At least one hundred UN staff took a day out from their normal routine to celebrate UN day in unconventional manner amid the olive trees of the West Bank.
Organized and led by UNSCO, UN agencies went to the village of Turmus Aya, north of Ramallah to accompany farmers and their families in the annual olive harvest. The Palestinian Prime Minister, Dr Salam Fayyad, joined UN Special Coordinator, Robert Serry, in picking olives from a tree more than one thousand years old in the village. The UN Resident Coordinator Maxwell Gaylard also participated in gathering in the crop, which is a crucial component of the Palestinian economy as well as a potent cultural and political symbol.
The harvest was carried out in the shadow of a nearby Israeli settlement and an outpost. The annual ritual of gathering the olives has become a flashpoint throughout the West Bank as extremist settlers have attacked Palestinians and their property. This year, villagers in Turmus Aya discovered a number of dead olive trees, adjacent to a nearby outpost which had apparently been poisoned.
Speaking to gathered reporters and with the Palestinian Prime Minister by his side, Special Coordinator Serry, emphasized the UN’s support for Dr Fayyad’s state-building agenda. The Prime Minister acknowledged the efforts of UN agencies in Gaza as well as the West Bank in assisting Palestinians, and he spoke of his determination to see Palestinian statehood realized.
Under the branches of the olive trees, UN personnel, Palestinian officials and villagers also heard the Secretary-General’s evocative message for UN Day reasserting his call for tolerance, mutual respect and human dignity.
The day concluded with a traditional Palestinian meal amid the olive trees, prepared by a local women’s organization