student, I’ve been helping teach an undergraduate course in Global Security since September. As the proverb says: through teaching, you are bound to learn – and it’s true in this case; I’ve likely learned much more from this experience than I’ve actually taught.

I’ve learned that while classical conceptions of security models (i.e. those that classify the nation-state as the primary actor, the accumulation of power as the primary objective, and military capability as the primary measure of that power,) are becoming increasingly archaic, they still provide the basis for much of today’s international security policies. These Cold War era fundamentals, although highly outdated, are still the dominant ones that inform much of how governments address the gravest security issues of the day.

We are living in a time when violence among civilians now make up the majority of the world’s conflicts; unpredictable, asymmetrical power structures generate and perpetuate much of the fighting; intra-state clashes, rebel factions, military juntas, and organized criminals all play their role on the global security stage. And yet, nation-states still seem to favour a continuation of the old state- power-military charged rhetoric – rhetoric which breeds climates of destruction, deception, and distrust among neighbours while weaving threads of fear directly into our social fabrics.

Confronted with this knowledge, I can’t help but ask the question that years of working with the YWCA has taught me to never stop asking: Where are the women?

In this complex nexus of state, power and security that dominates how we perceive diverse global security threats and needs… Where are all the women?

In a sense, we know where the women are.

The women are being assaulted, tortured and brutally raped on a daily basis at the hands of armed factions in the eastern DRC. They are suffering not only from the rapes, but from the genital lesions, the traumatic fistulae, the unwanted pregnancies and the sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

The women are raising their voices in Afghanistan, pushing their way into peace building processes,   proclaiming that peace without justice and without basic human rights is no peace at all. They are struggling against being silenced, marginalized and subverted. They are struggling for the right to be heard in the debate over the future of their country.

The women are fleeing violence and volatility, subsisting scarcely in IDP and refugee camps in Pakistan, Sudan, and Sri Lanka. They are striving to hold onto fragments of hope and stability in the face of restricted movement, unsanitary conditions, disease, poverty and little reassurance of any real security.

And yet within the global security discourse, the women can be found in a tiny drawer, labeled “soft security.”  Soft security. Isn’t that nice? It sounds like a slogan for a new panty liner product. Soft security. With labels like this, is it any wonder that mechanisms to ensure women’s security (UNSCR 1325 and 1820) are still light-years away from reaching full implementation?

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign, focusing on women, violence and militarism. In light of the Campaign’s theme this year, it is important to remember that the YWCA has a vital resource: a critical mass of women and young women leaders that can be integral in helping bring about a re-conception of security in the international realm. We as YWCA women have not only an opportunity, but I would argue, an obligation to use this resource to help define what security really means for women worldwide. Together, we must work to deepen and broaden global perceptions of security to not only encompass but to focus specifically on human security needs, recognizing that women’s security is by no means “soft”. Women’s security is a hard, brutal, callous reality, and until major players in the field of global security recognize this, prospects for human security will remain beyond reach.

Leanne Baumung hails from the YWCA of Kauai in Hawaii, USA and was a World YWCA Intern in 2008. She is currently undertaking a Masters programme in International Development at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada.

This year’s theme for the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign is “Structures of Violence: Defining the Intersections of Militarism and Violence Against Women”. Find out more and how you can take action at http://16dayscwgl.rutgers.edu/2010-campaign.