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‘I am here because this is our land’: Planting olives trees to mark Land Day in Al Walaja

Israel/Palestine
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On March 30, 2018, the village of Al Walaja welcomed Palestinians from Jerusalem, Battir, Bethlehem, and from other areas to mark Land Day. The village, located a few kilometers away from Bethlehem, has lost most of its lands since 1948, in successive waves of confiscations and land grabs, from the Nakba, to 1967, the building of the settlement of Har Gilo and its access road, as well as the Separation Wall which will totally surround the village. The latest development to upset the villagers was a fence constructed by the Israeli authorities around the old Spring Ein Haniya, an area which belonged to the village, and that is now unaccessible to its inhabitants. A new checkpoint will be placed to ensure that the Palestinians will not access it. It is now part of the new Jerusalem Park.

Palestinians walk through the mountains during a day of planting olive trees to mark Land Day in the West Bank village of Al Walaja, March 30, 2018. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians medics pose for a photo during a day of planting olive trees to mark Land Day in the West Bank village of Al Walaja, March 30, 2018. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians walk through the mountains during a day of planting olive trees to mark Land Day in the West Bank village of Al Walaja, March 30, 2018. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Hayat, 54, a woman who came from Jerusalem said, “this is an important event for us every year. The Israelis are taking everything from us, even breathing. And still it’s not enough. I believe our kids have the right to eat from this land. We want to show to the world that we are fighting, in a peaceful way. This is my opinion.  I am not afraid from the Israeli soldiers. If I have to die here, so be it.”

Land Day is held every year to commemorate the six Palestinian protesters who were killed by Israeli police and army during mass demonstrations on March 30th, 1976. That protest was against governmental plans to confiscate Palestinian lands in the Galilee. Protest are held on this day by Palestinians every year in many locations on both side of the Green Line.

Palestinians plant olive trees to mark Land Day in the West Bank village of Al Walaja, March 30, 2018. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians plant olive trees to mark Land Day in the West Bank village of Al Walaja, March 30, 2018. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians write their names of the olive trees they just planted in the West Bank village of Al Walaja, March 30, 2018. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Despite stormy weather, the participants, who included many, planted dozens of olive trees in different locations in Al Walaja, sending a message of steadfastness to the world. Ali Khalil Al-Araj, a resident from Al Walaja, 50, said, “I am here because this is our land. We will stay here and we will defend it. My family just with the settlement and the road, we lost 50 dunums.  But we will stay and die here.”

Palestinians gather during a day of planting olive trees to mark Land Day in the West Bank village of Al Walaja, March 30, 2018. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

Palestinians gather around a fire during a day of planting olive trees to mark Land Day in the West Bank village of Al Walaja, March 30, 2018. (Photo: Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

About Anne Paq

Anne Paq is a French photographer, member of the photo collective Activestills. She is currently back in Palestine and working on a long-term project on Gaza called 'Obliterated Families'.

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One Response

  1. JosephA
    March 31, 2018, 11:28 pm

    Thank you for your reportage.

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