Do you know how long an olive tree can live? The oldest and largest olive tree in Palestine is believed to be 4,500 years old according to experts from Japan and Europe!! It has a name. Al-Badawi it is called and it has a guardian to watch over the tree. His name is Salah Abu Ali and he is helped by the villagers from Al-Walaja, near Bethlehem. Olive trees of such antiquity still yield olives to make oil but maybe not as much as they used to! Olive trees are a vital source of income for Palestinian farmers and the fields where they grow are almost part of their families, they have been harvested by many generations of the same family.

Our Mission of the Month for March is to support the charity Keep Hope Alive in partnership with JAI (Joint Advocacy Initiative, the YMCA of East Jerusalem and YWCA of Palestine). We have been supporting them for over five years, firstly for three years as our Harvest Appeal and now as a Mission of the Month. They support Palestinian farmers to plant young olive trees in February and harvest them in October. Why this need for support? No one can be unaware of the situation in Israel/Palestine these days. The new administration in the USA has released an upsurge in settlement building by the Israelis in the West Bank on Palestinian land. This land is the land on which the olive trees grow. The charity Keep Hope Alive distributes young olive trees in February to farmers bought by contributions from around the world. Here in Iffley we have sponsored more than one field of trees. This enables the farmers to have a secure income and hopefully resist the Israeli bulldozers. Workers from around the world who come to help with the olive harvest in October deter the military from harassing the farmers in most cases—not all.

I have seen on the ground what this harassment is like and know that it is now worse than eighteen months ago. I ask you to support this amazing non-violent charity which supports an equally amazing and hopeful people.

On Wednesday 8 February 300 young olive trees were planted by 45 volunteers from many different countries. These were in a field that was very close to an expanding settlement. The next morning, Thursday 9 February, the farmer and his family found the field empty. No trees, no plastic shields for the trees, and no sticks to support the trees—all gone. This means that there is no evidence except photographic evidence. The land is owned by the Palestinian farmer and he has the papers to show his right of ownership; however, there will now be a court hearing to determine if there was any offence and who owns the land!!

Sarah McKearney