When you stand on and look around the land of the al-Saras family, you will see the many, monotonous, white buildings of the Israeli settlement of Gush Etzion on the hilltops around you. Once, before 1967, it must have looked very different here; an hilly panorama with Palestinian houses here and there and a number of villages. Fields with olive, nut and fruit trees. Now, a big part of the hilltops has been built upon. Since the establishment of the first settlement in 1967, there has been a constant confiscation of Palestinian land for the construction and expansion of settlements, like Kfar Etzion, Elazar, Allon Shevut, Rosh Zurim and Efrat. All together, around 14,000,000 Jewish settlers live in these relatively small settlements.
The land of the al-Saras family has been in their possession since the Ottoman era (19th century, before the creation of the State of Israel). Nicola Sarras is 43 years old farmer from the town of Beit Jala, west of the Bethlehem area. Nicola's father Carlos, a retired driver of 77 years old, lives with his wife in the old house that stands on the land.
On the land he has nut trees, vineyards and olive groves. All his children are married and live elsewhere. Nicola is the only one that still lives in the area. He works full time as a teacher in a secondary school, but on weekends and holidays he is on the land to help his father. Their land is under threat of confiscation. The most recent order to expropriate, dates from April 2014, for three dunums of land owned by Nicola's uncle. Sometimes they have to deal with intimidation and violence by settlers, who come armed with iron bars to chase Palestinian farmers from their land. When Nicola reported the incident in which he was attacked by a group of settlers to the Israeli police, they presented him with around 800 pictures. Of course Nicola could not pinpoint his assailants, so many faces all look alike. The case was closed.
The Olive Tree Campaign will plant olive trees in February 2015, on two large fields of the Al-Saras' family, to protect the land. As Nicola says: "As far as planting a tree goes, there can be no discussion as to whether this is good or bad. There are a thousand reasons to plant a tree. This is what I tell my students, in the hope that they will also plant trees."