Tuesday, November 1, 2016

To free the oppressed

This Fall, as I plant garlic in the fertile soil of Cody Creek Farm in Saugerties, I’m thinking of friends in Italy busy at the ‘raccolta’ in their olive orchards, the olive trees surrounded by ‘paracaduti’ (parachutes) to catch the hard green olives that will then be brought to the “frantoio” for pressing. I’m thinking also of families in Palestine harvesting olives with joyous shouts of “Yala!  Yala!”  “Let’s go!  Let’s go!” and many internationals who are helping with the harvest, protecting trees and harvesters from settler violence. I’m thinking also of the recently celebrated Jewish holiday of Sukkot, dual Feast of Tabernacles and of the Ingathering, where 40 years of Jewish wandering in the desert are commemorated and “booths” are built in memory of dwellings where farmers would live during the harvest. These are just a few examples from my own experience of the Fall harvest that carry mixed feelings of joy and sadness.

         I tend to see things cross-culturally and similarities and comparisons bring sorrow as well as joy.  Recent violence in North Dakota towards Native Americans of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and members of 100 more tribes throughout the U.S. and Canada by Dakota Access pipeline company security guards call up to me the past years of genocide of our native peoples and continuing indifference and inaction by us, the ‘powerful elite’ -- and also, those, like myself, who comprise the 99%! The Native Americans call themselves not ‘protestors’ but water ‘protectors’ and U.S. police have deployed tear gas, mace, pepper spray, grenades, bean bag rounds at them and shot rubber bullets at their horses. I regret that I have not been there to stand with our native peoples who are trying to save the water.  It happens that I was, however, a few years ago, in Bil’in, in the West Bank, walking peacefully with the Palestinian people on their land where their centuries’-old olive trees were being uprooted to fence them off from the building of settlements on their land; and tear gas, grenades, and ‘rubber’ bullets were used against these people trying to protect trees, land, and water. Devastation of the earth and people who tend the earth in both cases!

      There is a film “Two Blue Lines” to be shown this Friday night at 7 at the Woodstock Town Hall, filmed over 25 years that shows conflicting views: an entitlement to land versus a spiritual commitment to freeing the oppressed and asks whether people are safer segregated or connected to each other. Being both Jewish and American, I ask myself what am I doing to free the oppressed, what am I doing to protect our ancient landscapes, our water, our trees, our spring plantings, our Fall harvests?

Jan Toby

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