Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I Want to Save that Tree

I was talking to Elie yesterday about the event at Shmulik's base last week. There were so many things I wanted to write about, maybe post a picture or two. We talked about how the field went on fire after the shooting demonstration and how soldiers rushed to put out the fire. It's very dry in Israel for most of the year. The winter rain has ended. If all goes as usual, it won't rain again here - even once - for the next six or seven months. Explosives...dry ground...fire.

Sometimes they rush to put it out...sometimes they let it burn itself out - which can often be safer than allowing it to burn when they aren't watching it and prepared. Once, Elie told me, they had a major exercise that set acres of brush on fire. There was nothing around...they would let it simply burn itself out. Elie was the commander, the senior commander of the unit was in the same armored personnel carrier with Elie. Both were standing, able to see outside as the vehicle was driven across the terrain. Elie was in charge of instructing the driver; the more senior commander was in charge of watching all the other vehicles as they made their way back to base.

As they drove, the vehicles easily crossed some of the blackened earth, "there were even some small fires burning" that they drove past. All of a sudden, the senior commander ordered Elie and the others to change the path, "I want to save that tree."

There in the distance, there was a single tree...a fire was slowly burning a path towards it and this officer wanted to save the tree. They stopped the vehicle, jumped out, and between some soldiers beating the fire and the fire extinguishers from the vehicles, they put out the fire. The tree was saved.

Why do I tell you this story? I guess because this is a side of our collective personality here in Israel. Our land is precious to us...the trees are precious. No harm is done when the underbrush is burned away and often Arab and Jewish farmers set fire to the dried fields rather than leave them as potential fire hazards. But a tree...a tree is holy and special...even one...there in the distance.

1 comment:

Varda Meyers Epstein said...

Thank you for these words, Paula. Rabbenu Bahya, a medieval Jewish philosopher, wrote: "... the life of man and his food is [derived from] a tree of the field … and it is not the way of a wise and understanding nation to destroy something so worthy without cause. Therefore one should not cut down a tree of the field, but should protect it from destruction and damage, and receive its benefit."

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