Parked cars are scattered around the edges of the olive plantation. Men, women and children gather in the shade amongst the trees, over the path that separates the plantation from a wide, freshly ploughed field. An old woman sits, beaming, on a stool under a tree. After a short ceremony, in which she tells us how she had kept this land, guarded it, kept it from harm throughout the long years, she takes her leave and goes home with her son and grandson.
Our party scatters across the field. Two charming, smiling sisters walk along, placing young olive saplings by freshly-dug holes. A father and his daughter carefully place a plant in hole, fill it with earth and stamp their feet around the tree, as though dancing. Tomer had told everyone to make sure there’s no mound around the base of the slender trunk. It would become damp and the rot would set in before the seedling can become rooted. It’s the heat, he said.
The cheerful, sweaty group of workers pays careful heed to his instructions. A smiling threesome sits down under a tree for a short rest: a young Israeli, her Nepalese husband and a German tourist. In a moment they will continue to toil over the saplings. A Japanese woman offers fellow workers cold water from her cooler flask. A Scottish minister, his face flushed from the heat, beams with formality, as though about to preside over a church wedding.
There are 800 saplings to be planted. In three hours. Certainly, three or four skilled workers would have completed the task on their own, easily. But we are not farmers. Also, we don’t own the plantation; nor its yield. But we shall return.
We shall watch the blessing that will come from the toil of the people of Sindyanna of Galilee. And we shall look forward to seeing, along with the young saplings, the roots of friendship take hold and the branches of solidarity grow out of a firm, steadfast trunk. Insh’Allah, God willing, Let it be!
Ophira Gamliel / September 2012 / Translation: Yaara Lahav Gregory