Skip to main content

Palestinian female tractor driver turns heads in West Bank

Ettihad Ayyad, a Palestinian woman who has farmland in Jericho, recently became the first Palestinian woman to obtain a tractor driver’s license.
Ettihad Ayad.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Once Ettihad Ayyad, 50, harvested the crop she had grown on agricultural land she rented in Jericho in the West Bank, she placed all her vegetables in a small cart attached to her tractor and drove to the vegetable market locally known as Hisba.

While driving her tractor, the traffic police stopped her and asked for her driver’s license. But she did not have one. She had learned and practiced how to drive a tractor while she worked with her husband plowing their field whose surface area is ​​about 25 dunams.

Soon after she was stopped by police, Ettihad decided to obtain a tractor driver's license and joined a driver training school.

In early July, the Palestinian Ministry of Transportation informed her that she had become the first Palestinian woman to obtain a tractor driver’s license in the Palestinian territories.

Speaking at a ministry meeting in Jericho on July 6, Minister of Agriculture Riad al-Atari praised Ettihad's efforts and honored her as a “pioneer farmer,” while praising Palestinian women’s entries into all aspects of working life. 

Speaking to Al-Monitor, she said, “Most of the people encouraged me to take this step. I was really enthusiastic about overcoming many difficulties; most important was the training to drive a new tractor model since I used to drive an old one.”

A few years ago, her husband quit working in agriculture to look for another job to make ends meet. But Ettihad decided to continue working alone in the field and assumed all of the tasks related to hard agricultural labor.

She planted her field with jute mallow, cucumbers, tomatoes and other vegetables, sprayed the crops with pesticides, and made agricultural and dairy products. “I love agriculture. We used to help my father in the field before going to school. Then I married a farmer and continued to work in agriculture,” she said.

Ettihad, who got married at an early age, grew up in a large family where, due to their financial situation, boys’ education had priority over girls’ education. “I went to high school but could not pursue my university studies. That is why I wanted my six children to learn as much as they want. Most of them have a university degree.”

In addition to her farm, she set up a small yogurt factory employing eight workers. “We work inside a small caravan. We make yogurt using wild herbs and sort vegetables according to customers’ requests.”

When Shaden, Ettihad's daughter-in-law, saw her mother-in-law driving a tractor for the first time, she was very impressed by her bold step. It was the first time she had seen a woman driving a tractor inside and outside the farm.

“For more than 30 years, my mother-in-law has been working in agriculture. She has high ambitions and she does not give in to difficulties. That’s fascinating,” Shaden told Al-Monitor.

She added, “We are proud that my mother-in-law is a pioneer and ambitious woman who takes good care of her work. She is also a giving wife and mother who is keen on sending her children to university.”

Hani Ayyad, Ettihad’s husband, is also very proud of his wife, especially when he sees the people greeting her while she works on a tractor in the farmland. “My wife went to an orthopedic doctor a few days ago and was surprised that he congratulated her on obtaining the license. He learned about that from the media,” he told Al-Monitor.

Hani said that women can assume a lot of the tasks related to agricultural work and cited as an example his mother who worked in a farm in al-Auja village in Jericho governorate, where she used to pack and pick large quantities of vegetables. “I think that women are better than men in agriculture because they are more patient.”

Like all other farmers in Jericho, Ettihad suffers from repeated Israeli attacks, including the confiscation of their agricultural equipment and machinery, the deliberate sabotage of their agricultural lands, and the uprooting of palm and citrus seedlings.

Ettihad said, “The occupation (Israel) is bulldozing palm trees and other varieties of trees, and our neighbor lost everything he owns after his land was bulldozed. The soldiers took with them palm seedlings that he had planted on his land so that he would not be able to replant them.”

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Palestine Briefing Palestine Briefing

Palestine Briefing

Top Palestine stories in your inbox each week

Trend Reports

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (4th R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (Photo by HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

From roads to routers: The future of China-Middle East connectivity

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. - On March 27, Saudi announced a deal with Japan's SoftBank to build the world's biggest solar plant. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Regulations on Middle East renewable energy industry starting to take shape

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial