In Israel, native Israelis are called “sabra,” which means cactus. The reason that they are called sabra is because Israelis, like cacti, are prickly on the outside and sweet on the inside. There is a deep irony in this.

As you travel around Israel, seeing patches of cacti in the countryside lets you know that there was once a Palestinian village there. Palestinians used cacti as fences, to stake out and mark their land.

When you find cacti, you will also likely find piles of stones, the remnants of the house that once stood there.

I visited the village of Al Lajoun a few days ago, where cacti reveal the land’s history. There is not much to see there now, but it used to be a village that held promise. It was one of the very few villages before 1948 to have regular bus service throughout Palestine. Before 1948 the villagers had plans for Al Lajoun to become a major city.

We visited Al Lajoun wtih Abu Omar, whose grandfather was killed by the Israeli army in 1948, and who is now, along with other families from Al Lajoun, bringing a case to the Israeli High Court to try to get their land back. During the 1948 war, he and most of the villagers of Al Lajoun fled to Um il Fahm, now a Palestinian city within Israel (it is right outside the Green Line, and there have been suggestions by Israel to bring it into the West Bank in exchange for other other land to be brought into Israel).

The Jewish National Fund (JNF) is busy reforesting the village of Al Lajoun, where they make use of an old Ottoman law that says that if you work the land for 7 years, it becomes yours. This is a common practice of JNF. Thus, when someone buys a tree for Israel from the JNF, it is often wielded as a weapon. Meaning, The JNF plants its trees on Palestinian land to disguise the remnants of the villages there, and takes advantage of this law to confiscate the land.

From The Palestinian Talmud:
The Hebrew word talmud comes from the root for teach or learn, and means study. The original Palestinian Talmud is a 5th century rabbinic commentary on the 2nd century mishna (Jewish law code) that was composed in Palestine. This Palestinian Talmud is a contemporary rabbinic commentary on Palestinian daily life under Israeli military occupation.