“You’d get shot!”, she said with surprise and caution in her voice.
He conceded to her point, but remained disturbed by his memories. That morning he had walked through an olive grove nestled in a valley outside Bethlehem. As the trees parted in front of him, he reached an impasse. Scoured through the valley lay a fence as far as the eye could see.
Fences are, of course, few and far between in the cultivated hill country of Palestine, and this one in particular, seemed very much out of place. So much so, he thought, it seemed likely that the land had never seen one like this before; and neither had he. For this was not just one fence, but three, with a road burned through the middle.
He wondered what place such an obstacle had dividing the valley so boldly. If someone did not want the farmers to access their fields, that someone had surely succeeded. The barriers began just in front of him with heaping coils of razor wire. Behind that lay open ground which ended against a high chain-link fence which was also lined with more razor wire on top. Just beyond that fence stood a fence similar the previous, but with the added “security” of exposed high voltage wire strung across it like something out of Jurassic Park. Past this was a road way, buffeted on either side by raked sand. This was prepared, he concluded, so as to catch the slightest inconsistency of an intruding footprint or evidence any un-groomed impression in its surface.
Another fence provided a bookend for the ghastly production on the opposite side of the road. It’s height and wire, dwarfed by the previous lines of defence, clearly revealed which side of the fence was meant to be “secured,” and he was on it.
Beyond the snaking concentric lines of the barrier, the olive trees, many older that any living man or woman could possibly remember, stood silent. The soil beneath them, rich from years without harvest and the branches above, laden with their ripening burden of perseverance.
They were finished the meal and as they got up to leave he thought to himself, “there must be a way.” Those weren’t even his trees and fields. The land meant little to him as a means of income or for supporting a family as it did for the farmers who owned it, yet he felt the waves of helplessness and dispare as if it did. He wished his memories were only memories and not the daily reality for Palestinians. Tragically though, they are real memories, real trees, real fences, real bullets, and real men, women, and children.