Even the Trees Wept …

The morning of October 6 was a tragic one for our local Palestinian farmers Abdul and Younis ~ even the trees wept …

Olive Tree Sapling Cut at the Base
Village of Al Khadr
Photo Credit: Ellinor

Our team responds to a call from our contact in the village of Al Khadr, 5 km west and a bit south of Bethlehem. We arrive to find that approximately 120 olive trees and 70 grape vines have become the latest victims of settler violence. The trees are saplings, 2-4 years old, and were not yet producing a crop of the coveted olives. Branches are broken, the small trucks are cut near the root. The grape harvest is just concluding and bunches of grapes are strewn about. Vines are already wilting in the morning sun.

Village Sign Vandalized by Settlers ~ Al Khadr
Photo Credit: Sophie

Settlers have left a telltale sign of their presence the night before ~ a village sign defaced and made to resemble an Israeli flag. This senseless destruction is one more way that Israel is asserting its presence in and control of the West Bank where, according to Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention, the settlement project is in contravention of international law which states: “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

A Specter Against the Sky ~ Village of Qaryut
Photo Credit: Anne

It’s now early morning on October 9. Travel north with me to the village of Qaryut, 15 km south of Nablus. Our EAPPI colleagues in the village of Yanoun respond to a call. They arrive to a heartbreaking scene. Many trees on this land are ancient ~ the villagers have named some of the older ones “Roman trees.” On the eve of the olive harvest, settlers have come in the night and used a chainsaw to deface and desecrate approximately 120 of these ancient trees. Branches are strewn about, some trunks are burned; they stand like haunted specters against the sky. One villager cries in desperation. “This is my livelihood. From my 9 trees I would have harvested 180 liters of oil” ~ And these ancient trees cry in return: “We have witnessed empires come and go, but have now fallen victim to Israel’s illegal occupation.”

Palestinians, Police, Soldier, and Press
Violence Against the Trees in Qaryut
Photo Credit: Anne

The Israeli Civil Administration (an arm of the military) maintains a permit system for Palestinians harvesting olives in areas near West Bank settlements: although the farmers own both the land and the trees they have to apply for Israeli permission to access their land. Permits are usually granted for impossibly short periods of time: in this case, the Qaryut farmers had permission to harvest for either two or three days (traditionally harvest lasts between four and six weeks). The October 9 attack came the night before the first “legal” harvest day, thereby devastating the harvest before it even began. Figures released last year by the international aid group Oxfam show there are approximately 9.5 million olive trees in the West Bank, where olive farming is a vital source of revenue for Palestinian farmers. In a good year, the olive harvest contributes approximately $100 million in income to some of the poorest Palestinian communities. And yet the with the beginning of the olive harvest, from October 7-10, the Israeli Human Rights Organization, B’Tselem, documented five cases of injury to Palestinian farmers and their olive trees in the Ramallah and Nablus regions alone.

Panorama of Destroyed Olive Saplings ~ Al Khadr Village
Photo Credit: Sophie

This senseless destruction and wanton violence comes at the end of a week of festivities celebrating the Jewish festival of Sukkot ~ a festival of joy and rejoicing for the harvest, a festival which also remembers the stories of the desert wanderings related in Jewish sacred texts. I am left wondering ~ How can one celebrate a harvest for one’s own people while depriving another people of theirs? ~ This year, on this festival of joy and celebration for Jews, many Palestinian farmers in Al Khadr, Qaryut, and countless other places in the West Bank wept ~ and so did the trees.

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13 Responses to Even the Trees Wept …

  1. Peter Blackall says:

    Just so senseless and cruel. It is good that you are there telling us way over here what is happening!!

  2. Anne McCracken says:

    Heartbreaking. We are with you. Anne

  3. TRISH YOUNG says:

    Hi Dawn:

    Another tragic story, so heartbreaking for the farmers. How do they face another day against such senseless destruction.

    Your presence and all the EA people must be some comfort. Thank you all for being there and keeping in touch.

    love, Trish

  4. Why does this not make the North American news, when even the free paper in my sister’s little town in Ontario has an article with the headline “Hamas pummels Israel with rocket fire”?

  5. Anne Loewan says:

    Oh Dawn, how heartbreaking to witness humanity at its worse. It is hard to believe that the Israeli regime allows/supports such acts of vandalism and destruction of others’ livelihood. Stay strong as you offer your support and presence in people’s darkest hours. Anne Loewan

  6. shelagh says:

    Yes, the travesty! Where is Israeli memory; that their ancestors hung up their harps and wept when they were enslaved and treated with similar disdane. They remember only what suits their purpose. May the trees cry out and thier ancestors grief haunt them!

  7. Rob Wells says:

    Thank you Dawn for being our eyes and ears. And may we be faithful in the call for justice and support the boycott of Isreali goods produced in the Occupied Territory. And may your love and compassion for our Palistinian brothers and sisters bring them a glimmer of hope in their struggle for peace and justice.

    p.s. We all miss you Dawn!

  8. Susan Sorensen says:

    Dear Dawn,

    Oh, so heartbreaking! the trees are weeping – oh yes!
    with gratitude for your witness and these stories that open my eyes and heart.

  9. Carolyn McDade says:

    My dear friend. . . After some weeks on the road I am home, reading your posts. . .these stories enter our hearts, teach us, stretch us, deepen us. . .in these times of craziness I am most sustained by the ways a deep and beautiful humanity arises in the worst of places. . .such, regardless of the cruelty and retaliation, can never be taken from the long story of our collective struggle toward the deep and reverent humanity we seek to be. in deep gratitude. . .Carolyn

  10. peter says:

    Dawn, how terrible!! It is bullying at a whole new level.

  11. Chris Mann says:

    So tragic. My heart weeps too. Really appreciate your blog and keeping us informed about a part of the world we cannot know much about – except through the loving eyes of people like you who are right there. Bless you on your continued journey…. Chris Mann

  12. Lori says:

    Heartbreaking. It’s hard to comprehend the depth of animosity that leads to violence against ancient trees as a way to intimidate and bully other people, especially when the perpetrators are from a community of people who historically have suffered persecution of the most atrocious kind.

    I value your blog posts for your reports as well as your reflections on your experiences. Stay well.

  13. Dianne Baker says:

    Dawn… keep witnessing and sharing the stories. Only when hearts are turned over here will the pressure grow enough to affect the necessity of change over there. Bless you and the EAs and the many courageous Israelis and Palestinians working for change.

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