Holy Land: rabbis assist Palestinian farmers

 A group of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform rabbis, together with some students and other secular Israelis, helped Palestinian farmers on the West Bank bring in their olive harvest Eric Silver in the Jewish Chronicle reports this week. The Jewish support group came to the village of Sinjil, between Ramallah and Nablus, in an old minibus, after they learnt that the Palestinians had been forced out of the olive groves by armed settlers who said they were a security risk. The Supreme Court ruled that the olive-pickers, most of them women, were no threat, and the army sent six jeeps to ensure that the harvest was carried out peacefully. The group worked with the olive pickers all day, supervised from a distance by some soldiers. Arik Ascherman, Chair of Rabbis for Human Rights, said he thought the their action was the 'just' thing to do. He said: "We break down many stereotypes the Palestinians have of Israelis. If we both continue to teach hatred there is no incentive to move forward." The Palestinians welcomed their Israeli supporters - less for their harvesting skills then for their deterrent effect. Yehoshua Engelman,44, a London-born Orthodox rabbi wo grew up in Jerusalem, acknowledged that the amount of olives he could pick in one day was small. But he felt his presence was important as a counterweight to settlers' claims that they were acting in the name of religion. He said: "I hate the idea of Torah being connected to cruelty, to racism and the profanation of God's name.." Source: Jewish Chronicle (published with permission)

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