April 9, 2015
I went hiking around the desert with my family. It's part of the post-Passover tradition we have. We wandered through wadis and climbed over the remains of Byzantine terraces. We waded through pools of water and took a nap under a 2,000 year old tree (or so they say). The flowers were unbelievable. Our hike began with my 2 aunts telling my uncle to slow down the car so they could properly see and name that purple over there. And oh wait! That red one!! Is it the normal buttercup or is it a tulip?? The two sisters spent the entire hike naming each and every plant and calling each other to come and see what they found. The joke of the hike became that you cannot walk backwards under any circumstance. And yet they would continue to backtrack to see if that white flower was really a "milk-blossom" or not. The moment when I dissolved into a fit of laughter was when they whipped out their binoculars to properly identify a clump of flowers far away on a hillside.
I was struck by how much knowledge the two of them had. They grew up on a kibbutz in the Negev; the classic Zionist ideology instilled into them from an early age. They were raised to be pioneers, laborers, redeemers of the land. They learned all these names from the yearly class trips, which still exist in the Israeli education system. Kids travel all around the country with their class and are introduced to the land. There's even a song they sing, "My land of Israel is beautiful and blooming."
This reminded me of the weekend I spent in Bayt Jala with the Palestinians at the Global Village Square conference. We had an afternoon walk away from the hotel and as we wandered through the grass, the Palestinian women I was walking with were running back and forth naming every flower and picking them and teaching me what to call them in Arabic. The men had wandered off to pick almonds that were still green on the trees and eat them. One guy handed me an almond and as I bit incredulously into its fuzzy green exterior, he told me, "Welcome to Palestine."
The people who live here truly love the land. That is undeniable.