• Ibrahim Insights

Palestinian Olive Trees

Updated: Mar 9, 2021

A group of Palestinian children waved at me from a building rooftop in Hebron. Their faces, lit with the radiance of childhood innocence, resembled the future generation of Palestinian workers, educators, mothers, fathers. They would come to cultivate the lands their ancestors had once thought to be their own. These children’s hands would come to feel the dirt under the soles of their now tender feet, shaping olive branches in the form of Vs with their now delicate fingers and planting roots thought to last forever, for olive trees are said to last an eternity.

The Palestinian children waving at me from a building rooftop in Hebron were too precious for their time or place, or what—God forbid—fate may verily thrust upon them. At that very moment, their words knew no harm and their hearts knew no hate. Their hands knew how to wave, not how to pelt rocks or brandish fists toward the heavens. Life, as it appeared through their precious eyes, was simply precious.


As I smiled and waved, I secretly feared for the future of these Palestinian children on a building rooftop in Hebron. At what age would hate infiltrate their hearts? When would their hands no longer wave innocently at a foreign passerby but bear arms, willing and ready to inflict death? For a child cannot live as a child forever, and a Palestinian child cannot smile and wave forever.


However impossible it may have seemed to see past the innocent smiles and waves of the Palestinian children waving at me from a building rooftop in Hebron, I saw a future I did not want to see, a fate I did not wish upon any living soul. I saw olive trees on that roof, basking in the suns lovely rays, only to soon realize that their roots would in no wise grow through the concrete ground that would soon suffocate the existence of each and every olive branch their wailing stump could ever hope to bear. How will these Palestinian children bear?


Shawheen Rezaei is a member of the 2015 Ibrahim cohort.

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