We are at a meeting with the director of the Al Karmel Youth Centre when we receive an emergency call ~ “Come quickly. Settlers have destroyed 100 olive trees in Wadi Ma’in.” We pile into our trusty old Subaru. Our driver transports us to the scene of the crime. The shadows are lengthening ~ on the hill stand haunting spectres ~ witnesses to the senseless violence of this military occupation.
Abden al-Nabi Makhamrai, one of the land owners, looks stricken as he walks his land bordering route 316 in the South Hebron Hills. He has come to check on his trees and finds 91 have been cut down ~ some 3 years old, some 5 and some 10 ~ likely destroyed under cover of darkness by settlers from the nearby illegal settlement of Avigail. And this is not the first time Abden has lost trees to settler violence.
After considerable time, the Israeli army arrives, guns slung over their shoulders like handbags. The police follow. They are here to take their obligatory reports and photos. But what is the likelihood that those responsible will actually be brought to justice? After all, both the army and police are in Area C only to protect the illegal settlements and their inhabitants. And rarely are crimes against the Palestinian people or their property ever prosecuted.
The persistent question is “Why would someone do such a thing?” Olive trees are like family. They can live for 100s of years. They are tended lovingly. They are a source of both food and income for Palestinian farmers. The question persists. But there is no acceptable answer ~ It is a crime to intentionally destroy another’s livelihood out of spite or hate or a perceived threat. And yet according to UNOCHA, since January 2013 nearly 10,000 Palestinian trees, mostly olive, have been damaged by settler violence ~ And what about the trees that have been uprooted by the inhumane policies of this military occupation? Who keeps track of those statistics?
Guns and reports in hand, the army and police move from the hillside to their respective vehicles. One passerby stops his car to stare scornfully at the sad scene. Another passes with a honk and an obscene gesture. As the last armoured vehicle pulls away, a third person stops her car and says she is sorry for such violence. It brings to my mind the 1st century story ~ the one we have come to call “The Good Samaritan” ~ The person who stops to offer support and solace is by all standards the most unlikely ~ A settler, a woman with 2 small children, an “enemy” as was the Samaritan in the story ~ but perhaps offering a glimpse of the humanity that might be possible beyond the hate and violence which this Palestinian farmer both experienced and witnessed today.
As the sun sets and the broken trees bear witness, I wonder if another world is possible ~ one without walls and settlements, checkpoints and refugee camps, mistrust and hate ~ A world where all are equal and respected ~ A world where each lives into their highest potential of what humanity could be ~ A world where love is the law of the land ~ Utopia? Perhaps! ~ Or could it be the realization of a persistent dream expressed in an ancient prayer? ~ The “kin-dom” on earth ~ May it be so ~ And may we be the answer to the prayers we pray.
Having just watched 5 Broken Cameras (the 2011 documentary on this very topic), I am appalled to read that olive trees–life giving in so many ways–remain the victims of such violence. These settlers not only violate human life and international law, but they violate nature as well. A just peace seems ever so elusive when justice in the face of such acts does not appear to be part of any story! Dawn, keep witnessing and writing! all best, Gail
Tears roll down my cheeks as I read of the desecration and then hear of the one lone woman who stops and expresses a few words of kindness. Who could blame someone who retaliates after such brute violation. May her words and your actions give birth to a grove of new trees, and recognition around the world as to whom is responsible for such injustice. Then I hope with that recogition, we will find a way to end the travesty.
Hello Dawn: There are no words to express my feelings about these acts of violence against humanity and nature. Will this ever end? Thank goodness for your and your colleagues’ witness, otherwise not many people would know about this vandalism. The Jewish Voice for Peace asks its readers to ‘Commit to shine light on Prawer’ this Chanukah, one candle for each issue. Take care of yourself, Dawn, and thanks for your and your colleagues’ witness.
How sad a day! … and to hear that the same man has experienced this on more than one occasion. It is amazing that he still had hope such that he replanted after the last destruction of his olive trees!! The other hopeful piece to your story, the woman who stopped and apologized for the violence, was so wonderful to read. May other settlers learn from her. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Dawn.
Thanks, Dawn! Very sad day! However, some helpful pieces for my reflection on Sun. Advent One – hope.
I wept as I read this… to have so little regard for life.. any life… that you would carelessly destroy… how very heartbreaking — prayers of hope and peace… are they enough?
The stories pile up as do the cut trunks of the olive trees. Something different must come.
I rewarched the documentary on The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The people there sang “keep your eyes on the prize, hold on”. May we search into the meaning for us in these times. In gratitude for every thinning moment of humanity in this tragic story. Carolyn
Nearly 10,000 Palestinian trees willfully destroyed since January 2013 … How can one’s heart not break reading this story? How long, oh Lord? May our tears and our prayers nourish the hope, the roots, the vision that cannot be ripped away.