Monday, March 29, 2010

Lost in the Hills

The nearby, forested hill, is Israel. The faraway, barren one, is the West Bank.

The Jewish National Fund has for decades been busy foresting large areas of Israel, mostly west of Jerusalem but also in the north and the Neguev. This is really an act of reforestation - much of the territory was covered with woods of oak and pistacia, nearlly all of which were chopped for firewood over history. The JNF chose to plant pine. It grows quickly and gives the landscape a pristine look reminicient of eastern Slovakia, land of our ancestors and where we'd probably feel more comfortable.

So, in Israel even a forest is political. However, as my Palestinian friend Philip pointed out to me years ago, when I ranted to him about our woods, even a political forest is nice. Here, two kilometers from the Green Line, we can enjoy locally made cheese and yogurt

as well as meet those who make it.

At this time of year, the hillsides are exploding with wildflowers. We walk among them, not knowing their names. This is our native country, but we are not strongly enough connected to its soil. Our "cousins" from across the fence will know what they are called. In Israel, even looking at a flower is political.

All we wanted was to have a peaceful day in the countryside, to greet springtime and enjoy the last drop of moisture on the ground before the punishing summer arrives, but everything evokes thoughts. The JNF is a discriminatory organization, preventing Arabs from acquiring land. It is now expending its reforesting activities to the West Bank, closely coordinating its activity with the state, so that it fits in with the occupation agenda. A ten minute drive from where we had our cheese is Bil'in, where the fence keeps an entire village away from its lands. The Israeli supreme court ruled that the fence must be moved, and the state simply ignores the verdict, and shoots at those protesting in favor of the court. The instant Slovakian forests, which conveniantly cover up the ruins of villages destroyed in 1948, are oxidizing the soil and preventing the growth of more wildflowers... There's no end to it. How simple everywhere else seems! How difficult it is to clear the mind and simply be, for one moment only, just so as to remain sane.

Walking in these woods is no walk in the woods, but the flowers do comfort. They deserve a word of thanks.

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