Olive-Pickers in Palestine

By , by Jabra Ibrahim Jabra

ON the edge of the Valley of the Camel, a little below the New Road, a huge azarole tree soared upwards, visible from our house on the hill above. The slopes of the valley were covered with olive trees wherever you looked, but this wild azarole prided itself on its height, its spreading branches, and its towering grandeur. No one knew who had planted it; perhaps it had simply burst out from the earth between two big rocks, too long ago for anyone to remember....

During the olive-picking season we'd make it our point of entry to the trees in the valley. The croppers, with their sticks and ladders, would pick the olives with a deftness that went back thousands of years, singing merrily as they did so. "Ala dal`una" was everyone's favorite song: and in autumn the valley would be filled with the sound of it, as men, women, boys, and girls shook the trunks and branches, beat them with their sticks and climbed to the higher, more difficult branches on ladders, making the green olives fall, like pearls, on to the red earth.

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