Editor’s Note: This is the fifth post in a series on Arts-Based Research in Anthropocene edited by Amrita DasGupta
Author’s Note: The militarized occupation of Palestine has carved up a landscape, distributing the scraps to the highest, or rather, most violent bidder. Many Palestinian communities with strong place-based identities grieve the loss of home. Others fight daily battles to preserve and plant the smallest seeds for their future. Reflecting on a series of recorded and transcribed interviews with community leaders in Palestinian environmental organizations in 2019, I will use the medium of haiku to tell their stories on an emotional level. By moving beyond analytics and into art, this collection will communicate to both the mind and heart.
The realities of military occupation touch all corners of Palestinian life, from realms sacred to secular, rooted to mobile, and relational to estranged. Occupation creates artificial islands controlled by walls, fences, and guns. These islands determine ecosystems; separating communities human and non-human alike.
Land is a friend, mother. Communities with strong place-based identities grieve the loss of their homes, or perhaps a familiar olive grove or a faithful lemon tree. Many continue to resist displacement. Others long for the day they can return home, key still in hand.
This collection of haiku presents findings from a series of interviews with community leaders in Palestinian environmental organizations in 2019, days spent learning how to care for the land, winding drives with friends, and chaotic bus rides.
Carve up a nice slice
Of land that fed your mother
And swallowed you whole
Farah, meaning joy
Stretched as if a rubber band
Across the green line
During the month of Ramadan, permits are issued to some Palestinians living in the West Bank, allowing them to cross artificial boundaries to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, where prayers, and politics, are multiplied five hundred-fold. In 2023, the convergence of Ramadan, Passover, and Easter kept nations on the edge of their seats. Meanwhile, crowds searched for seats on the bus.
The personal is political, the analytical, an art. Grandmothers shuffle through checkpoints to pray. Soldiers take the bus to the beach. Teargas clouds the place that once made Jesus weep.
Letters on fencelines
Speak of security threats
Olive tree terror
Seek a bird’s eye view
Rolling hills and sunset hues
Meet an endless wall
And decades later,
Did the seeds of peace bear fruit?
People are hungry
Peace- imagined as two parties at the table- is dinnertime diplomacy. But what happens when one is served a meal while the other watches on? Is dialogue possible when one sits and the other stands? An environment made inaccessible is not a tool for peace.
In Area C, Palestine, at Tent of Nations Farm, a family farming for generations is not allowed to manage their own land. They receive military demolition orders– for trees and tents– via fluttering letters tied to fences in the corners of their fields, 30 days to respond. Message in a bottle, with no intentions of reaching shore. Notice of battle with the olive grove.
“For security reasons”
A checkmate blank check
A table for two
Set with a meal for just one
A daily conspiracy
Who’s fault for this mess?
Interrogate power when peace is named. Power builds settlements while demolishing homes. It extracts resources from someone else’s soil. It controls the pressure of water in the kitchen, the collection of waste in the streets: apartments more political than parliament.
Featured image: Olive Tree that Witnessed Tears at the Garden of Gethsemane. Photo by the author.