Southwick volunteer helps Palestinian farmers with charity Embrace the Middle East

Glen Edey, right, picking olives to help struggling Palestinian farmers
Glen Edey, right, picking olives to help struggling Palestinian farmers

A retired school teacher from Southwick spent a week working side-by-side with Palestinian farmers and their families to help them harvest and save olive crops.

The trip, organised by UK charity Embrace the Middle East, gave 69-year-old Glen Edey a personal insight into the daily lives of these farmers with a group of 15 other volunteers.

They explored parts of Israel and the West Bank to learn more about key issues in the area, including visiting a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem and the widely reported Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, which is facing destruction by the Israeli authorities.

Glen said: “I visited the West Bank before on a pilgrimage ten years ago with Embrace the Middle East. Back then, we came face to face with the inequality, discrimination and situations that were so unbelievably wrong.

“For me, the chance to go back and pick olives alongside Palestinian farmers seemed a good way to demonstrate that not all Westerners are blind to the events that are currently happening in the region.”

As access to parts of the West Bank is controlled by Israel, many farmers need permits to access their own land and these are time limited.

Without the support of Embrace the Middle East volunteers, many farmers would not have enough time to harvest their whole crop and olives would be left rotting on the trees.

Glen’s support in helping to harvest this crop for farmers was key as it enables them to earn money to feed their families and invest into their land for the future. Many Palestinians have to hold down a formal job while also working the land.

Glen said: “I love meeting people and doing ordinary, everyday, things with them. I like to experience for myself how life is for others, to get a real understanding of why things are the way they are.

“I feel that solidarity is so important, no matter where you live in this world; people need to know that others care, especially when there is such injustice happening.”

The group took part in the olive picking through Embrace the Middle East’s partner, the JAI, which through its Olive Tree Project enables farmers to plant olive trees and ensure that the land is well-tended.

Last year, Embrace the Middle East was able to facilitate the planting of almost 2,000 olive trees in Palestine. To sponsor one of these trees, visit www.embraceme.org/sponsor-olive-tree

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