by Carol Tyx
As we walk out of the Palestinian village of at-Tuwani the procession grows, women cutting across fields, children scrambling down hillsides. Some of the boys carry hoes; the women swing buckets; a young child waves a Palestinian flag.
We are on our way to a small olive orchard in the valley to take part in a healing ritual, but the conversation, in Arabic, sounds chatty, neighbors exchanging the tidbits that make up daily life. A few of the children try to bring us into the loop with their schoolroom English; we try a few Arabic phrases.
When we reach the orchard, we pause. I know in my head that Israeli settlers who live across the valley from at-Tuwani sometimes sneak down at night and chop down the villagers’ olive trees. But seeing the wounded trees myself cuts more deeply. The breaks are jagged, branches twisting off the trunk, their silver-green leaves dried and curling in the dust. Ten trees have been hacked off, an attempt to chop down Palestinian life in the South Hebron Hills.
The settlements in the West Bank, built on Palestinian land, are largely populated by Israelis who believe all of this land should be part of Israel. They are squatters, protected by the Israeli military. We witness this as we approach the orchard; two, then three, then four military jeeps appear; soldiers carrying automatic weapons hop out. One CPTer, on alert for potential violence, positions himself between the villagers and the soldiers; a youthful Palestinian shoots video, part of their own campaign to document the occupation.
We work together to stack the severed limbs. With the hoes, people etch trenches around the wounded stumps. A woman opens a nearby cistern and pulls up a bucket of water. The water flows into the trenches, nourishing the trees. Even though it will be at least five years before the trees can bear fruit again, I feel the healing beginning, in the trees and in the villagers.
I am honored to walk with this community – a community with deep roots in this land, roots that sustain them in the daily struggle to maintain their homes and livelihoods under crushing occupation.