The olive tree is a symbol of Palestine. For Palestinians it signifies deep roots with their country and emphasizes the importance of agriculture and primary industry. Olive oil production started here in the Stone Age.
In the West Bank 14% of agricultural income is from olive oil. With its hills covered with over 10 million olive trees, this industry supports around 80,000 families through employment in production.
Agriculture is still one of the main sources of income in the West Bank with various fruits and vegetables being grown.
The building industry employs 37% of the work force. Every night young Palestinians cross the wall to work illegally in Israel. The major checkpoints are torture for legal workers as they struggle to make it to work on time. In the early hours of the morning the gates are flooded with waiting Palestinians.
In and around Bethlehem many shops cater to Christian tourists. Figurines of the nativity scene, crucifixes, sculptures, vases and amulets made from the timber of olive trees are being sold. Wood work provides essential income and work for many families.
Palestinians typically work six days a week. Only people working for the government have paid holidays or retirement provisions and people working in a family business often have no salary.
60% of Palestinians in the West Bank live below the poverty line.
The West Bank: 55%
Even though there is poverty there are hardly any homeless people in Palestine. Thanks to the extended family groups, people in hardship are often supported.
For the economy it is difficult to improve while all imports and exports are controlled by Israel. All goods made in Palestine being exported are stamped “Made in Israel”.
There is very little foreign investment coming into Palestine and start-ups are rare. The Palestinian economy offers little for graduates and academics. With few opportunities to work within their chosen fields many are forced to emigrate.