Re-Planting Trees in Um Salamuna
On Wednesday, December 9th volunteers from PSP joined other international and Palestinian solidarity activists and farmers in Um Salamuna to continue the planting of olive and almond trees. This planting project is an effort to reclaim the land around South Bethlehem in an attempt to prevent the surrounding settlements from expanding into and occupying it. This project began in early November and has been very successful, despite repeated harassment from local settlers and the Israeli military. However, on Thursday, December 3rd settlers uprooted and burned several dozen olive trees that had been recently planted. When the landowner complained to the Israeli Police, he was told that it was only a few trees, and that he should be grateful more trees had not been destroyed, as they have been in surrounding villages. The Israeli civil administration showed up a few days later and told the landowner that unless he stops bringing internationals to the field, they will declare the hills a “closed military zone,” effectively preventing anyone — internationals or the landowner — from venturing onto the land. These threats did not work, however, and international activists have continued to work alongside Palestinians in an effort to repair the damage done by the settlers. On Wednesday, members of PSP and other international volunteers were questioned by Israeli military soldiers, but ignored their intimidation tactics and continued working in the fields all afternoon.