Left.ru ________________________________________________________________________________
The Green Rain of Yassouf
  By Israel Shamir

 Most soothing, tender and sensual to the touch, picking olives is akin to telling beads. Oriental
 men wear ‘mesbaha’ beads of wood or stone on their wrist, reminding of prayer and calming
 down frayed nerves, but olives are much better: they are alive. Olives are tender but not fragile,
 like peasant girls, and picking them has a touch of comfort: nothing can go wrong. Olives detach
 themselves from the branch without fear and remorse, smoothly enter the palm and roll down
 into the safety of the ground sheets stretched to catch them.

 It is harvest time, and every tree on the terraced slope is attended. Whole families are out, under
 the trees and up on ladders, forming a vast pane suitable for Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s brush.
 We pick olives together with  Hafez’s family, five or six of us; we stand below the thick branches
 of the broad stretched-out craggy old tree, fingering this live rosary of our lady, the sweet land of
 Palestine. Hair of ripe Minnesota corn, sky-blue eyes, - unexpected for a stranger, but not
 unusual features in these places, - laughing lips, seven-and-a-half-year old Rowan, young
 daughter of the sturdy shrewd Hafez, climbed to the treetop, and the olives she picks fell down
 on our hands, shoulders and heads like green rain. Before going to the next tree, we lift the edges
 of the sheets and the dense stream of olives fills the bag. A light grey foal grazes nearby,
 gathering strength for his turn: he will carry the bags into the village above the valley.
 We pick olives in Yassouf, a blissfully obscure village in the highlands. Its spacious and tall
 houses, made of soft and light stone, witness its old prosperity, created by the relentless toil;
 broad staircases lead to the flat roofs, where they lounge warm summer evenings and enjoy the
 breeze from the distant Med. There are plenty of pomegranate trees, and in a thousand years old
 description of Palestine, by a contemporary of William the Conqueror, the village of Yassouf is
 mentioned for abundance of pomegranate and for wisdom of a learned sheikh al-Yassoufi who
 made himself a name in remote Damascus.

 It is paradise, or not too far from it. We arrived yesterday to the village, built on the ridge
 between two valleys. Above the village, a hilltop retains the old sanctuary, bema, one of the high
 places where ancestors of Hafez and Rowan witnessed the miraculous communion of celestial
 and earthly forces. The villagers often go there, to seek spiritual comfort, as did their forefathers,
 the people of the small principality of Israel: we are in the Holy Land, and for its people, a daily
 miracle of faith goes hand in hand with the daily portion of toil. The kings of the Bible tried to ban
 these local bema places and monopolise the faith in the centralised, easy-to-tax-and-control
 temple, but ordinary people preferred their local sanctuaries for daily worship. The peasants
 preserved the two-tier structure of local and universal faith, similar to Shinto-Buddhism link in
 Japan. They are religious but not fanatic. They do not wear the Islamic garb; women do not
 cover their pretty faces. These two aspects, local and universal, survived millennia and blended
 together. The temple became the gorgeous Umayyad Mosque of al Aqsa, and on the high place
 of Yassouf, people pray to its God.

 These are venerable old trees; they have heard many an oath and seen many a secret in their
 long lives. A miraculous shallow well that never runs dry even in the hottest July, but rests in rainy
 winter; a holy tomb which probably changed name many times since the days immemorial, and
 now is called Sheikh Abu Zarad. There are ruins from the first days of Yassouf, well over four
 thousand years ago, and since then the village has not been deserted. In the Bible heyday, it
 belonged to Joseph, the strongest of the tribes of Israel. When Jerusalem fell under sway of the
 Jews, these lands and these people retained their own Israelite identity, and eventually accepted
 Christ. The domed shrine at the top still calls for prayer. In February, the hilltop turns white with
 almond blossoms, now it is fresh and green, and affords a superb view of the rolling hills of

 But we came too late for the view from the hilltop, as sun sets early in the autumn. Instead, in the
 dusk we went down to the village spring, the throbbing heart of the village. Water was quietly
 gushing from the opening in the rock, flew in the covered tunnel and poured out to give life to the
 gardens. We sat under the fig trees, and they spread their broad trefoil leaves like Japanese Noh
 dancers raise their fans, in one incessant gracious movement. In the moonlight, between the
 leaves, giant black butterflies took wing: it is bats, dwellers of the nearby caves, emerging in the
 dark to drink water and feast on the fruits.

 Usually, a talk at the spring flows freely and joyously like its water. There is no better place to sit
 and chat with the villagers about the harvest, the good old days, the children, and the last essay
 of Edward Said reprinted in the local paper. The farmers are not boors: some of them travelled
 the big world, from Basra to San Francisco; others attended a small university branch in the
 vicinity. Their political education was completed in Israeli jail, an almost unavoidable stage in the
 upbringing of a young man in our land. Their Hebrew, acquired there, or through long work in
 the Israeli building industry, is fluent and idiomatic, and they are keen to practice it with a friendly

 But now our hosts were gloomy, and worries did not move away from their sad eyes. Even at
 the dinner, as we feasted on rice with nuts and yogurt, they were rather pensive. We knew the
 reason: a new dread had nested on the bare hilltop and spread its webbed wings over the village.
 The army had confiscated the lands of Yassouf for military purposes, and passed the site to the
 settlers. They built a concrete prefab monster entwined by barbed wire, interspaced with guard
 towers, and appropriated the name of the nearby Apple spring. The settlement was not willing to
 stay put on the land stolen a decade ago from the people of Yassouf, but kept encroaching on
 the entire countryside, throwing out its metastases onto surrounding hills, eating up the olive
 groves and vineyards.

 The farmers did not dare to go to their own fields, for the settlers were harsh men with guns,
 quick to draw. They shot at villagers, often kidnapped and tortured them, set fire to their fields.
 They had to keep the farmers away for five years, and after that, according to the Ottoman law
 they found in the old books, the fallow land would revert to the state. To the Jewish state. The
 state would then give the land to the Jewish settlers. Meanwhile, they tried to starve the farmers. 
 The village was cut off from the world by trenches and mounds of earth six feet high. Even small
 unpaved roads, barely suitable for a four-wheel drive, were truncated by the army. The village
 became an island. 

The British ambassador to Tel Aviv recently said that Israel had turned
 Palestine into one huge detention camp. He was wrong: instead of one camp, they created a
 New Gulag Archipelago of Palestine. The Nobel-winning author of Gulag, Alexander
 Solzhenitsyn claimed that the original Russian Gulag was designed and managed by Jews; his
 claim was questioned and denied by Jewish organisations. But there is no doubt who designed
 the Gulag of Palestine. Cars cannot leave or enter the island of Yassouf, and visitors are forced
 to leave their cars before crossing on foot. The nearest city, Nablous, or Neapolis of old, is eight
 miles distant,  but four hours’ drive and many humiliating checkpoints away. It took us ages to
 reach Yassouf, as we drove through numerous checkpoints and roadblocks, and we had to
 abandon our car half a mile away from the village, stopped by an insurmountable siege dam.

 On the way, devastation was everywhere: olives on both sides were torched or uprooted, as if
 this venerable tree was the foremost enemy of the Jews. And in a way it was: olive is the chief
 provider and intercessor for the Palestinians. Their main meal consists of flat oven-baked bread
 and olive oil, spiced by thyme and enlivened by a bunch of grapes. Their kings and priests of old
 were anointed with oil. The sacraments of the church, a precious gift of Palestine to mankind, are
 but consecration of olive. In baptism, the Palestinians are anointed before the full immersion, and
 their skins retain the soft suppleness of olive oil. Oil is used for the rites of wedlock, and for the
 last rites, confirming the inseparable bond of the people and their land. The famed explorer of
 Qumran scrolls, John Allegro, ruined his reputation by penning a heretical book identifying Jesus
 Christ with the hallucinogenic mushroom. If and when I shall decide to follow him, I shall
 compare the Olive Tree of Virgin Oil and Our Lady the Virgin, the supreme mediatrix of

 As long as there are olives, the peasants of Palestine are invincible, and that is why their
 adversaries turned their rage towards the trees. They cut them whenever they could. In the last
 years, eighteen thousand beautiful olives, old giants and young saplings, were uprooted. The
 settlers stopped the farmers from harvesting, ambushed them on the way home and robbed
 them. We, the International and Israeli friends of Palestine, came, like Seven Samurai in the old
 Kurosawa film, to help the peasants pick their olives and protect them from the robbers.
 Of the many good things one can do on our good Earth, helping Palestinians is the best and most
 pleasant one I know of. Kibbutz can’t compete with it. Young kibbutzniks are usually boring and
 aloof, while old kibbutzniks are, well, old. In kibbutz, you have the company of other foreigners,
 or none. Palestinians are so friendly, so open, so ready to talk to you. The Internationals bask in
 their friendliness, live in enchanted villages, see the warm blue sky over the incomparable
 landscape of Palestinian hills, and enjoy the fabulous hospitality of the peasants. And if
 occasionally they are shot at by the settlers or the army, it is just a small cost for all the fun, an
 additional divertissement courtesy of the IDF. That is, after all, why the Samurai are needed.
 The people who help Palestinians are quite different from kibbutz volunteers. They are more
 heterogeneous, from a 19-year-old student from Uppsala to a housewife from Brighton, from a
 Reverend from Georgia to a teacher from Boston, from a French farmer to an Italian MP. They
 are united by their feelings of compassion, of natural justice, and, yes, by their daring. They work
 in the shadow of Israeli tanks, and protect the olives and men with their own bodies. The harvest
 in the Samarian mountains is a joy but not for timid souls. We were to experience its rough side
 without further delay.

 We were picking olives, filling the bags with the green gold, when suddenly a Jeep drove down
 the stony ruddy road, and screeched to a halt near us, raising a cloud of dust; behind it was a
 bigger vehicle, an army troop carrier full of soldiers. A single man jumped out of the jeep, aiming
 an automatic rifle M-16 straight at the child on the tree.

 “Go away, you bloody Arabs,” he yelled in Brooklynese. He lifted a rock and hurled it into the
 nearest group of workers. A farmer, who could not turn away, was hit and nursed his hand.
 “Come one step closer and I’ll shoot!” he shouted when Laurie tried to talk to him. He was
 large, unkempt, ferocious, intentionally working himself into a high degree of hysteria.
 “Don’t even touch the olives!” he screamed at the peasants.

 From around the road bend, three men appeared running. They looked like nothing you ever
 saw. To their shaven foreheads, black boxes were strapped by narrow black belts; black belts
 crisscrossed their bare arms. The Jews put on the phylacteries, as this setup is called, for a
 morning prayer, but on these young men they looked like the amulets of a warlike tribe. They
 wore dark trousers and dark tee-shorts, while white shawls with black stripes flew behind their
 backs. Their rifles were pointed at us. They looked possessed by some strange demon, these
 young men in Jewish ritual dress and with their ideas from the Book of Joshua. I was not
 astonished when one of them pulled out a long curved blade. The scene reminded me of the
 recent movie, “The Time Machine,” with the sudden appearance of ferocious Morlocks and their
 onslaught on bucolic Eloi.

 They pushed the women and cursed the men, their eyes burning with hate. Timid peasants, the
 Palestinians recoiled. A Samurai unarmed, I tried to reason with the attackers.
 “Let the farmers harvest their olives,” I beseeched, “it is their trees, it is their life. Be good
 neighbours to them!”

 “Go away, you Arab-lover,” hissed one of them.  “You support our enemies. It is our land. It is
 the land of the Jews; the Goyim do not belong here.”

 In more peaceful circumstances, I would laugh: these disturbed young men from New York
 wished to expel the proper and rightful descendents of the people of Israel from their ancestral
 land. Never mind the incredible silliness of two-thousand-year-old claim in the country where
 five years of absence voids all claims. Never mind that their ‘Jewish’ ancestors probably hiked
 from the Eurasian steppe and never saw Palestine. Never mind that even the Jews of old never
 lived and hardly visited the land of Israel, between Bethel, Carmel and Jezreel. Soon the
 Romanian guest workers from Bucharest may expel the people of Florence, claiming direct
 descent from ancient Rome. But their rifles were no laughing stock.

 “Why do you burn olives, are the olives your enemies, too?”
 “Yes, the olives of our enemy are our enemies. And you are our enemies, too!” he shrieked.

 This word works magic with the Americans. Whenever an American is called an ‘anti-Semite’,
 he is supposed to prostrate on the ground, and swear eternal love and fealty to the Jewish
 people. I know it because daily I receive letters from people who were called ‘anti-Semites’ for
 their support of Palestine and they could not cope with it. I provide them with first psychological
 aid: after being punished for anti-Soviet activity, and condemned for anti-American opinions, an
 anti-Nomian lover of anti-Quity, I take the anti-Semitic label in my stride. Nowadays, if one is
 not called an anti-S, it means one is clearly in the wrong, sandwiched between Sharon and

 Like ‘Arab-lover’, or ‘Nigger-lover’, an ‘anti-Semite’ is a label that smears its user by
 association. It is often used by the settlers, by Foxman the spymaster, Kahane the racist, Mort
 Zuckermann the USA Today owner, Conrad Black the husband of Barbara Amiel, Sharon the
 mass murderer, Richard Perle the warmonger, Tom Friedman the shyster, Shylock the
 loan-shark and Elie Wiesel the pay-as-you-cry holocaust weepy. It was used against TS Elliot
 and Dostoyevsky, Genet and Hamsun, St John and Yeats, Marx and Woody Allen, and it is a
 much better company to be in. Still, our Americans hesitated for a moment, our good Israelis
 began to explain their position, but it was a good English girl from Manchester, Jennifer, who
 proved the superiority of Brits and saved the day by a brusque ‘fuck you’.

 The barrel of M-16 rifle made a curve and pointed at her. The soldiers looked at the goings on
 with interest. I turned to them.
 “Stop them! They’re aiming their guns at us!”
 “They haven’t shot you, yet”, answered the sergeant.
 The soldiers would not intervene as long as the Morlocks had their way, but the moment we
 engaged them, the awesome armed might of the Jewish state will be visited upon us. The
 Morlocks knew it too: they smashed a camera of Dave’s, pushed Angie, poured insults at the
 girls, and threw stones.
 “Won’t you stop them?” I appealed to the soldiers.
      “Sorry, pal. Only police may deal with them,” replied the officer. “But we can arrest
      YOU, if you insist.”

 The army takes care of the Palestinians, and the police attends to the settlers - this simple ruse is
 one of the better inventions of the Jewish genius. Probably they borrowed it from the European
 settlements in China, where they had different police forces and different sets of law for
 Europeans and for Chinese. That is why the Morlocks may do what they want. The Palestinians
 were visibly upset: they are not fighters, but farmers with women and children harvesting their
 olives; they did not come there to die. Not yet, anyway. The settlers kill the villagers for sport or
 for fun, with and without provocation. For the last week, they murdered a few men who dared
 to harvest their own olives. If the villagers would defend themselves, would just dare to raise
 their hands at a Jew, they would be all slaughtered and their village wiped out. But the olives had
 to be harvested, and the stand-off continued.

 “All the troubles are caused by the bloody settlers,” called out Uri, a good Israeli, who kept off
 the settler thugs to the right of me. “Without them, we would live peacefully. We would visit
 Yassouf with passports, like tourists. It is them, the settlers.”

 Indeed, it was easy, almost obligatory to hate the vicious young men, who destroyed crops and
 starved villages. This particular settlement is known as a bulwark of the Kahanist or Judeo-Nazi
 creed, as the late Professor Leibovich called it. They celebrated the assassination of Prime
 Minister Rabin; they worshipped Baruch Goldstein, the mass murderer from Brooklyn; they
 published the banned book of Rabbi Alba that openly proclaims the religious duty of the Jew to
 exterminate Gentiles. They were so evil it required no effort to hate them and to agree with Uri.
 But as I looked at the blank faces of the soldiers, a memory came back from the days of my
 childhood. The hoodlums do not go around robbing strangers: they would send forth a small kid
 to relieve you of the burden of your wallet. If you’d push the kid away, they would fall on you
 like a ton of bricks for molesting the youth. It was quite pointless to hate the small kid since he
 was sent by the bigger hoods.

 These young crackpots were sent by the bigger hoods, too. That is why the soldiers did not bat
 an eyelid when the settlers attacked the farmers. It was the division of labour: the thugs starved
 the peasants, the army protected the thugs, and the government endorsed it. While the army guns
 kept down the Palestinians, the US army kept down Iraq, the only state in the region that might
 be able to provide the balance of power, and the US diplomats wielded their veto in the Security
 Council. And beyond them, one could see the biggest hoods that did not care for olives,
 peasants or soldiers. On one end of the chain of command, there was a crazy Brooklyn settler
 with M-16; on the other end, Bronfman and Zuckerman, Sulzberger and Wolfowitz, Foxman
 and Friedman.

 And somewhere between, were we, the Israelis and the American Jews, who duly voted and
 paid taxes and supported the scheme, because without our support, Wolfowitz would have to
 conquer Baghdad single-handedly and Bronfman would have to burn the olives himself.
 Still, each man and beast has its pest, and we had to deal with our own. The farmers of Yassouf
 and their international supporters, that’s us, stood our ground and did not flinch. Police arrived
 and consorted with the settlers. In a while, a smiley tall hair-cropped liaison officer came down
 to us.

      “You may pick your olives, but work in the bottom of the valley, where the settlers
      won’t see you and get annoyed.”

 It was a minor victory, a compromise, but it didn’t matter. We would harvest olives, that was the
 bottom line. We rolled down the valley, its slopes reinforced by numerous terraces, and the
 harvest continued. Down here, the olives were smaller and fewer. For three years, the peasants
 were prohibited from working their fields, although the olive needs a lot of care. Normally,
 peasants plough around the trees every year by an old-fashioned plough pulled by a donkey: the
 terraces are too small for tractor. Without it, winter rains run off the land and fail to reach the
 roots. The terraces also need a lot of maintenance. But it couldn’t be done now, for the farmers
 prudently avoided taking up their hoes and spades, dangerous weapons in the eyes of their
 well-armed tormentors.

 Again the small streams of green and black olives ran down our hands to the ground sheets.
 They grow on the same tree, as God made them different, some green and some black, Hussein
 told us, but they give the same oil. It was a God’s sign to us humans: we are made different, and
 it is a good thing, making the world more beautiful and various, if we remember our common

 We laid out our lunch under a big olive tree. Umm Tarik, the only woman in many-coloured
 national dress, brought big round bread straight from the oven. It was liberally sprinkled with
 olive oil, as were the balls of white goat cheese. Hassan passed around a zir, a Palestinian
 amphora full of cool water from the Apple spring. The zir was cold and wet outside, covered
 with minuscule drops of dew. It is made of porous clay, and it sweats profusely cooling the drink
 inside. With years, the pores clog up, and then it can be used to store wine or oil.
 “I miss Ramat Gan” (a suburb of Tel Aviv), said Hassan. “Before the trouble, I used to work
 there, painting houses. It was good work, and my Yemenite employer was a decent man, he
 treated me as a member of his family. Sometimes I would overnight there, and have an evening
 stroll in Tel Aviv by the sea. Now for two years I have not left the village.”

 Everybody had good memories from the days they worked in the big cities in the West of
 Palestine, and brought some cash back home. It was a mutually convenient arrangement for the
 newcomers and the peasants, profoundly unequal but bearable. All over the world, farmers and
 peasants work for a while in the cities when their land does not call them for harvest or planting.
 For local people, “the Jewish” Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan were no more foreign than “the Arab”
 Nablus or Jerusalem, as the country is but one unit. Palestine is a small country, and Yassouf is in
 the very middle of it, thirty miles to the sea, and thirty miles to the Jordan border. The industrial
 cities of the seaboard were built well before the state of Israel came into being; they were built
 by the labour of Yassouf’s peasants, and they were rightly theirs. Not exclusively theirs, but
 theirs as well. The arrangement was undone, when the Jews began their land snatch.

 “Do you see the settlement”, - Hussein asked us. “My father sowed his wheat on that hillside. At
 first, they took the land, and later, they locked us up in the village. Now we have but little land,
 and no work”.

 “The story of the Holy land repeats the story of God’s promise,” said the Reverend.        
 “Christ said: everybody is chosen. The Jews replied: sorry, only we are. Now, Palestinians say:
 let us live together in this land. And the Jews reply: sorry, it is for us only.”
 “There should be an independent Palestinian state,” said Uri, “with its own flag, and a real
 border. Barak cheated everybody, as he offered to split your lands into few entities. We should
 go back to ’67 borders, and then things will be fine.”

 - Do you know how the Talmud rules on partition, - I asked. – Two men found a shawl, and
 each one said, ‘it is mine’. They came to a judge, and the judge asked them, “How should I
 divide the shawl?” The first one said, ‘divide it 50-50, equally’. The second one said, ‘no, it is all
 mine’. The judge said, ‘there is no disagreement about one half of the shawl, both agree it should
 belong to the second man. I shall divide the remaining half of the shawl equally, so the first man,
 the seeker of justice, will have one fourth, while the second man, the egoist, will have three
 quarters”. That is the Jewish approach. Maybe Palestinians should learn it, too.

 Kamal added some broken twigs into the small fire to make coffee. He was an elder man,
 respected by the village, an important man in the local politics and beyond. In 1967, a young
 man of 20, he parted with his newborn daughter for he was sentenced by the Jews to forty years
 of prison for his belonging to the Resistance. He emerged from the eternal shade of Ramleh Gaol
 when his daughter was twenty one.

 - We also have a story of dividing a find, - said Kamal. – It is the story of a woman who found a
 child and brought him up. Then another woman came in, the natural mother of the child, and
 demanded him back. They came to be judged by Sheikh Abu Zarad, and the sheikh said: I shall
 cut the kid into two parts, and give each one half. One woman said, ‘good, let us split the child’.
 But another woman said, no way, my child won’t be carved up. And the sheikh awarded the
 child to the second woman, as she was the real mother.

 My cheeks were burning with shame. Kamal did not tell me anything new, but, trying to
 wisecrack, I forgot the true wisdom of Solomon’s judgement, and he, a real descendent of Bible
 heroes, reminded me of it. The Palestinians, like the true mother, did not agree to partition.
 History proved they were right: Palestine can’t be divided. The peasants need the industrial cities
 to work between the seasons and to sell their oil; they need the seashore of the Med, splashing a
 few miles away from their home, they need the wholeness of the land as one needs two hands
 and two eyes.

 The settlers were not monsters, but thoroughly misled men. Like me, they read too much of the
 Babylonian Talmud, too little of the Palestinian Bible. They felt the incredibly strong pull of the
 land, and it attracted them to the hills of Samaria. They were looking for union with the
 enchanted land of Palestine, and they loved it with the weird love of necrophiliacs. They were
 ready to kill the land just to get it. They did not understand the local ways, and earned their living
 by collecting money in America. Instead of hatred, I felt sorry for the settlers. They had a unique
 chance to make peace with their neighbours, and with the land, and they blew it. By ruining the
 land, they prepare their new exile with their own hands. The true mother will have the child, and
 therefore the Palestinian victory is inevitable, for the judgement of Solomon is but a parable of
 Divine judgement.

 - But where are the good Jews, - the reader hastens to enquire. - For the balance, for the
 political correctness, for our comfort, please show us some good Jews! There are not only
 settlers, but Peace Now and other movements friendly to Palestinians.

 Yes, there is a difference between the brutal settlers and their supporters, on one side, and the
 liberal Israelis, traditional Labour voters, on another side. The Jewish chauvinists want Palestine
 without Palestinians. They would import Chinese to work the fields and Russians to guard the
 Chinese. They were an obviously repelling lot.

 The liberal Israelis could envisage a sort of common future, where Palestinians could leave their
 watched-over Bantustans and come to work in Tel Aviv equipped with a working permit, to be
 harassed by police, to work without social security, below minimal wage, underpaid by their
 employers. The idea of brotherly equality, not of some heavenly sort, but of ordinary fair play
 towards the native son of the land was as foreign to them as to the settlers. They would give
 them a flag and an anthem, but take away their land and their way of life.

 Both sorts of Israelis were united in their rejection of Palestine. They sang of a ‘new dress of
 concrete and asphalt for the old Land of Israel’. The liberals dreamed of creating a high-tech
 sliver of America, and did not need the hills of Samaria. The chauvinists wanted to erase the very
 memory of Palestine, and re-create the kingdom of hate and vengeance.

 And few, very few of us understood that we have been given a rare chance to learn from the
 Palestinians. With our East European arrogance, we came to teach and change them, but we
 should learn and change ourselves. It was not enough to help them; we, the conquerors, have to
 adjust to the supreme civilisation of the conquered. It was done before us: the victorious Vikings
 adjusted to the ways of England and France, Russia and Sicily; the triumphant Greeks of
 Alexander became Egyptians and Syrians, Imperial Manchu became Chinese. It has to be done
 for our sakes as well, since otherwise we are doomed to re-create a ghetto for us and a ghetto
 for them.

 Take an ant and he will build an anthill. Take a Jew and he will create a ghetto. Take a
 Palestinian… Well, my friend Musa invited his old father from a Samarian village to his new
 home in Vermont, and his old father began to build terraces to plant olives.

 The Palestinians can’t imagine themselves without the land and its unique way of life. Thousands
 of years ago, after the Great Mycenaean Drought was over, their ancestors formed a symbiosis
 with the olive, and the vine, and the donkey, and the small mountain springs, and their shrines on
 the hilltops. This single complex of the landscape, the people and the Divine spirit was the great
 achievement of Palestinians, and they carried it through centuries and preserved to this very day.
 If they will be undermined, mankind will lose its anchors and crash on the rocks of history. We
 were much privileged that they accepted our small help.

 In the evening, we trekked back to the village, to the spacious mansion of Hussein. It would not
 seem out of place in Cannes or Sonoma. On its great balcony, we sat in the straw chairs made
 by the Beidan villagers. The friendly but dignified cats of Hussein jumped on our laps, while his
 shy daughters brought in sweet mint tea. Folks came in to chat with the strangers as they are
 wont to do in the remote villages. Small kerosene lamps stood on the tables and banisters: the
 Israeli overlords refused to connect the village to the electric grid. Even that was good, for we
 watched the full moon of October slowly floating in the darkening skies and shining on the
 terraced hills, and on the roofs, and on the dull armour of a Merkava tank on the hillside, his
 guns trained on the village, and on the silent ancient knurled olives of Yassouf.

 Israel Shamir is an Israeli journalist based in Jaffa. His articles can be found on the site
 www.israelshamir.net In order to subscribe to this list or to be removed from it, please
 write to info@israelshamir.net You may freely display this article on the Web or
 forward it, but ask for permission in order to publish as hard copy.

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