A Cyprus - I Hadn't Planted
In Degania there is a cyprus. We have one too.
When the people of Degania arrived at Um Juni they made some important decisions. Among other things, they said that the houses in which they would live would be built with their own hands and that they would also plant trees. When planting a tree, they thought, not only in Degania, when Jews plant a tree in the Land of Israel, they are getting a stronghold on the land.
A cypress tree has a network of roots that is not very branched out. Although its main root is not so impressive, a cypress, after all, it is not a pine nor a nettle tree - yet it spreads its roots out as much as necessary. In this way, a cypress tree can turn into a sought after - windbreaker: a row of cypress trees could thus, shelter groves and orchards by providing their share (protection, security against stormy winds), while the orchards provide their share (as a means of income, the possibility to live). This reflects coexistence and reciprocity, in its full significance.
When the people of Degania planted their cypress, they never imagined that it and they would become a symbol. Not like these days, when people approach public relations experts and say: We want to become a prestigious symbol (of the shining tooth, of the polite seller, of the wise statesman, of the working settlements) that we would pay for. The Degania people did not think they would become a symbol, nor - to a hundred kibbutzim. They did not wake up every morning to see what was written about them in the newspaper. They sufficed with what they wrote about themselves.
When our friends first got here, in the Western Galilee, they also planted trees, and lots of them; fruit trees, ornamental trees and cypresses: pyramidalis cypresses, horizontal cypresses, Arizona cypresses, and swamp cypresses, even though there were no swamps. The landscape man planted them, aided by a vegetation company, called Horesh Eretz Israeli. Between the terebinth and the carob, the cypress trees found a place to grow, that is the swamp cypress trees. In the given conditions, where there is no excess water, they occasionally show signs of withering.
They planted cypress trees in the orchards as windbreakers. They were also planted on the sides of the entrance road, separating the residential area from the work area.
A bar mitzvah boy once wanted to write a book about the history of our community based on the trees. What the trees tell about the history, the boy meant. It never got off the ground.
He had a problem: there was no one to help him to pursue it. The boy encountered a row, actually, the remnants of a row of cypress trees. And went to inquire why these trees were taller than the rest of the cypress trees. Anyone can see these trees now as well. One of them is near the shelter, on the grass that borders with the huts neighborhood. Two trunks and a single tree top, upright and handsome. Twin cypress trees.
Not far from there is a room where they testimonials are recorded from members who tell about their experiences during the Holocaust. The members relate, in all their difficult stories, how, when they returned from all the disasters they had undergone to what was their homes before the war, they found that the houses were inhabited, that they had already been occupied by locals. Some of them came close to their house and did not have the guts to enter them but also those houses - were inhabited by others. And they had decided to build their homes in the Land of Israel. And here, suddenly, a child comes and asks why this cypress is bigger than the rest of the cypresses?
These cypresses, we must understand, were already here when arrived. They were planted by the villagers who preceded us. Once I visited the village of Sheikh Danun.
Residents told me that they work outside of the village, in Nahariya, in kibbutzim, in the Shavei Zion recreation center. I asked them, why aren't you farmers like the inhabitants of your neighboring villages. The man took me by the hand, took me to an observation spot, pointed to the settlements below and said that his land was being cultivated by the people of the neighboring moshav. He mentioned the names of the moshav residents' names one by one.
In those days I revealed to my students the secret of the "old" cypresses and made it clear to them that there may be a connection between them and the shelters we have been building.
We had learned that we must pass on a legacy, to our children, since whoever planted trees, he was convinced that he was creating a root. We should not, we thought, raise children only on words or adages. Children should grow in landscapes: they have to enliven the land. Those who enliven it and care about the trees also ask about these cypresses. There is no way out. If we do not deal with the problem, there will always be someone who is hostile and determined to explain - who will remind us that the road is not simple:
We had arrived – we planted – we cultivated with our bare hands – we stroke roots – and it is ours. I am certain that inhabitants of the refugee camps in Lebanon never give thought to the cypress trees, they aspire for much more.
Nowadays, we witness the opposite of the Isaiah's - the cypresses are "beaten" into the swords. 'Will there always be war?' - is a question that follows us our entire lives. However, if one does not place the question on the agenda, it does not mean that it does not exist. When we explained to the children that also we had our own piece of land, we said it truthfully. When we said that it was being conquered with work, with sweat, not with words, we said it faithfully. However, when we refused to relate to the problem as a problem of two population groups, we lacked a genuine component of the question. And therefore, we are not proceeding in the way possible to find an answer, even a partial answer.
We have planted many trees. The cypresses in our yard are beautiful. Every guest says so, and we also feel this way. Like the people of Degania, we also take pride in our cypresses. But in the yard, there was also that cypress tree, the twin cypress. The cypress that we did not plant.
We must confront facts, not ignore them, since, otherwise the children grow up and sometimes tell us that they can see the lies on our faces.