by John Newton Hickox, Dufer, Oregon
On my office wall is a big poster, the kind you find on a travel agent’s wall. The scene is Jerusalem’s Old City, the Dome of the Rock prominent at the center, printed in 1936. Even today most brochures promoting Holy Land Tours use this scene. But my poster is different in a couple significant ways. The city in the distance is framed on one side by an ancient olive tree in the foreground.
In 1936, olive trees were almost sacred to Palestinians. Even today, most Palestinians feel they have violated a deep covenant with their ancestors if they fail to gather the fruit produced by their trees. Every tree has faithfully produced fruit for hundreds or maybe thousands of years. Generations of families living near the cherished tree have relied on it as a staple of life. The tree has produced through good and bad times. Through long dry spells, the olive tree keeps on giving. The only requirement is that the olives be picked every year. Palestinians are distressed and guilt-ridden when olives are left on the tree.
My poster is different from contemporary ones in another significant way. Across the bottom, in large block letters, are the words: VISIT PALESTINE. On all current posters, the word “Palestine” has been replaced by “Israel.” Is this a big deal? To the Palestinians it certainly is.