Friday, October 19, 2012

"The Burning of the Olive Trees" by Alan Gilbert

This is from Alan Gilbert:
The Burning of the Olive Trees

On our way to pick olives with Iyad, a leader of the nonviolent popular resistance movement in Budrus, we walk past the graveyard. One is the grave of a 17 year old killed in a first demonstration against the Wall and the seizing of the town’s land and olive trees. His marker is the same as everyone else’s except for the Arab word shadeed (martyr) and an indication in paint of the Palestinian colors.

Hadra is the name of an olive tree. It is 1,500 years old. When you ask for Hadra in the village, people will direct you to the olive tree, not to the old woman of that name.

Another olive tree in the North of Palestine is 5,000 years old.

Olive trees, they say, by the old houses are those where Jesus played as a boy.

Olive trees, in the Quran are holy. God will damn you twenty times if you cut down an olive tree.

If you plant an olive tree on your own property and then uproot it, God will damn you twenty times.

Olive trees are holy in the Torah. The Rabbis for Human Rights joined the demonstrations in Budrus. In the Israeli courts, they have also protested the burning of olive trees.

There were 300 olive trees outside the Wall in Budrus. The villagers asked to pick the olives. The IDF (The Israel “Defense” Forces) said: “no problem.”

The Occupation gives an old woman or an old man one day to pick the olives. And no one is allowed to care for the trees.

Hadra has beautiful silvery leaves. She grows around stones and rocks. She has holes (they say with heatbreak over the death of Mohammed).

The fig says: I weep leaves down to mourn the prophet. You do nothing.

The olive replies: I have holes in my heart.

Arabs say: if you have an olive tree and flour, you can make a life for a family.

(My family is allergic to butter and, since living in Spain for a year in 1999-2000, relies on olive oil).

What does it mean that the olive trees are burned?

Going to harvest your olives is an act of resistance.

From their fancy houses, settlers often shoot at people as they harvest their own olives. The settlers seek to take the life and breath of the Palestinians while the IDF protects them. But they call Palestinians “terrorists.”

Joseph, a young rabbi from Jewish Voices for Peace from Boston, helped Palestinian farmers in a harvest. A settler shot at him, he says; perhaps he intended to miss, to scare them that time.

But one knows who has guns here, who has walls, whom to be frightened of.

Joseph broke then with the state of Israel.

The Wall separates olive trees from the farmers. Settlers destroy olive trees. So does the Israeli army. One Palestinian says: What has the olive tree, praying to heaven, done? What has she done to be burned?

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