2019 writing competition

The Green Olive Collective is launching a writing competition and you are invited to share your thoughts with our community! There are cash prizes to be won and author Gershon Baskin has kindly agreed to act as our judge.

Our judge - Jerusalem Post columnist Gershon Baskin

How to enter

The theme for the topic is broad: "Reflections on my trip to Israel-Palestine". You might like to tell us your views on the country, and how they changed during your trip. You might have some novel idea for a potential solution to the ongoing conflict here. Or perhaps you have a reaction to the Peace to Prosperity conference held recently in Bahrain?

Whichever subject you chose, the article must be in English and between 500 and 750 words.

Then submit your article, before August 30, at this link.

  • Total prize money of US$600, including a grand prize of $300 for the winning submission.
  • Signed copies of In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine, the most recent book by peace activist Gershon Baskin.
  • All short listed articles will be published on the Green Olive blog, and the winning article will be distributed to the nearly 30000 Green Olive supporters around the world.
>> Submit your article here <<

    Terms and conditions

    1. The competition is open to anyone age 18 and over who has visited Palestine / Israel during the past five years.

    2. Closing date for receipt of all entries is midnight on Friday the 30th of August, 2019.

    3. To enter, submit your article consisting of 500-750 words via the official entry form.

    4. An initial shortlist of ten entries will be selected on merit by a panel of reviewers appointed by Green Olive Tours (including at least one independent reviewer not affiliated with Green Olive Tours). The selected ten entries will then be open to voting by the public via the Green Olive Tours website. The winner will be chosen by independent judge, Gershon Baskin, from the three entries receiving the most votes.

    5. The author's name (with permission) and country will be published along with their article. Contact information is for the use of Green Olive Tours only and will not published.

    6. Public voting will begin on Friday 13th September 2019 and terminate on Friday 27th September 2019. To be eligible to vote, you must submit a unique email address and vote on our official website. Only one vote is allowed per person.

    7. The winner will be announced via the Green Olive Tours website by the 4th of October 2019 and informed via contact information provided with the entry.

    8. The winner will receive a prize package consisting of $300 USD (payable via PayPal or wire transfer) along with a signed copy In Pursuit of Peace in Israel and Palestine by Gershon Baskin. Second prize will receive $200 USD and a copy of the book. Third prize will received $100 USD and a copy of the book.

    9. The winning article will be published in the October 2019 Green Olive Tours newsletter that is distributed to almost 30000 people throughout the world. 

    10. Green Olive Tours reserves the right to publish any entry on its website now and at any time in the future. Authors retain the copyright and can subsequently publish elsewhere, with an attribution and link back to Green Olive Tours.

    11. Entries limited to one per person. 

    12. Email addresses provided during entry or voting will be used solely by Green Olive Tours and will not be disclosed to any third parties. Newsletters and other correspondence that we send have a clearly indicated 'unsubscribe' link which can be done at any time.

    13. There is no alternative to the prize offered. 

    14. If for any reason a winner is unable to take the prize as offered, Green Olive Tours reserves the right to award the prize to the next best entry. 

    15. The judge's decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

    These terms and conditions may be changed at the discretion of the organizers.


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    Cycling the Highlands and Islands of Scotland

    - by Fred Schlomka -
    9 days
    23rd June - 1st July
    cycled 590 km. (369 miles)
    Shetland - Aberdeen - Banff - Lossiemouth - Inverness
    Isle of Skye  (Eilean a'Cheo) - Orkney - Shetland

    After a busy two months on the Island of Unst I am ready for a break. The volunteers who worked on our historic home project - The Hamars - are gone, our annual harp & fiddle charity concert is over, and the 2019 harp tour is winding down.

    2019 Scottish Harp Tour
    We exit the ferry in Aberdeen (from Shetland) with our tour group and say our goodbyes. Hugs all around. The twelve people from the USA had been with Sunita for two weeks of intensive music, learning, touring and bonding.

    Eight harpists and four husbands visited a huge swath of Scotland, travelling by coach all the way from Edinburgh through the highlands and Loch Ness, to Orkney and finally the Shetland island of Unst, in the far north of Shetland. Now it was almost over. Helen our mainland tour guide waits for the group at the ferry, and together with our intrepid driver, Ryan, they drive off to the Cairngorms and beyond, leaving Sunita and myself with our bicycles on the pier, ready for our next adventure.

    They go south. We go north.

    Aberdeen is a medium-sized coastal city in the north-east of Scotland. As we cycle through the centre and its suburban areas to the countryside, I feel the familiar feeling of freedom take hold. Work is over for now, and our well-earned rest is unfolding along the road and hedgerows in front of us. Of course the phone is still on, and I work on the road running Green Olive Tours. At least for the next few days anyway. The plan is to shut off all electronics for the week we are on the Isle of Skye.

    Meldrum House
    The countryside opens up before us. Aberdeen doesn't sprawl. The city ends and the country begins. It's a glorious day. The sun is shining and the hills beckon. Somehow I had expected more mountainous terrain, but we are greeted by rolling hills of grazing cows and sheep and scattered farms.

    As usual we rely on Google to show us the way. Just type in the destination and click the bicycle icon. Then the little blue line unfolds on the screen, showing the way less travelled - the 'B' roads - the cycle trails - small villages - and a few tracks going right through farmyards complete with piles of steaming manure, farm equipment and the occasional goose wandering through.

    We pause at the Baronial Meldrum House, once the home of the aristocratic Meldrum family, now an upscale boutique hotel and golf course. We are welcomed, and decide on an early lunch in the lovely parlour, now a bar and breakfast room. The staff are kind and welcoming.

    The farmland is broken up by cycle trails through wooded sections, and as we emerge from one ancient copse, an equally ancient tumbledown fortress appears in front of us, soaring into the sky like a forgotten sentinel of medieval times. the edifice has no signage, and the farmer/owner keeps his cows in the lower part of the centuries-old tower. Real estate upcycling - Scottish style.

    Afternoon tea in Turriff is at the British Legion where a kind gentleman signs us in to the members only facility. Tea and home-made scones are served. A real treat.

    North coast, west of Banff
    The day remains warm. We approach Banff along the River Deveron valley, arriving at the Fife Lodge Hotel, a small provincial establishment with a great view. We are exhausted and after a short yoga session and dinner, we retire early.

    In the morning it is raining. The route to Lossiemouth is wet, very wet. Quite a contrast from the previous day. We pass many small fishing villages along the way, becomming progressively wetter. We pause for morning tea and 'butteries' at Ann and Alistair's home. Ann is the granddaughter of old family friends and it is fun to visit. Later in the day we visit her parents, Margo and David in Lossiemouth - after a few more hours of very wet cycling. It is pretty miserable. Although we are well experienced and have wet gear along, Sunita's feet are soaked as her overboots failed, and my jacket decided not to be 100% waterproof and there was slow seepage into my inner layers. All in all we were happy to arrive at Alison's B&B near the Lossiemouth beach.

    Visiting Margo & David
    Our evening with Margo and David is memorable, reminiscing a bit about the 'old days', and regaling each other with tales of more recent adventures in far parts of the globe. Margo's parents and siblings were like a foster family for me in my youth. It is nice to catch up and reconnect.

    Breakfast next morning was a gourmet affair. Alison's husband Hugh was a chef to the Royal family of Jordan, before following a dream and opening the 'Lossiemouth House' B&B in Scotland's remote north. The oats for the porridge have been soaked overnight, cooked to perfection, blended with pureed bananas and organic maple syrup, and served with gently toasted nuts and lightly stewed berries. A great start to the day at 6.30am.

    I have a nice chat with Hugh as he serves his gourmet porridge. He is nostalgic about his time in Jordan and is interested Green Olive Tours. I explain that our guides are unable to conduct our preferred type of politically critical tours in Jordan, because unlike Israel, there are no civil guarantees of freedom of speech. Tour guides in Jordan can be arrested for 'insulting the monarchy' if they are critical of the government. Hugh is skeptical since his experience as an elite expat was far removed from the hoy paloi of the street - and as a 'pro-Palestinian' supporter, he is reluctant to allow that, despite the Occupation, Israel may still be more of a democracy than Jordan.

    Then we are off again on the bikes. The weather is cloudy and a bit of dreich (drizzle) is gently misting down. As the day went along the weather eased up, and so the cycling became easier.

    All along our route during the past days, there has been ample opportunity to go off road along designated cycling trails, some paved, and others dirt or gravel. It's amazing that even in this relatively remote area that planning and resources have gone into such things. Cycling has been an active sport in the UK for a long time and interest continues to grow.

    By the time we arrive in Inverness in mid-afternoon the sun is shining. We seek out a bicycle shop and a Barbour clothing dealer's shop, Grahams. I buy a tin of wax to waterproof my Jacket. The cycle shop replaces my seat post and we continue to the railway station to pickup the train to Kyle of Lochalsh - the last town on the mainland before the Isle of Skye. The 2 1/2 hour train ride with the bicycles is though gorgeous sparsely populated countryside to the west of Inverness. Lots of lakes and steep hillsides, rolling heath and a few sheep and cows here and there. A perfect ending to the day. Looking forward to Skye.

    On the train to Skye
    We resolve to turn off our electronic devices for the week we are on the Isle of Skye, or 'Island of Mist' in Gaelic (Eilean a'Cheo). The very name evokes ancestral memories of faeries, witches and elves. No place for 21st century electronic magic. We shut it off.

    The train from Inverness passes by lochs and heather, vales and livestock, ending at the port of Kyle of Lochalsh, the gateway village to the mystic isle. The Skye Bridge soars ahead of us, a one kilometre-long concrete ribbon connecting the mainland to the island.

    We spend the night at the backpackers Hostel in Kyleakin, a wee hamlet near the bridge. The next day is our day off from cycling - three days on - one day off -. We luxuriate in a late start with yoga in the lounge, then a short hike to Caisteal Maor, a 14th century fort atop a hill offering great views.

    I start to read again. It's amazing that without a screen to peer at, the printed page once again holds alure. I devour 2 books during the next 6 days. No constant beeping of notifications or compulsively checking the screen for new messages every few minutes. Everyone else at the hostel seems to have their nose in a screen, big or small. I resist the urge. It's hard.

    Then up the coast in a partly cloudy and cool day. Cool to us at least. Many others are in t-shirts and shorts. The heather is purple. The sea like silk. The road is busy. Unfortunately the A87 along the north coast is but a two lane road with no shoulder. It's high tourist season so we endure the cars, buses and trucks - pulling in to driveways and parking areas when the line of cars behind us gets too long. Some drivers have enough sense to know when it is safe to overtake us, while others dally behind at a snails pace, annoying the other motorists. To keep us safe, I often pull out into the middle of the lane when a car starts to pass, ensuring that they move over to the other side of the road. As soon as the passing car begins to draw abreast of me, I slide over to my side of the road allowing them to pass safely.

    We pause for lunch and as cruise of the tourist shops in Portree the busy capital of the island. It's a little too commercial for my taste. Not that it doesn't have its charm, but more than half the shops exist only for the tourist trade. It's a double edged sword. People have to eat, and the economy needs some dynamic development, but most of the 'locals' we met are not indigenous, but are from off-island. Yet they bring skills and entrepreneurial ability, essential to the island's future. Thank goodness though, that Unst (where we have our summer home) is less developed with less tourists, although it does increase slowly from year to year, and our activities will contribute to that.

    But Skye does have its remote areas, where most tourists do not tread. It's why we are here.

    We arrive at our destination for the day, the vegetarian 'Old Croft House' Bed & Breakfast. One of the partners also runs 'The Bike Shed', so I have him fix a quirk in my gears. No charge, so I give him one of our madeinpeace.com solar lights.

    We dine at the local 5-start boutique Skeabost Hotel. A bit overpriced for slightly above average food in very kitschy decor for a historic building, but the priceless view across well kept lawns to the loch - more than makes up for it.

    Next morning after a tasty full Scottish vegan breakfast, and a chat with the household ducks, we head off to the north-west along secondary 'B' roads. Glorious. Single lane roads, few cars, and lovely people. The weather is the best I've seen in the two months I've been in Scotland. Clear skies and hot -yes, not warm, HOT. We are in t-shirts and shorts. Not too hot though. Just right. The best cycling weather. The hills and seascape are in sharp relief. A thousand subtle colours flow and blend to perfection like carefully Photoshopped images. It really doesn't get much better than this.

    We pull over. A sheep shearer is plying his trade at a croft, and we watch his deft movements with the electric cutter, taking perhaps 3 minutes to completely remove the wool from a sheep.

    Our destination is 'Skyskins', a thriving 100+ year-old workshop that collects fresh skins from a variety of domestic and wild animals, mostly sheep, and does the entire tanning process. We watch a freshly soaked sheepskin get scraped of the last of its surplus fatty tissue and prepared for the vegetable tanning process. The end result is beautiful fleece with supple leather backing. I buy a piece at about half the price that it cost in Shetland - just large enough to make two bicycle seat covers. I like a soft saddle for my bum, sprung, with a foam cover and finished with the fleece. Keeps the rear end from getting too tender after a long day on the road.

    During tea at Loch Dunvegan, we write a load of postcards, later mailed at an ancient country postbox, engraved with 'Royal Mail'. Long Live the Queen!

    Next morning we are off across the mountains to the west on a tiny road that rises only 500 feet (about 170 metres) above sea level, but seems much higher as it passes through steeply sided mountains and valleys. The view from the top to the west takes my breath away and it alone makes the trip worthwhile. The cruise downhill to the NW coast is exhilarating, if a bit scary, with the bicycle reaching speeds in excess of 60 kph (about 38mph).

    Most of the island's horses take one look at the waving flags on our bikes, and trot off to the far side of the field. One beautiful fellow does not. So I park and we have a conversation. A delightful white beast of medium build with a pleasant disposition. We nuzzle a bit then move on.

    The Broadford Youth Hostel is a bit austere. As with most 'official' youth hostels, it has lots of rules, closes the kitchen at 10am, and generally discourages people from hanging out during the day. Otherwise it was fine. We have a private room that is adequate and not too far from the showers.

    It's a drizzly day - our day 'off'. The dreich comes and goes. We alternate between wandering the village and hanging out at the hostel - reading. I find a book by GreenPeace on the state of the Scottish coastline. In addition to technical details and photographs, there is poetry. One in particular by George Mackay Brown catches my eye, called the 'Highlands and Islands'.

     . . Pass the wandering priest and the bard,
    'I seek, I sing the goodness of this land', said the poet
    'More lovely to me than a sweetheart'.
    The kings of Pictland
    Gave passage to his harp up the broken waters of the west . . .

    Broadford is having a festive week so we browse the food stalls at the market and attend the Ceilidh in the evening. Sunita and I try our hand at Scottish country dancing. The Breakish Ceilidh Band comes with a dance caller. At least half the dancers were tourists so the caller had her work cut out. A wedding party showed up, complete with groom and best man in kilts, adding some local colour.

    Fishing boats at Kyle of Lochalsh 
    Next morning Skye recedes. It's just a short ride east to the Skybridge and railway station for the train for Caithness, for the final leg of our journey. Phone and laptop are turned back on. We rejoin the 21st century.

    After a night at a harpists B&B in Thurso, we catch the ferry from Scrabster to Stromness in Orkney, and spend the day cruising to Kirkwall, doing some shopping, and winding down for our return to Shetland. The overnight ferry back to Lerwick is uneventful, and we cycle the familiar roads north to the island of Unst, as usual in Shetland, the wind is in our face for most of the way. A tough ride to end the trip. It's good to be home at the Hamars.

    The Hamars - of Haroldswick, Unst.


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    Palestinians have every right to reject another Oslo

    With the Bahrain workshop, the Trump administration is relying on the same old Oslo model of economy before politics. What needs to be done is to hold Israel accountable.

    - by Sam Bahour -

    American President Donald Trump speaks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and advisor Jared Kushner at the White House, May 22, 2017. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
    As a result of this article, and a companion article by Fred Schlomka, both Mr. Bahour and Mr. Schlomka were interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Company - and can be heard at this link.

    After 52 years of Israel’s military occupation of Palestine, there is a fact that cannot be brushed aside: Israel is addicted to the Palestinian economy. This addiction is the product of decades of systematic and forceful actions by the Israeli government to make the Palestinian economy structurally dependent on Israel. Just as with a drug addict or an alcoholic, external intervention is imperative for the sake of the addict and all those within his or her reach; otherwise, the self-inflicted damage will sooner or later be fatal.

    After all this time under the boot of Israeli military occupation, enthusiastically supported by the United States every step of the way, Palestinians have a watertight case against participating in yet another workshop with those promising to be their saviors — like the one the Trump administration has called for on June 25 and 26 in Manama, Bahrain.

    Anyone who has witnessed the last 25 years of the failure of the U.S.-led peace process knows that what needs to be done, albeit extremely belatedly, is to hold Israel accountable. This would mean using tools like boycotts, divestment, sanctions, diplomatic actions.

    The Palestinians are doing their utmost on all these fronts. What’s missing today is for other states to uphold their legal and ethical obligations to do the same. Additionally, this upcoming “economic workshop” is a political moment, and the opportunity of a lifetime, for any country that has not yet formally recognized the State of Palestine to do so immediately, especially if it is truly committed to a two-state solution to this conflict.

    How is Israel addicted to the Palestinian economy? Israel reaps $5 billion annually from the captive economy called the occupied Palestinian territory; the Palestinian market is one of Israel’s top export markets after the United States, China and Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom. Israel is addicted to our customs tariffs, skimming a whopping 3 percent off every customs-dollar the Palestinian import-intensive economy generates.

    Israel is addicted to our cheap but dedicated and skilled labor — for the benefit of its construction sector and its agricultural sector and its service sector. More recently, Israel expanded this labor addiction to include our knowledge-based professionals. Our military occupier has even taken out newspaper ads promoting a fast-track permit to go to Israel and directly connect our youth with Israeli high-tech firms, bypassing Palestinian firms.

    Israel is addicted to our water. It controls the West Bank aquifers, forcing our agricultural sector to decline from 12 percent of our GDP to less than 5 percent. The World Bank has called these Israeli actions “structural damage” that will take generations to repair.

    Israel is addicted to our stone and marble quarries, with the Supreme Court of Israel ruling that Israeli occupation authorities can let Israeli firms enter the West Bank and literally steal the land, block by block, for the benefit of Israeli firms.

    Israel is addicted to our air space, giving Israeli cellular operators access to the illegal settlements scattered across the West Bank mountaintops. These companies erect their infrastructure and gain access to our electromagnetic spectrum, so that they can provide telecommunication services to the Palestinian territory — without being licensed, without taxation, and without environmental oversight.

    Israel is addicted to using the Gaza Strip as a laboratory where Israeli weapons and security-product manufacturers can freely test their wares with total impunity.

    The list is long, but the addiction is clear and has been overwhelmingly documented by every country engaged in the conflict, particularly the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, as well as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), among others.

    After being on the receiving end of this Israeli addiction for decades, especially those of us in the Palestinian private sector, we are now being told by a U.S. bankruptcy lawyer, a New York real estate lawyer, and a questionable U.S. real estate developer that the Palestinian economy should be advanced before political parameters are defined.

    U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks during an American Independence Day celebration at Avenue in Airport City, July 3, 2018. Photo by (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

    Is the U.S. Administration blind to the fact that we already tried that, for 25 years? It was called the Oslo Peace Process, and it was monopolized by the United States. It was a process that witnessed our geography being physically fragmented beyond recognition. It was a process that allowed the erection of a wall, higher and longer than the Berlin Wall, which separates Palestinians from Palestinians. It was a process that accelerated the blatantly illegal Israeli settlement enterprise from 100,000 to more than 600,000 settlers in the West Bank. It was a process that resulted in more Palestinians’ being imprisoned, many of them minors. It was a process that witnessed more Palestinian homes being destroyed, in all parts of the occupied territory.

    Need I go on to explain why another U.S.-driven process using the same old Oslo model — economy before politics — is unacceptable to Palestinians?

    After all the damage done by the very political actions already taken by the Trump administration, is it really necessary to hold a “workshop” in a third country, without the Palestinians and possibly without our military occupier?

    Will Bahrain convince the Israelis to give us access to our natural gas wells in the sea of Gaza that have been blocked since 1999? Will Saudi Arabia compensate us for all the financial damage done to our economy from the Israeli pillaging of our resources for the past 52 years? Will the United Arab Emirates convince Israel to implement what Israel signed on to in Oslo, which are four safe passageways between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip? Do Kushner and company actually believe that a few Palestinian Uncle Toms will be able to absorb the $60-80 billion in investments they say they are aiming to raise at this workshop?

    The answers are clear.

    Israel is driving drunk on power, and it is about to fall off the cliff. The cliff has a name; it’s called the two-state solution. Israel’s only friend who can tell it to stop driving drunk is the U.S., but instead of stopping the car, U.S. Ambassador David Friedman jumped into the driver’s seat and is pressing the gas pedal with all his might. He and the United States will be the only ones to blame for the failure of next week’s workshop and the infamous “Ordeal of the Century.”

    Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant from Ramallah/Al-Bireh in the West Bank. He leads Green Olive's Business in Ramallah tour, is chair of the board of Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy (AVPE), serves as a policy adviser to Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian Policy Network and is co-editor of “Homeland: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians” (1994). He blogs at ePalestine.com @SamBahour. This article was originally published by +972mag.com and is republished with the permission of the author.


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