Edna Yaghi’s Column
Holy scriptures have it that two women appeared before Prophet Solomon claiming that both of them were the mother of a baby. The prophet was faced with a dilemma. How would he be able to decide who the real mother was?
However, he was famous far and wide for his wisdom so he ordered that the child be cut in half and that a half be given to the women who claimed to be the mother. The older lady said, “yes, it’s ok. Divide the child in half and give me my share.”
But the younger of the two cried, “No, please don’t harm the baby. I give up all claims to the child. Please give the infant to the other lady.”
In an instant, the prophet knew who the real mother was. Of course, he did not cut the child in half. He told the younger of the two to take her baby home. He knew that because she was the real mother, she would rather give up her child than see it harmed. He admonished the older one because she laid false claims to a child not her own.
My father-in-law had been a rich landowner before he became an impoverished refugee in 1948. He had groves upon groves of orange and lemon trees and also grew an array of apple, mulberry, pomegranate, and quince trees. He had some cows that supplied milk for his children. His wife, my mother-in-law, also raised sheep, goats and chickens for milk and meat.
I know how my father-in-law loved his trees. I know how he looked after them with love and care. I know that he could not stand to see a branch broken or the fruit of any tree carelessly discarded. I know all this because I watched him cultivate his mini-orchard in Jordan.
From others, I heard stories of the courage of my father-in-law and I witnessed it during the Civil War here in Jordan. He was a man who did not know fear and had it not been for his wife and children, he would have remained in Palestine and would have died there fighting to defend what was his. His oranges were famous throughout Europe for the fine texture of their skins and pleasant taste. He led a good life and spent his free time at the local coffee shop with his friends and relatives.
But the massacres of Deir Yassin where 254 were killed, Ein az Zeitun-70, Lydda between 250-400, Safsaf-94, Duwayma-80-100, Kufr Kasem-50, and others, caused a panic among the unarmed Palestinian civilians. No one wanted to see their families brutally cut down by a people who had proved that killing Palestinians was enjoyable.
For years, my father-in-law lived in a refugee camp. It must have been unbearably painful to know that the few days he thought he and his family would be away from home turned into an eternity. He never saw his beloved orange orchards again. He was never again to ride his white steed on his nightly excursions to the borders of his land making sure no one approached who meant to harm him or his family. He was never again to sit in the quaint coffee shops where evenings smelled like jasmine, roses, the sea and hope and dreams.
He lost all that forever. People like Ben Gurion Shimon Peres, Golda Meir, Moshe Dyan, Yithak Rabin and Ariel Sharon came and confiscated Palestinian land and murdered Palestinian women and children along the way. Some of my husband’s family recently returned to his village for a visit. There was nothing left standing. Nothing but an old stone schoolhouse for boys and a gas station.
All the trees my father-in-law had loved and cared for, had been cut down. Cut down just like the people who remained in the village. All the houses had been destroyed. A whole way of life had been wiped out forever. The invading Jews did not love the trees, did not value the orange orchards, and did not care for the fertile land that they had stolen. The fields lie empty now. Wild grass has cropped up in bunches where some tree stumps still stand.
The house where my husband spent his early years is gone. The garden where my mother-in-law planted every kind of vegetable has turned to weed. The village itself is a ghost town and there are no visible signs of life but for a small cafï¿½ on a corner crossroads owned and run by Israeli Jews. There are hundreds of similar Palestinian ghost towns throughout Israel. An eerie silence hangs over the amputated trees, over the sea, and in the still standing helter skelter houses that were not demolished. There are no longer village women to fill their urns from the natural wells that abounded. There is no village oven to bake fresh bread for hungry village people. There is no irrigating sprinkler that my husband used to run through in the wild wonderful summer days of his long ago.
The invading Jews have taken it all. They have taken the land, demolished most of the homes, the cafes, the ovens, the coffee houses. They have uprooted the trees and destroyed the gardens. They have robbed a people of their way of life and their right to live on their own land in their own country.
But it did not all stop in 1948. It didn’t end in 1967. Today, it is as brutal as ever before. Palestinian refugees cluster in what is left of their country, trying to raise whatever they can to eke out a living. And everywhere, the Jewish invaders invade. They build settlements on the remnants of Palestinian land. They shoot from Palestinian hilltops, down into Palestinian villages and kill Palestinian women and children. They go on rampant killing sprees and laugh and joke about the Palestinians they killed or injured for the day. They continue to uproot trees and destroy crops. And as if this is not enough, the Israeli army digs moats around Palestinian cities, bombs Palestinian civilians, shoots at mourners in Palestinian funeral processions and by air, land and sea, assassinates Palestinian sons, brothers and fathers.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon mentioned recently that he envied the way Arabs love their land dunam for duman. His plan is to confiscate more land of “dunam after dunam” and dispossess more Palestinians. He wants to either drive them out or kill them off. Human life, as long as it is not Israeli, means nothing to him. His has forged his way to becoming prime minister over the dead bodies of Palestinians and Lebanese. He covets what is left of Palestine.
But he will never love every tree, every forest, every animal, and every bird that inhabits Palestine. He will never listenï¿½really listen to what the birds are singing or hear the stones outcry in protest to his brutality. He will never understand the land, for it has a soul of its own and that soul is Palestinian. Palestine is the baby that both mothers claim as their own. Israelis don’t care how much of the land they desecrate or destroy, how many Palestinian bodies are buried, how many trees they tear down, or how many farms they overturn. For they are not the real mother of the baby. They don’t care if this baby is cut in halfï¿½they just want the baby even if it dies. Only Palestinians are the real and rightful mother of Solomon’s baby. They cannot bear to see the destruction of their country and their people that is taking place before their very eyes. And as Israelis exterminate the Palestinians and tear out the soul of the land and the hearts of the indigenous inhabitants, in so doing, they destroy themselves.