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Eyewitness report from Cremisan valley annexed by Israel

  • Suheir Zeidan

View of ancient terraces in Cremisan Valley

View of ancient terraces in Cremisan Valley

The author of this heartbreaking report, Suheir Ziedan, is a Christian Palestinian from Bethlehem. Her family have lived there for many generations. The Cremisan Monastery and vineyard was a popular spot with Christian pilgrims for many years.

I woke up in the morning and, as usual, took my phone to check if there is anything urgent, or if there is any news from back home.

Scrolled down my screen to a post my Dad shared on his Facebook profile, saying that the "Cremisan" valley annexed by the Israelis will soon be inaccessible to locals and owners as it will end up behind the Separation Wall.

The Cremisan Valley, is a beautiful valley in the town of Beit Jala, located on the seam line between the West Bank and Jerusalem. The valley is one of the last green areas in the Bethlehem district, with vast stretches of agricultural lands and recreational grounds.

Along the Cremisan Valley are the remains of a 7th century Byzantine Monastery, known as the Cremisan Monastery. Growing up in Beit Jala the Monastery was an important part of my childhood and my get away from home to play and meet girls from the neighbouring villages.

My Dad owns a piece of land in this beautiful part of Beit Jala. On his land he has a hundred olive trees. Each one of them has a story of its own.

I read my Dad's Facebook post over and over again in disbelief and disappointment, thinking of Dad and his state of mind reading the news and then sharing it to the rest of the world in a silent cry for justice. I closed my eyes recollecting childhood memories of picking olives with my Dad, I saw myself under each tree and in every corner of our land. recalling conversations I had with Dad during the olive harvest, and all the nagging and complaining I made about how hard and boring it is to pick olives. I hated the dust and dirt, the waking up early in the mornings, the scratches and bleeding from the branches trying to reach all parts of the tree. I personally hated it back in the days. I remember one particular conversation with my Dad asking him if harvesting the olives and making oil was worth all the hassle and hard work invested in doing it. My Dad looked at me and replied in a sad voice "ya binti (my daughter) it is not about the olives we harvest and the oil we make, it is the trees themselves and the land that matters.

He said to me "Every single tree has its own character, I grew them from little trees, took care of them, observed them growing up and saw myself grow older with them, they are part of me I care for them like I care for you. The olive and oil they give me is the gratitude for the love I give them."

This was awakening conversation with Dad. I realized how naïve I was as a teenager and how precious these trees meant to him. Losing them is like losing a piece of his soul. Since then harvesting our 100 olive trees became a process of gratitude and love. I started paying attention to the olive picking process, to how Dad embraced and hold the branches of the trees to pick and collect the olives. No beating no shaking of branches allowed. The process of cleaning behind removing the weeds and kissing each tree goodbye in appreciation and gratitude.

I came to realize that the olives we pick are priceless. No wonder they tasted so good, better than any other olives and oil I have ever tried, simply pure gold. My Dad used to argue with anyone who dared to compare Beit Jala's oil to any other, he literally felt offended. "Ours are simply the best" he always said. He is proud of his olive trees the same way he is proud of his children.

I recall in recent years when the settlers started attacking Palestinians during the olive harvest, it was scary and dangerous, yet Dad refused to stay away and insisted that he picks his own olives. He knew he was saying his goodbyes. It was heart breaking for him to accept others to pick them for him as he is unable to do it being in his 80s. He always complained about others treating his olive trees badly. At least he could still check on them from time to time to make sure they are still in place.

We knew that annexation was eventually happening, our 100 olive trees will very soon be behind the separation illegal wall awaiting a mysterious destiny and dad will no longer be able to see them for good. They might be uprooted to make way for the nearby settlement to expand. God knows what the future is holding for them.

In the coming wave of annexation by Israel my dad will lose his olive trees that he loved and cared for all his life in the beautiful Cremisan Valley. He will also lose his land and fruit trees in the Makhrour area.

Many Palestinians are just like my Dad. People from Beit Jala and the nearby towns will also lose access to the beautiful Cremisan Valley and the beautiful Monastery.

#Annexation #UntoldStories #Dad #Family #CremisanValley


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