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Tree Day: A reminder to fight land confiscation and safeguard Palestine’s ecosystem

Jerusalem24 – Amir Elkadi – Every 15 January, Palestinians celebrate Tree Day by – of course – planting trees, and raising awareness about their importance and their role in safeguarding our environment.

Events are organized by local Palestinian municipalities, schools, and various civil society organizations, promoting tree health and reforestation, and the conservation of natural resources.

Not only do trees play a vital role in maintaining the balance of the environment, providing oxygen, reducing pollution, and protecting soil and water resources, they also provide food and shelter for wildlife, and are an important source of livelihood for many communities. A stellar – and pivotal – member of the Palestinian ecosystem.

“It is of utmost importance to protect our lands and trees, especially olive trees and other indigenous trees,” Hanan Kaoud, local council member in Ramallah Municipality, tells Jerusalem24.

“Commitment and love to the land”

In an effort both to preserve the local environment as well as combat climate change, the team at Ramallah Municipality has been looking to land cultivation. “We gathered as a municipality team with young men and women,” explains Kaoud, “with whom we aim to expand our relationship with the land through planting varieties of trees.”

Kaoud says this act is a confirmation of their “commitment and love” to the land.

“For us, raising awareness on the importance of greening public places and land, is one of the most important achievements over the years.”

“We believe that land cultivation is a way to preserve the environment and confront climate change that affects the globe in general, Palestine and the Palestinian lands in particular,” she adds.

Children participate in events organized by Ramallah Municipality on the occasion of Tree Day on 15 January 2023. [Source: Ramallah Municipality/Facebook]

“Immediate intervention”

And Palestinian lands and their defenders do indeed face a particular set of challenges – some stemming from the Israeli occupation, some from local practices, and others from the changing climate itself.

“A main challenge we encounter in our work is the limited areas of agricultural activities in Ramallah, where lands are mostly privately owned,” explains Kaoud. “Also, many plants that are planted by our agricultural team and workers are being uprooted and destroyed by some people.

“These kinds of challenges require immediate intervention, through increasing awareness activities as well as including more organizations and institutes to participate with us in advocacy initiatives.”

Kaoud says another issue lies in certain areas not being cultivated due to a shortage of water or confiscation of lands.

In 1967, Israel implemented Military Order 158, which prohibits Palestinians from building new water infrastructure or extracting water from a new source without first obtaining a permit from the Israeli military. According to Amnesty International, this has led to a situation where Palestinians living under occupation have been unable to drill new wells, install pumps, or deepen existing wells. Additionally, they are denied access to the Jordan River and natural springs. Israel even controls the collection of rainwater throughout most of the West Bank.

Kaoud puts tree-planting forward as a small but important measure to remedy some of the fallout from Military Order 158.

Quality of life

In addition to helping combat drought, planting trees can also help to prevent soil erosion, create habitats for wildlife, and provide shade – as well as their crucial role in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

By supporting reforestation projects and community gardening initiatives, Palestinians can contribute to restoring the natural environment and improving everyone’s overall quality of life, says Kaoud.

Kaoud also encourages everyone to take steps to reduce pollution by practicing sustainable living, such as through recycling, using public transportation, and reducing energy consumption.

Supporting sustainable agriculture is another step that Palestinians can take to preserve nature, through sustainable farming practices such as crop rotation, natural pest control, and composting. Protecting wildlife is another step that Palestinians can take to preserve nature. By supporting conservation efforts and reporting any illegal hunting or poaching activities, Palestinians can help to protect endangered species and their habitats.

As part of Ramallah Municipality’s efforts to increase green spaces in the city, school students in cooperation with the municipality’s beautification department planted school gardens, 24 January 2023. [Source: Ramallah Municipality/Facebook]

The next generation

When Palestinians take care of their own immediate environment under occupation, this also yields the added benefit of resisting that very same occupation, according to Kaoud.

“What we can do is stick to our lands and plant trees. That is the only way to try and stop the violations we face as Palestinians from the occupation.”

Teaching the next generation about the importance of preserving nature is also crucial.

“We need to encourage young people not to only volunteer, but to reconnect with the land,” asserts Kaoud. “It’s the only way to promote our steadfastness, and contribute to increasing our [agricultural] productivity as a way to combat the occupation and enhance our livelihood.”

“Surviving our life has been our success, we are resilient and we will continue to do so.”

Listen to the full interview and find out more about the various activities for Palestine Tree Day on Vibes.

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