Mughayyir 20.01.2011 morning

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Yael S., Racheli M., Amira I. (reporting)

Tu Bishvat tree planting in Mughayyir, in eastern Samaria, with Rabbi’s for Human Rights, 20.1.11)

Translator:  Charles K.


“It was as if all trees were speaking to each other;

As if all trees were speaking to the men and  women

All the trees – which had been created for our enjoyment”

(Bereshit Raba 13)

On Tu Bishvat (20.1.11) a tree planting operation was held in the village of Mughayyirin eastern Samaria, near the settlement of Adei Ad, in response to the wave of damage to and thefts of Palestinian olive groves and crops.  Many olive trees were cut down here or poisoned by kerosene.  The ceremony was conducted by Rabbis for Human Rights.

The Rabbis’planting operation was a response to the army’s ignoring Supreme Court decision No. 9593/04 which required it to insure there would be no damage to trees and property belonging to Palestinians.  The army argues that “we are unable to assign soldiers to protect every tree.”  “We don’t expect the army to do so, but we do expect it to increase its forces and place guards at locations that are know to be problematical,” the Rabbis replied.

Two buses came, from Jerusalem and from Tel Aviv, organized by Rabbi Arik Ascherman, the Executive Director of Rabbis for Human Rights, assisted by Ya’kov Manor of the Olive Coalition.

This region, the Alon Road south of the Migdalim junction, is unfamiliar to me.  The landscape is hilly, cut by wadis.  Looking eastward past the mountain ridges you see the Jordan Valley spread out below, and the Moab hills in the distance.  The olives groves are planted on the hills; the farmers use donkeys to cultivate them.

The village of Mughayyir lies a few kilometers south of the Migdalim junction on the Alon Road.  You can see the burned remains of olive groves and others undergoing “rehabilitation.”  Thin saplings, without leaves, are planted in the earth.  These trees are being restored, after having been violently uprooted.  Some of the young saplings have been grafted to a new branch and are already sprouting new twigs.

Dozens of children ran toward us when we arrived.  The farmers and village representatives followed them.  The Rabbis brought 50 trees to plant.  A ceremony was held expressing “the hope that we’re planting peace, dialogue and love for the other in the hearts of the inhabitants.”

A special Jewish prayer, prepared by Rabbis for Human Rights, was hung on each sapling, along with parallel verses from the Koran, to remind all the country’s inhabitants of the tree’s sanctity and the prohibition against harming it, even in times of strife and war.

Although I’m not a religious person, I could connect with and be moved by the values expressed by the Palestinians and the rabbis.  I was reminded that human rights can be expressed by Jewish values.

A portion of the prayer the rabbis attached t

“You, who made us responsible for our actions, make this tree we plant take root.  Will it to grow and bear the fruit of peace.  Strengthen those who seek life, lengthen their days, bring them satisfaction.  Seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34), so that the act of planting this tree will remind us to keep the words of your Torah: “When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by wielding an axe against them; for thou mayest eat of them, but thou shalt not cut them down; for is the tree of the field man, that it should be besieged of thee?” (Deuteronomy 20:19).

As this tree’s branches spread, so may you spread over us the blessing of your peace.  Plant in us love for our fellows and help us preserve the rights of all the inhabitants of your holy lando each sapling: