Yesterday there were more arrests in al Walaja, the village west of Bethlehem which is being enveloped by The Wall, as people protested against the destruction of village land. Once again Dr Mazin Qumsiyeh was arrested by Israeli soldiers (for the third time), as were Sherin Al-Araj and five Israeli anti-occupation activists.
That news is bad enough but those arrested will no doubt survive. The same might not be true of al Badawi, the village’s oldest inhabitant. Al Badawi is a magnificent 5,000 year old olive tree, perhaps the oldest in the world. It stands in The Wall’s path and, according to reports from Palestinian news sources, Israeli bulldozers are edging ever closer. The fear is that this tree along with many others will be destroyed.
Al Badawi stands on the north-facing slopes of al Walaja which plunge steeply down into Wadi-el- Jundi where The Green Line follows the valley bottom and the Jerusalem to Tel Aviv railway line. On the opposite side of the valley, above the Biblical Zoo, is the site of the original village of al Walaja. In 1948 al Badawi would have been witness, in October of that year, to its conquest by Israeli troops. The inhabitants fled. Some made their way across Wadi-el-Jundi and built al Walaja again. 63 years later al Walaja’s existence is once more under threat. This time one of the world’s finest trees is threatened.