If you take a long and peaceful drive through the Galilee, across the rolling yellow hills and along the Tiberias Lake, you will arrive upon the ruins of an old Palestinian village called Qabba’a. Surrounding the village is a hillside of beautiful olive groves but it’s not just beauty here, the trees tell a special story…
The grove which belongs to the KKL (Israel National Fund) is tended by Hussein Hib who is driven by his passion and sense of connection to these old olive trees. The trees here are over two hundred years old, but they grow slim and elegant. Hussein tells us that he applied to take care of the land after discovering how the people before him had cut the trees to sell in years of poor harvest. He was deeply disturbed that this historic olive grove was not receiving proper care, and even though he himself is not a farmer by trade, he decided to apply to take on the project. Ever since Hussein decided to collaborate with Sindyanna, the grove has been cared for in accordance with organic regulations and the results are clear in the award winning organic olive oil sold by Sindyanna all across the world.
As we wander through the grove, stopping to admire the clean green of the olives hanging from the trees like little gems, Hussein tells us the stories of Qabba’a… The village was emptied of its inhabitants in 1948 but the buildings remained standing until 1967 when they were demolished. Now, all that remains are the stubbly gathering of stones from which the old houses were built. Just last year, Hussein tells us, a German family asked him to take them to the village’s ruins where their grandfather had once been the Sheikh. Though Qabba’a may no longer stand, the history lives on through stories passed down from one generation to the next.
Even more incredible was Hussein’s story of a man from Switzerland who arrived seven years ago, looking for buried treasure in Qabba’a. His grandfather instructed him over the phone to look for the treasure under the old family fig tree. It didn’t take him long to find what was hidden there and today, the fragments of the jar which he dug up and smashed to retrieve the gold hidden inside can still be seen near the old fig tree!
At Sindyanna, our treasure is not be buried in these hills but can be found in plain sight, hanging from the trees of this olive grove. These hillsides hold so many stories of life and tragedy, community and hope. Although Qabba’a is gone, its history remains and stands as testament to the many difficulties we need to face up to in the Holy Land. Through our work at Sindyanna, we hope to bridge the gaps between communities and to strive for a more integrated society which can work towards a vision of peace, tolerance and acceptance.
Here are some bonus pictures of a new born calf and its mother in the grove!