Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Planting Patience

One of the words for cactus in Arabic is saber, which also means patience.

Today's action in At-Tuwani involved watering cactus plants that were recently planted along a contentious border. In the recent years, Israeli settlers from Ma'on have gradually encroached upon land that is owned by Palestinians from the village of At-Tuwani. Within the last year, settlers fenced off another section of a fertile valley which is Palestinian-owned. As a means of responding to the the illegal settlement expansion (in this case it could also be called stealing), cactus were planted to 'make a stand' on the land that is still under the villagers' control.

Last night, H. the landowner was talking to us about the significance of the plants. H. said that these plants won't produce much fruit, and the cactus isn't used in Palestinian cuisine, so it's more symbolic than anything else. Planting saber (cactus) in the ground is a form of acting out saber (patience). They understand that they can't take back their land overnight. The settler orchard that was planted on stolen Palestinian land cannot be cut down by the Palestinians overnight, because that would contribute to the cycle of fear and hatred that already seems to be running wild. But instead, planting cactus, symbols of patience, on the border between the orchard and the rest of the valley is a form of resistance. It's a means of peacefully yet persistently remaining on the land. Part of that ongoing resistance each week is to gather villagers, Israeli and international peace activists to come to the valley to assist in watering the plants.

As I sat with H. this morning he stressed the importance of coming to the land each week. He said we aren't here for a photo op or as a political ploy, but the Palestinians come back to the land each week as a demonstration of their inner strength. That inner strength is required in order to keep on living life despite the strangulation of the occupation. The strangulating Israeli occupation is manifested as water confiscation, land confiscation making farming and grazing unfeasible, roadblocks and checkpoints limiting movement, and physical attacks against schoolchildren. In spite of these risks and these realities, you keep coming back to the land. Your perseverance and your inner strength keep you coming back to the land. You come back the land, believing that planting saber in the earth will help to cultivate saber in the lives of your self and your children.

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