I just can't continue on with the day without reflecting on the strange irony that the other day I wrote about Trees of Redemption (at left - the olive trees or grape vines that would be planted, IY"H, on the Netzer Hill - in order to save the land between Alon Shvut and Elazar), the Trees of War (the olive trees planted by the Arabs and anarchists on Israel's land - in order to grab Jewish land in Central Gush Etzion) and then the Trees of Despair (at left - the majestic trees of Bat Ayin's forest that two years ago witnessed the murder of Erez Levanon, HY"D, and then this week saw the destruction of two Jewish homes by Jewish policemen).
I am at a loss about the seeming coincidence of the proximity of these "tree" stories.
GUSH ETZION & TREES
But then I thought about another tree in Gush Etzion, the Lone Tree (Etz HaBoded), the symbol of Gush Etzion itself. The ancient tree stands between the modern day towns of Kfar Etzion/Bat Ayin and Rosh Tzurim/Alon Shvut. The tree is quite possibly thousands of years old. It has seen many generations of Jews and others who have passed along its path. Perhaps our forefathers sat under its branches. Perhaps olei regel (pilgrims) to the Holy Temple stopped there in the shade. Just over 60 years ago, the tree watched helplessly as Gush Etzion's residents were taken into captivity, yet it stood tall as the children of Gush Etzion's defenders looked for its comforting form from far away near Kibbutz Ramat Rachel. In 1967, the Israeli Defense Forces rested there after having liberated the Temple Mount, then Rachel's Tomb and before their liberation of Hebron and the Cave of Machpela. Today, it stands like an old wise friend as Jewish children from all over Gush Etzion pay it a yearly visit, and as a welcoming site as visitors from all over the world photograph it from every angle.
The Lone Tree and all the trees of Gush Etzion have been silent witnesses to the glorious and turbulent history of our region. They have encountered friends, enemies, good men, evil ones, children, old folks, deer, fox and even stray dogs :).
They will be here, I suppose, even long after we've gone. And one day, IY"H, they will offer their shade once again to those pilgrims on their way to the Holy Temple and their fruits to children who will will run and play over our hills from Hebron to Jerusalem.
Now I think I feel better, and I think I'm going to go outside and hug my etrog trees.
On while we're at it, on to the real tree... "the Torah is a tree of life for all who cling to it..."