Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Among the Date Trees

On the anniversary of the start of the Iraq bombing and invasion, i dug out a piece i wrote 10 years ago when i was in Iraq with CPT and Voices.

Feb 7, 2003 -- Sitting in the shade of the palm trees, drinking fresh orange
juice, our hosts encourage us to eat more, drink more, enjoy the sun, enjoy
the company. The children are curious, our hosts relaxed. As the threat of
war looms like a firestorm on the horizon, here on this small fruit farm
the threat seems distant. The feeling is surreal. One of the boys sits next
to me and rests his head on my thigh. I love this child, who honors me with
his trust. More dates arrive, and cakes. But where, I wonder, are my
enemies here beneath the date trees? I feel no divisions here. Looking at
the table, an orange sits next to a grapefruit. Our host points out that
the skin is the same but for the color. Inside the fruit is so different,
but equally nourishing. "This is the greatness of God", he explains. I look
at his hand as he holds the orange, and I look at my hand too.

We take a brief tour of the farm, walking along a narrow path among the
orange, tangerine, and pomegranate trees, the date palms towering above us
swaying gently in the breeze. A boy no more than four picks dandelions as
he tags along (remember picking dandelions when you were just a child? It
has been too long since I have held that innocence, though it is a joy to
behold.) Our host picks oranges and insists that we eat. No is not an
answer, only yes,yes,yes. I recall the soldiers in the West Bank,
destroying olive groves under the guise of security. Where are my enemies?
Are they here amongst the silent trees?

We are invited inside to enjoy a bountiful meal. Our hosts stand behind us,
pulling tender lamb meat from the bones, and filling our bowls. The bowls
are piled high, a feast for guests who come in peace. (The skin is the
same, but for the color. The fruit inside so different, yet equally
nourishing, this is the greatness of God!)

Our leave taking is bittersweet. We place our hands on our hearts, and bow
our heads. We drive off with waves and shouts. Filled and smiling, the
truth is clear. There are no enemies here, just friends, just family. Will
we meet again? Inshallah (God willing), we will meet again, and peace will
fill the air as the date palms gently rock in the breeze.