Land & People


Oasis of Biodiversity in Palestine

GPM # 56

Earth would do perfectly fine without people. Human beings are much less indifferent. Denied earth’s bounty, they’d be be nowhere. Nothing.

The bonding relationship begins with soil. From this most precious of substrates, food grows. And water springs, the sina qua non of life.

Equally precious are gifts that can’t be counted, measured or monetized: rootedness, memory, narrative, identity, belonging, heritage, tradition, continuity.

In the hands of those who covet land, Earth’s resources become weapons — vital resources to be denied, their indigenous stewards dispossessed, forcibly transferred, cleansed.

And replaced. Colonizers re-brand themselves as the land’s true, authentic and promised people.

This is the story of Palestine, its native inhabitants, and the colonizers who came from far away, claiming these lands as their own, a mere hundred years.

But, like Palestine’s gnarled olive trees — burned, chopped down and poisoned by the colonists and their military in the hundreds of thousands — Palestine’s native people are steadfast, and the final chapters of their struggle have yet to be written.

On a tiny patch of earth just south of Jerusalem, a pile of pages are being laid down and seeds sown by a Palestinian-American scholar/gardener/activist named Mazin Qumsiyeh and his green-thumbed, organizationally talented partner Jessie.

The Palestine Institute for Biodiversity & Sustainability, and Palestine Museum of Natural History, Mazin and Jessie call their enterprise.

Mazin and Jessie Qumsiyeh (David Kattenburg)

Clinging to the walls of a fertile valley beneath the city of Bethlehem, a half dozen kilometers south of Jerusalem, alienated from the holiest of Palestinian towns by walls, barbed wire and a string of mega-colonial settlements, boxed in by settler-only roads and militarized checkpoints, Jessie, Mazin and their friends are planting their native seeds, growing fruits and vegetables, raising chickens and rabbits and fish, offering up habitat for birds, insects and other wildlife. Rescuing their beloved landscape cruelly scarred by land thieves without true roots.

School kids and grown ups from up and down Palestine come to visit. So do international visitors and volunteers from far-off places. GPM correspondent David Kattenburg is one of them.

Listen to this report. Click on the play button above, or go here.

Thanks to Paul Tekenbroek for video production.