By Alon Tal
Read Online or Download All the Trees of the Forest: Israel’s Woodlands from the Bible to the Present PDF
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Additional info for All the Trees of the Forest: Israel’s Woodlands from the Bible to the Present
Deﬁning a vegetative baseline is further complicated, because like so much in the Middle East, politics tends to sully objective observations and scientiﬁc debate. Modern Palestinian nationalistic narratives do not particularly see the erosion and deforestation as notable characteristics of historic Palestine. Rather they focus on the sustainability of Palestinian fellahin (peasant) agriculture—and the dignity and beauty broadcast by those olive trees and prickly pear (sabra) cactuses that endured centuries of hardship as symbols of the Palestinian people’s bonds to their homeland:∫ Palestinians draw connections between their ancient presence in Palestine and that of the ancient olive tree rooted in the land of Palestine.
In Genesis 13:5 we learn that Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had ﬂocks and herds and tents. But the land could not support them while they stayed together. And so in the ﬁrst documented case of sustainable stocking limits, they divided up the rangelands. The ecosystems that emerged from these prolonged interactions were anything but natural. Thus, by the time Joshua, Judges, and Kings ruled the ancient land Israel, the word wilderness was long since a misnomer. For forests in the land of Israel, ‘‘pristine’’ as a state synonymous with imperceptible human inﬂuence was already a romantic illusion that belonged to the distant past.
It was not just steep, rocky, and eroded lands that resisted British forestry efforts. The local Arab population also did not welcome the trees. This hostile reception translated into chronic disregard for grazing restraints, intermittent vandalism, arson, and even violence against forestry ofﬁcials. Moreover, the perplexing land registration dynamics, the political ambivalence that soon reigned among senior decision makers in London and Jerusalem, World War II, along with inadequate program funding and professional personnel, constituted a recipe for failure.