On my way to Abu Dis, right before the road turns onto the big Ma’ale Adumim Highway, sits an olive tree graveyard. Tree stumps neatly organized in rows like grave stones witness to what once was on this land. I remember the first day I drove to Abu Dis and saw them. I did not really comprehend what was in front of me. I thought there must be a scientific reason why all these trees have been cut down almost to their roots. After all who would really cut a tree unless it was deathly ill with no hope for a cure or posed a serious threat on its fellow trees? Right? My scientifically trained mind needed a logical explanation to what it was observing; something based on facts and observed experiments. As I drove back and forth between Abu Dis and Ramallah teaching day in and day out, I slowly realized that what I witnessed every morning on my way is nothing but an olive grove grave yard, cut down by Israeli occupation forces for “security reasons.” Perhaps it is the same grove I saw on the news. This is probably were cameras stood filming the massacre. And every morning, with no fail, the pang of pain, mixed with a dash of despair and a rush of anger washed over me, causing me to push the gas paddle a bit harder to end the scene slightly quicker. It was sadly poetic, with an eerie wind about the stumps, as if haunted by ghosts of seasons past when they used to be green, lush and filled with shiny olives. It all belonged in a thriller movie; the heavy silence, no leaves rustling in the wind, no farmer sitting to take shade in the trees…just heavy silence…just tree stumps…standing on dry, desert like land, with no water, no hope…just simply dead.
The entrance to Azariyyeh is in fact a junction that leads to Maale Adumim, the largest and one of the oldest settlements in the West Bank. This monstrosity of architectural disaster is now forming a ring around Jerusalem, making any negotiation for any reasonable and just agreement almost impossible. Ironically at the junction in the middle of the traffic circle, where Palestinian cars and settler cars meet, sits an ancient olive tree, its stem wide and tangled, its leaves shiny and blow so gracefully in the wind. At first sight it looks majestic, but when you look closer, bulldozer scars are visible from the day she was uprooted from her original land to be planted here. So beautiful, so out of place, so lonely she stands. If this tree could talk she would tell you about the old grove she belonged to, the kind hands that harvested her every October, the children who played in her shade only to grow up into men and women who cared for her and watered her roots; trimmed her branches and plucked her olives. She would sing of families laughing, lovers meeting secretly under her shade, whispering to each other words of eternal love and promising her to always come home at harvest time; hoping to bring their children with them. She would tell you of cold wet winters, and hot scorching summers. She would tell you of rolling hills dotted with olive trees, loud with birds chirping and bugs squeaking. But then, she would also lower her proud leaves as if in shame to tell you of the day they took her. ..
It was a dark day; she was uprooted with the wails of loved ones in the background, the resilient but helpless cries of those who once filled her shade with life. She would point to her scars and say: this was a bulldozer, this was where they dug the hole to take me, and this one is where they threw me into the empty, hot, dry truck. They planted me here, but oh how I wish they just cut me. I would have rather died with the rest of my trees than been brought here. I am what have become of my owners, scattered, separated and pushed away from home…I am a refugee like countless others…I am you and you are me…Diaspora
note: Picture by interfaithpeacebuilders (http://www.flickr.com/photos/ifpb)