Growing up in an Arab family, I was always taught to love the land we resided on as there is no other love as the love of land. I remember my mother becoming frustrated with the government’s municipality if they uprooted trees only to throw them away as if they were useless pieces of wood. Her love of trees and life was contagious and it has become a part of me and at the very core of my being.
Since my mother and her family were forced to leave their land that they lived on for generations, a tree, an olive tree to be more specific, became a symbol of solidarity, perseverance and life. People who have grown on pieces of land that were carpeted with trees would comprehend this. Those who plant those trees and harvest them grow up to realize that without them, they would lose their livelihood. This realization, this appreciation of trees, would be handed down from one generation to another.
Many trees have lived for hundreds of years and have watched generations upon generations play amongst their fields and branches. They have guarded little children who later grew into men and women and who later ploughed the fields, watered their roots and harvested their fruit. These same trees have witnessed many crucial moments in our country’s history and have survived weather changes and human construction…even destruction.
If trees are a symbol of life and weapons are a symbol of death, then why are those majestic ancestral trees being forced to uproot their lives for a military academy?
Watching the below video brought shivers down my spine. It brought flashbacks of an image that I had seen on TV many times over of hundreds of olive trees being uprooted and their caretakers crying heartbreaking tears of desperation and agony. They were not only crying because their livelihood had been robbed but also because the trees have become a part of themselves, their history, and their family tree. A farmer (be it female or male) would sit under the shade of these trees, after having harvested their fruit; have some food, rest and maybe even share the water with his or her wooden companion.
And so I wonder if we are going down the same path of uprooting trees and people’s livelihoods. Shouldn’t we safeguard what we were blessed with rather than destroy them?
Shouldn’t we be the protectors of such lands knowing that they provide us with countless precious gifts; produce, shade, scenery and wood (to name a few) and keep the soil from being eroded and sustain the people living off of it?
How can they ask those who work for hours, days and years on end to leave, only to destroy the land they came to love and be at one with? Have they no empathy?
Fatemeh Zaytoun (whose last name translates to olives) is one woman who deserves to be mentioned and applauded. You will see her in this video making Saj bread (one of the most delicious thin breads you could eat) to give away for free, in order to bless the people and build awareness of her and many families’ plight. I pray that her efforts and prayers be answered.