Of Trees and Walls by Ela Lipaz, Israel

I was 26 years old, and I’ve never met the Palestinians who lived only 5 minutes away from my neighborhood. I stood at this beautiful observation point in Jerusalem and looked upon the Palestinian villages near Bethlehem. My entire life I was living here, but I’ve never visited them. Next to me were standing a group of tourists that came to learn about the conflict. Their guide started to tell them about the barrier.

“It depends on who you are asking. Israelis will call it the security fence and Palestinians will call it the separation wall. Some people will also claim it’s actually illegal because it was built on Palestinian lands, and the land we see before the wall belongs to Palestinians farmers”.

While he was telling them about the barrier that separates the Israelis and the Palestinians I remembered the year it was built. I was a scared teenager, growing up in Jerusalem during the Second Intifada. I did not care about the lands, the trees, or who it belonged to. I only cared that the killings would stop, that buses would stop exploding, and that maybe I could go to the mall and be a normal kid.

Years later when I stand here, I ask myself if this is what stopped the terror, and more importantly is this really the reason I’ve never been to those villages or met the Palestinians who lived there. I then realize that it’s a lot more than just this fence, this physical barrier. There’s a psychological barrier that we hold, a barrier that was created after years of agony and pain. A wall that is much higher than any physical wall. It’s a wall that was created during years of us losing people we love. People that died for this land in front of me. This land that we still fight for. We say it belongs to us, they say it belongs to them, and there’s no solution on the horizon. But maybe the solution is in our own perspective. If we realize that neither of us owns this land, but all of us belong to this land, we will start seeing things differently.

I looked at the view again, and suddenly I noticed that there’s something else that separates us. Between my neighborhood and theirs, there are olive trees

From that day that I stood in front of the fence, I decided that I will choose to look at the olive trees instead of the walls. On that day I realized it’s all a matter of perspective. Trees that are the symbol of hope and peace. Trees that I saw but were blending into the view of the fence. If we choose to see the olive trees instead of the walls, maybe but just maybe our kids will grow up in a better future.

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