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.