. . . Worthy of your Support

- By Ken Toltz -
A section of an article first published in the Times of Israel

I can wholeheartedly recommend investing in peace, co-existence, greater understanding and a better life for the next generation by supporting Green Olive Tours. Native of Scotland Fred Schlomka founded a new concept for visitors seeking safe, informative and thought-provoking tours of Israel and Palestinian areas not on your typical Federation itinerary, calling the company, Green Olive Tours, rooted in the fruit of the land.

Tour guide Anas Mashni with the author in Nablus
I selected the guided day tour of Nablus last month which was particularly relevant due to my political activism over several years in Boulder, Colorado. As a leader of the local Jewish community I helped organize the opposition to a proposed sister-city application to create a relationship between the City of Boulder and City of Nablus, a historically Arab/Palestinian city located in the heart of the ‘West Bank’. The opponents contended that organizers were hiding a political agenda by selecting Nablus, and were planning to highlight the negative aspects of living under Israel military governance (occupation).

So I decided to see for myself and joined a Green Olive Tour guided by native of east Jerusalem Anas Mashni, who was not only remarkably well informed, personable and a tremendous guide, but was also an intrepid driver of our tour van through the narrow streets, and Israeli military checkpoints.

I found myself in the heart of Nablus,  a large traffic circle surrounded by shops and restaurants. Nearby were both the Nablus shuk and Balata Palestinian refugee camp, established in 1950, two generations ago, with its unofficial greeting committee, eager uniformed school children practicing their English language skills.

Joining a small group of non-Jewish first time visitors to Israel is quite a different experience. They haven’t arrived with the long held historical perspectives of someone like myself, as they take in the whole picture before their eyes, as narrated by an Arab/Palestinian native. Yet no narration is required to realize young people find nothing positive or hopeful growing up in a Palestinian refugee camp, unrooted, disconnected from the home of their grandparents in the midst of the city of Nablus.

Also on the tour were the roads built especially to keep nearby Israeli settlements in a separate sphere of existence, visible but inaccessible to the people living in neighboring Arab cities. Visitors can’t miss the large red-colored Israeli warning signs posted at roads entering Nablus and other “Area A” cities – “Entrance for Israeli Citizens is Forbidden. Dangerous to your lives and against the Israeli law.”

The good people of Green Olive Tours don’t shirk their responsibility to put friends of Israel in places we cannot wear blinders to the plight of Palestinian refugees somehow ignoring their humanity.  I can recommend this uniquely direct way to confront the contrasts of living in this small country, a next generation hands-on experience. Take it in yourself, on a Green Olives Tour.

Ken Toltz began his professional career at AIPAC in Washington, D.C. from 1979 – 1982. He's a 3rd generation Colorado native, businessman and long-time gun violence prevention activist. After 42 years from his first visit to Israel he has relocated his home to Mitzpe Ramon in Israel's Negev.


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