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Photo Essay: The Olive Tree “The Enemy Soldier”

Friday, November 4, 2016 - Thursday, November 17, 2016

| $5

War on Olive Trees
A Photo Essay by Rehab Nazzal

Exhibition: Friday, Nov-4 to Wednesday, Nov-17
Opening Reception: Friday, Nov-4 at 7 pm

The olive grove was always green;It was, my beloved.
But tonight; The blood of fifty victims; Has turned it into a red pool.
                                                                                                       Mahmoud Darwish

This photo essay presents a visual account of Israel’s colonial-settler encroachment into the West Bank. It focuses on the confiscation of the last remaining agricultural and recreational land of Bethlehem district and the uprooting of its ancient olive trees. The images, captured between August 2015 and June 2016 show what the land has endured from the start of its annexation to the erection of a section of Israel’s Apartheid Wall. While the images depict Israel’s land grab in the Bethlehem region, they also illustrate its uprooting of hundreds of thousands of olive trees along the route of the Wall across the West Bank.

Under the pretext of security, the land of Bethlehem Cremisan Valley, privately owned by 58 Palestinian families as well by the Salesian Sisters’ Convent and School and the Salesian Monastery and Cellars has been a target of annexation for many years.  By confiscating 3000 dunums or 3.0 square kilometres (741 acres) of the Cremisan Valley, mostly planted with olive and fruit trees, Israel entirely isolates Bethlehem from Jerusalem.  At Greater Toronto Area development land prices, the value of 741 acres is almost $2 billion.

In the morning of August 17, 2015, Israeli state bulldozers arrived in the targeted land of Beit Jala in the Bethlehem district, and, guarded by military forces, began destroying the site and uprooting olive trees. While Israeli bulldozers, soldiers armed with rifles, teargas grenades, and sound bombs, and military vehicles equipped with teargas launchers, stood on one side, on the other side stood enraged civilian protesters, including the landowners, Christian religious figures, community leaders, and local and international activists.

The Nakba was brought into the present. The Zionist myth of Palestinians “abandoning their homes and properties” collapsed in the live scene of colonial power versus indigenous peoples.

The title of the Exhibit is inspired by this quotation:

When I ask him how his uprooting job fits with the Biblical prohibition on uprooting fruit trees, even if those are enemy trees in a time of war, Kishik replies, “[T]he tree is the source of the problem. It’s not just an incidental thing like [it is] in the bible. Here, the tree is not only a symbol of the Arab’s occupation of the land, but it is also the central means through which they carry out this occupation. […] It’s not like the tree is the enemy’s property, in which case the Bible tells you not to uproot it because it has nothing to do with the fight. Here it has everything to do with it. The tree is the enemy soldier.”

From an Interview with Chief Inspector Kishik, Israel’s Civil Administration, Beit El military  base, September 7, 2006.  Uprooting Identities: The Regulation of Olive Trees in the Occupied West Bank by Irus Braverman.  PoLAR Volume 32, No. 2 P. 237-263 , 2010. University at Buffalo Law School, The State University of New York (download).


Rehab Nazzal is a Palestinian-born multidisciplinary artist based in Toronto, Canada and Bethlehem, Palestine. Her video, photography and sound works deal with the violence of war and settler colonialism. Nazzal’s work has been shown in Canada and internationally in both group and solo exhibitions and screenings. She holds an MFA from Ryerson University (Toronto), a BFA from the University of Ottawa, and a BA in Economics from Damascus University (Syria). Currently, she is a PhD candidate in Art and Visual Culture at Western University (London, Canada). Nazzal has received awards and scholarships from Western University, Ryerson University, and the University of Ottawa, as well as grants from Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, and the City of Ottawa. She also is a recipient of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) doctoral award, and a multiple recipient of the Ontario Graduate Scholarship.

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Need to know:
– Doors open at 6:50
– $5 donation (suggested minimum)
– Accessible on demand via portable ramp; washrooms not accessible
– Please avoid using strong-scented products due to sensitivities

Tasty refreshments (non-alcoholic) with Zatoun oliveoil+za’atar dipping.