This time of year is called “acharei haChagim” in Israel, which is Hebrew for “after the holidays”. In some ways similar to those first weeks in January, it means that business as usual kicks in, after a period of holiday vacations from work and school.
This time of year is also the season for olive picking. Many Arabs, even if they work in construction the other months of the year, stop and help pick olives. Every year there is an announcement in our yishuv newsletter regarding this.
“The olive picking in the surrounding areas (off the main roads that we travel on and near the fence at the outskirts of our settlement) has been fully approved by the army. It is best, though, to keep your children away from the fences at this time, and please report any unusual activity (such as olive picking at unusual times) to the relevant authorities”.
I think this basically sums up our situation in Israel. For as long as I have lived here the olive picking has not posed any problems at all. (And to answer the underlying question – there were no olive trees where the yishuv was built – it was a bare rocky hill with maybe some shrubs). The Arabs who come to pick the olives do so to provide for their families. There is always the fear, though, that a terrorist will try to take advantage of this situation, and use this time to possibly infiltrate the yishuv and carry out a terrorist attack.
In order to be safe – we have to be on our guard against the minority who may want to do us harm. At the same time there is no reason to penalize the majority who don’t. How you do both is a neverending problem – which is solved in different ways depending on current circumstances.
Some people cannot deal with this ongoing tension – and they pretend that there is no problem at all (“why can’t we all just be friends? – all we have to do is give up some territory and everything will be fine”) Others see every Arab as an enemy, and magnify the problem to the point where they think the only solution is to kick all of the Arabs out.
I don’t pretend to have the answer, but I do know that the situation is complicated. For those of us who see these complications, the tension will always be with us.