11th, February 2011
Planting in Al Walajeh
Over time, the town of Al Walajeh has endured many hardships. As Baha told the group on our way to the field, it used to be on the other side of the infamous ‘Green line’. In the 1948 Nakba, the Israeli army wiped it off the map completely. But Al Walajeh was rebuilt, this time on the Palestinian side of the line. Nowadays, the biggest threat to the residents is the construction of the separation fence, and the illegal settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo. When the fence will be completed, it will split the land of farmer Abu Nibal in two. Baha: ‘Because the farmers house is on the Jerusalem side of route of the fence, and because of the fact that he does not own a Jerusalem ID, he and his family will overnight become illegal residents.'
When we arrived on the planting site, the whole area was covered in fog. It was only because the driver stopped and opened the doors, that we assumed that we were there. To make matters worse, it was followed by rain soon thereafter. In no time, the T-shirts or trousers of several participants turned into muddy rags. All of the sudden, planting olive trees on a day like this did not seem such a wise plan. With Gilo settlement (considered a regular neighbourhood of Jerusalem by most of its residents) on the horizon, the group knew that quitting was not an option. This land was heavily contested, and we could not let the farmer down.
Luckily, the rain was over just as quickly as it had arrived. Around noon, the work was done, and we met with Abu Nibals family for lunch. As our group sat and rested, the traditional meal of chicken, rice and yoghurt was warmly received. Meanwhile, the Israeli police stopped at the land for a short survey of the situation. According to Baha, one of the family members mocked the officers by inviting them to lunch. Unfortunately, they refused, but they did – more important – leave the land of the farmer alone.
Advocacy workshop with JAI
We then drove back to Beit Sahour, where Bissan had prepared a discussion on how to carry out the work of the Olive Tree Campaign in the several home countries of the participants. With the political constellation in Europe rapidly changing, one of the suggestions was to set up a project to counter islamophobia. Working together with local churches, people would be able to rally around the Palestinian cause, and see that the stereotypical aggressive Muslim has nothing to do with reality.