Today I traveled to the village of Biddu to meet this man. His house, on the outskirts of the village, has been a flash point for clashes in his backyard and the courtroom for the last 9 years. In 2004, Israeli soldiers destroyed his grove of 123 olive trees and piled up rubbish around his house; they were claiming land for the construction of the wall. There was a scuffle. His father threw rocks, a brother was tackled and arrested. But in the end, the soldiers took the land and the family was devastated. But they fought back. For 9 years, they went to court every month, being gouged by an Israeli lawyer for his services, but without a foreseeable alternative, they trudged ahead. And miraculously, they won their case. The land was returned, they planted new olive trees a month ago. The trees are young and tender in freshly tilled dirt, and there’s no telling whether the bulldozers will return to uproot them. But for now, they are safe again.
Today I ventured back to Mt. Scopus for another demonstration with the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement protesting the development of a national park on Palestinian land. If you recall, last week’s demonstration involved preparing the ground for planting olive trees, and this week, they planted the trees!! Just in time for the Jewish holiday Tu Bishvat also, a nice touch for Israeli-Palestinian solidarity.
Today, I went with Jesse and Mori to an event protesting the construction of the Slopes of Mt. Scopus National Park, coordinated by the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement. The proposal would effectively annex Palestinian land, hemming in a nearby village between the wall and the park and preventing expansion. The same tactic was used south of Jerusalem a number of years ago, when the government took land for a ‘park’ and later built the settlement of Har Gilo. Today, about thirty activists, both Israeli and Palestinian, gathered to prepare the ground to plant olive trees. Most worked with shovels while Jesse and I moved some rocks out of the way. Prayer mats and yarmulkes alike were in danger of being swept away by wild gusts of wind. We only stayed for an hour, since rain threatened our work, but nevertheless, the earth on the hillside had been turned and made ready for a peaceful and symbolic means of resistance.