Can Israel and Palestine work together? One group is proving it’s possible.
The Near East Foundation’s project Olive Oil Without Borders works with farmers from Palestine and Israel to improve farming techniques and oil production.
“This project, funded by USAID, aims to promote reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis by strengthening the economic co-operation between the Palestinian farmers and the Israeli farmer, the Palestinian olive traders and the Israeli olive traders, together,” said Salah Abu-Eisheh, Near East Foundation Country Director, Palestine.
Nearly 90 villages in Israel, the West Bank, and now Jordan are involved, including over 2,000 olive producers, 25 mill owners, and 50 ancillary businesses.
“I wanted to get to know [the Israeli farmers] more, because they had expertise to share, that could really benefit me and my work,” said Somaya Sawalmeh, a Palestinian Farmer.
“Israel and Palestine is the same market, so we are talking about trade – for example, from Israel they are buying olive oil from Palestine, from the West Bank, and from the West Bank they are buying olive oil from Israel, so for trade, for marketing, it’s very important,” said Dr. Fathi Abdelhadi, OOWB consultant.
The project even established a cross-border trade agreement that still stands, despite the conflict.
“We found, with our donors, different ways to overcome those obstacles and find solutions, to the level that we were able to reach hundreds – now I can say thousands – of farmers across the borders,” said Mr Abu-Eisheh.
“The people from both sides, they are meeting, they talk – one to the other – so for the peace I think this is one important reason to meet, more and more,” said Abdelhadi.
For more information in the Near East Foundation’s work, click here.