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Home arrow Blog arrow October 2009 arrow October 21, 2009

October 21, 2009
October 21, 2009: Mazin and Much More
Olive trees can live for centuries if they are not plowed down and 25 mature trees can sustain the typical Palestinian family.

In order to build the separation Wall Israel has uprooted hundreds of thousands of ancient olive trees that for many Palestinians are the last resource to provide food for their children.

The Palestinian aspiration for an independent state is also threatened by the Wall, as it isolates villages from their mother cities and divides the West Bank into disconnected cantons/bantusans/ghettos.

The Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem conservatively estimated that 500,000 Palestinians have been negatively impacted by the Wall.

"Financed with U.S. aid at a cost of $1.5 million per mile, the Israeli wall prevents residents from receiving health care and emergency medical services. In other areas, the barrier separates farmers from their olive groves which have been their families' sole livelihood for generations." [Washington Report on Middle East Affairs Page 43, Jan/Feb. 2007]


On October 20, 2009 Mazin Qumsiyeh wrote:

My mother says I should have worn long sleeves for the Palestinian olive trees sometimes do not want to part with their fruits without a bit of resistance.  But somehow I feel the few minor scratches are a badge of honor and the least I owe our beloved trees. The whole year, we look forward to these days. My sister, wife, mother, and I harvested the olive trees sometimes silently, sometimes talking about mundane things, and rarely speaking of things of consequence.  But thoughts are another story.  My thoughts wonder to the Palestinians who lost their olive groves to the colonial settlement activity (over 1 million trees have been uprooted). 

 I am reminded of my deceased father during such time. I feel at peace with the sorrow and anger overwhelmed by emotions of gratitude and serenity under the old olive trees. The olive harvest is after all a ritual that borders on an act of worship (and maybe it is).  The stimulation of our senses during the harvest is hard to describe.  It is not just the invigorating smells of the olive leaves and whiffs of olive oil but the shape and feel of each olive as our hands comb the tree like a mother combing her daughters hair, the sight of beloved ones tending the same tree before moving to the next. 

We smile and greet neighbors who stop by to say hello or comment on the production this year (it is actually a poor year since last year was really good and these things alternate).  The mechanics of the harvest and the post-harvest work become routine for anyone who has done it once.  Old carpets or sheets are spread under the tree.  Olives are dropped onto those (never by hitting the tree!). The gathered olives are separated from leaves and any remaining stems removed (on a “sidr”/tray that is inclined). 

They are kept aired out on mats in a dry place while big healthy olives are picked for pickling. The pickling involves cracking the olives and submerging them in water containing salt, lemon juice, pieces f lemons, and some lemon leaves.  The remaining olives are taken to the press where olive oil is produced.  In the old days, we had a stone press with an animal (donkey or mule) rotating two large circular stones placed in a hollowed stone shaped like a cake pan.  Now the modern presses (made in Turkey) do the operation in no time at all. 


 It is hard to describe to non-Palestinians what the olive tree means to us. 

We could tell of the practical things but that would be like saying our spouses mean a lot to us because of .. (and then list all the things they do).  Of course these things are important but not the whole picture and we could never do justice that way to people or other living things we love.  But just like listing what people do helps others visualize their character, so it is with the beloved olive tree. 

Palestinians over the past 5000 years have cultivated olive trees and derived great benefit from these wonderful hardy trees:


1)  The olive (Zeitoon) was pickled (rsees) and eaten and perhaps it is the only food that is found in all three meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Its nutritional value is credited with significant health benefits.

2)  The olive oil (Zeit) is THE oil in Palestine.  It is highly nutritious and used in dozens of recipes.  The main and most common folkloric recipe going back over 3000 years is Zeit u Zaatar (also sometimes called Zeit u Dukka); the bread is dipped in olive oil then in a thyme based powder (that includes sesame seeds and spices).  Thyme and Sesame and many other plans were ofcourse first domesticated and used right here in Palestine (the left wing of the fertile crescent).  Olive oil was used in Palestine more extensively in the past in oil lamps, in protection of hair and skin, as a lubricant, as an insecticide, and much more.

3)  The olive pits (and less so olive wood pieces) are used to make “prayer beads” that were used by both Palestinian Christians and Muslims for hundreds of years.  The simple act of running fingers through these beads sometimes meditating in the process while concentrating on that feeling gives us a sense of tranquility and peace (much needed considering the circumstances of Palestine over the ages).

4)  The olive wood is used to make artifacts that locals sell to pilgrims as souvenirs from the Holy Land or keep at their homes.  This is true for all monotheistic traditions. Here in Bethlehem, our ancestors made a living of this as artisans for generations (my own family relied on this and agriculture as far back as we can trace to the 16th century).

5)  The herds of sheep and goats rely on olive leaves and branches trimmed during this season for a significant part of their annual diet.

6)  The wood was used (less so recently) as firewood.  It is a hardy wood that generates much heat per unit kilogram than any other wood I know.  The glass smelters in Hebreon (famous for ist stained glass artistry) used olive wood derived coals as a main energy source.

7)  The olive trees gave our people shelter from the strong sun and inspired poets, lovers, painters, and prophets across the ages.

8) Even the left over material after the production of oil is recycled for energy source.


To subscribe to Mazin's Human Rights Newsletter, fill in the form @

http://lists.qumsiyeh.org/mailman/listinfo/humanrights





On January 8, 2006, I wrote:
 
On The Wall that tourists see at the checkpoint from Jerusalem into Bethlehem a hundred square foot sign from The Minister of Tourism hangs and it proclaims: "Peace, Peace, Peace."
 
"'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace."-Jeremiah 6:14
 
I moved into the Little Town in occupied territory of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and for twelve days walked "through streets that were dead"-[Dylan] in the morning, noon and night and everywhere I did go, shops were closed, restaurants empty. A few locals were around and tour buses did come and go at the Church of The Nativity.

Four out of five stores are closed and restaurants empty because tourists don't want to see, hear or know about occupied territory.
 
I walked through The TERMINAL from Bethlehem to Jerusalem this past Christmas morning.
I walked The Way of Palestinians,
Not The Way tourists in buses and taxis go;
I went the way Palestinians and curious Christians tread,
Who want to know what's really going down
In the 'Holy' Land
Which is in pieces.
 
A few months back The Fourth Estate covered the drama in the Gaza, but never did they show The Wall nor address the facts on the ground of what it has done to millions of good people.
 
Since 1948 the Christian population of the Holy Land has gone from 20% to less than 1.3% of the total and continues to shrink fast due to the occupation, oppression, denial of basic inalienable human rights, loss of economic opportunity, government corruption, and the violence from the Israeli Forces and militant extremists.
 
As I walked on Christmas morning through the sterile, frigid TERMINAL with its concealed cameras, upon the floor I did see a 2 by 2 foot swath of blood and I shiver now even more than I did then. Only the bleeder and Israeli Forces know how it got there.

A few months back Senator Clinton stood on the other side of The Wall and claimed it was good for security. S

Hillary never bothered to enter into the Little Town of Bethlehem
in Occupied Territory; birth place of The Prince of Peace.


During my stay in the Little Town in Occupied Territory I spent hours walking around.

Beggar boys would follow me and I always gave them all the coin shekels I had even after helpful locals warned me the kids made trouble and not to give them anything; I still did.

I did say no to all the old men hawking postcards and kafiya's near the Church of The Nativity for they did some business as soon as the tourists disembarked from their air-conditioned and heated Tour buses that briefly stopped at The Church of The Nativity.

The busy tourists would shoot film without ever really looking around them.

Then they would all climb back into their big fat buses and roll on out of occupied territory.


They check Bethlehem off their itinerary clueless to the facts on the ground and ignorance is only bliss for the proud and deluded.



I also sat in the new living room of the D Family in Dasheish, one of three refugee camps in Bethlehem.

The D Family told me that in 2004, the Israeli Forces banged on their door and informed them they were going to demolish it all within fifteen minutes. The family all got safely out but their home was but a memory a few moments later.


No one in the family had ever been in trouble or even arrested and there was no reason why ever given to them nor any compensation.

An Uncle down the stairs from the D's, also had his home blown away but other relatives took them all in for family values really happen here. The poor take care of the poor and don't look to government to do what people of good will do automatically: care for the widow, the orphan, the ill and the prisoner.

 
My first day in Jerusalem I called for a cab and Samir/Sam has been my driver ever since.

Sam can comfortably transport eight and has a good sound system.

Sam is an Orthodox Christian in the Syrian Church and has a gorgeous wife and two beautiful kids.

Sam has VIP papers which enable him to chauffeur the Patriarchs around town without as much hassle as a regular Palestinian would have to endure at the checkpoints.
 
Sam, his wife and I rode to the Ben Gurion Airport for my 1 AM flight out talking a little but mostly listening to music.

When we arrived at the checkpoint at the entrance of the airport, Sam rolls down his window and smiles at the boy soldier and say's "Shalom" but it sounds more like salaam.
 
Sam's VIP pass means nothing to the soldier and we are ordered to disembark and pull out all the luggage. My passport is demanded without a smile and Sam is led into the interrogation room while his wife and I are out in the cold laughing at the absurdity of the situation. Another soldier examines and probes the van thoroughly looking for b-o-m-b-s.
 
The paranoia I see in many Israeli's has got to be, some kind of holocaust hangover blinding them to the fact that the once oppressed have now become the oppressors.

After Sam's van is thoroughly examined for b-o-m-b-s, I receive my passport back marked with a red sticker upon it. No soldier ever asked me any questions but the sticker brands me as having traveled through occupied territory and the third degree for me is someone else's territory.
 
Back in Sam's van his wife expertly removes the sticker and all the glue from my passport.
 
Sam smiles wryly as he tells me, "This is what the Nazi's did to the Jews before the Holocaust when they made them wear the Star of David. They marked them as the enemy. Now anyone who knows Palestinians or visits occupied territory gets a sticker to label them as friends of the enemy."
 
Marley and the Wailers fill the van;

"Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up
Don't give up the fight."
 
My luggage was filled with Arabic nonviolent literature and Sam cautions me to leave it all with him and avoid the extra hassle. I left everything in the van that I could get on the Internet but I kept the books, a CD and a DVD.

Sam warns me on what I shouldn't say and what I should when I undergo my interrogation from the inquisitive employees at Ben Gurion Airport.
 
While in Bethlehem I shared with many my experience of having my computer confiscated by EL AL in JFK at check in. Every Palestinian told me 'don't worry about it', but every American freaked out and thought they had downloaded my files, read my email and injected a Trojan into my soft ware.

I thought these Americans were perhaps too fearful and most definitely paranoid. But now I wondered if they really knew what they were talking about and I had been deluded.

 
But Marley and the Wailers always win out:

"Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up
Don't give up the fight."
 
I was determined I would just answer honestly every question and keep smiling. Every employee I encountered smiled back at me and nobody asked me any 'explosive' questions.

But then while three different young women examined and swabbed every item and surface in all my luggage I experienced frisson: the chill in the thrill of the rush you experience in a moment of delight, excitement or fear.

The young lady examining my bag came upon Holy Land Trust's booklet: "Celebrating Nonviolent Resistance."

She never looked my way, but she read the cover and scanned all the pages most thoroughly;

And then I was soon led to my first strip search.



On September 2, 2006, I wrote:

Largely unreported by the media, thousands of Palestinians and hundreds of Israelis are waging a major grassroots nonviolent campaign of resistance to the construction of Israel’s Wall. Palestinian farmers, workers, mothers, and students, together with Israeli and international volunteers, are braving teargas, beatings, bullets, arrest, and even death to block the construction of the Wall with their bodies. In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that the Wall is a violation of international law because it cuts through the West Bank appropriating Palestinan land and destroying Palestinian villages to make way for further Israeli settlement.

On November 14, 2005 I wrote regarding the Anarchists Against the Wall lecture in Gainesville, Florida:

Beginning at the end of last nights illuminating two hours, a woman a few years older than I stood up and told Jonathon and Ayeed that she had been closely following the events since the second intifada and told the packed Civic Media Center:

"For the first time in four years I have hope and it is because of what you do and those who do it with you. I finally have hope, thank you." And the room exploded with applause.

We all have hope because we learned that creative non-violent activism and peaceful resistance works in pushing back Apartheid Walls for it happened in Ayeed's village of Budrus.

The people chanted in English "WE CAN DO IT!"


And they did!

Woman, children, farmers, "regular people" stood up to the bulldozers and the Israeli Forces with their billy clubs and tear gas that can cause spasticity for weeks and has caused death.

They stood up to the guns that shoot rubber coated bullets and they proved non-violent activism works.


Regular people essentially told the Israeli government to back off their land, back off from their trees, back off from denying food to their children.

I wonder where is America's moral outrage that we provide the bucks to build an illegal APARTHEID wall when that same amount could build 20,000 schools- or more-for Palestine!!!


In Budrus, The APARTHEID WALL is on the GREEN LINE because regular people stood up to their occupiers and said:

Enough! This was never a land without a people, this has always been our home. If you want an apartheid wall, put it on your property, quit stealing ours! Put yourself in the ghetto, we will stand firm for freedom and right is on our side for the Geneva Convention and International Law is that occupied people have every right to rise up militarily against their oppressors.


We will not be ethnically cleansed from the land of our ancestors, and these olive trees you uproot are family. Every little child knows the name of every tree and we will not allow your illegal apartheid wall to cut our families apart.

Regular people chanted in English: "We can do it!"

And they did.

Imagine when regular people in the democracy of America say: "No more tax dollars to build Apartheid Walls. Let's plant fruit bearing trees and playgrounds and parks instead."

"Imagine all the people living life in peace." -John Lennon

 I imagine/hope/wish/pray that one day the Apartheid Wall will fall and regular people will plant trees and build playgrounds and parks and live in harmony, in peace and with security for all.

That will take a revolutionary transformation of hearts and minds: and that will be an act of God!



 










   
 
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People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

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