We live in the now, the Bible was written in the then. I propose, and not alone, that, time flows from the past to the now, and not vice versa. It is extremely irksome, when someone interprets biblical passages backwards from modern understandings, and then uses that as premise to a conclusion. This is dishonest and logically false. This is a principle (past→now) that should hold! [not: ∵now→past∴now] Now, to use a biblical passage as a prologue to a current situation, I propose, is fair. Concentrating on two phrases, “portans ramum olívæ”* and “non succídes arbores”† (carrying an olive branch, and by no means cut down trees), I will apply, to current situations.
At a meeting, last night, one of the participants said, “Let’s offer an olive branch.”. In agreement, I responded, “Olive branches are cheap”, meaning as a gesture, and action, it is both easy, and if successful, efficacious. Now, Noë knew, this meant that God was appeased, sufficiently, so that man could return to the land. After this God sealed the peace with the appearance of the rainbow. The dove with the bough of olive, and the rainbow have been signs of peace.
Not being familiar with semitic languages, I will continue none-the-less, the equivalent of ‘non succídes’ is bal tashchit (do not destroy). For some, this takes on an environmental stewardship command. Truly, in many respects: pollution, desertification, urban sprawl, climate change..., this is an operant, and valid concept.
This biblical passage from the Books of Moses, prohibits military destruction of fruitful trees. The trees are non-combatants. Also, after the battles are done, and presumably peace arrives, the destruction lasts for many years, continuing the aggression into the supposed peace.
Still to-day in occupied Palestine, agriculture is a goodly portion of the economic base. Olives are the second highest export. Olive wood carvings are sold the world around, often with the buyers sentimentality in being connected with the Holy Land. Olive trees live in poor soil, and dry climate, and take many years to produce a good crop, and can live for centuries—a very good plant. They provide oil for soap, for fuel, for cooking, for church purposes. Olives as food are preserved for later use.
In the current troubles stemming from the Intifada, the destruction of the olive tree has been policy by the Israeli military and bandits. The first year, 2000, 374,030 trees‡ were destroyed. This has continued. The creation of the apartheid walls, serpenting Palestine, destroy groves, and deny access to remaining trees. It is ongoing. “Jewish settlers ”, amongst other acts, cut and burned olive trees at the beginning of this week.
As the lebanese have had the cedar as a national symbol and attachment, so have the palestinian arabs the olive. As in the 19th century american plains buffalo (bison) were slaughtered by army and settlers, so as to starve and destroy the indians, this is premeditated policy.
*At illa venit ad eum ad vésperam, portans ramum olívæ viréntibus fóliis in ore suo: intelléxit ergo Noë quod cessássent aquæ super terram.
And she came to him in the evening, carrying a bough of an olive tree, with green leaves, in her mouth. Noe therefore understood that the waters were ceased upon the earth. — Genesis viii. 11.
†Quando obséderis civitátem multo témpore, et munitiónibus circumdéderis ut expúgnes eam, non succídes árbores, de quibus vesci potest, nec secúribus per circúitum debes vastáre regiónem : quóniam lignum est, et non homo, nec potest bellántium contra te áugere númerum.
When thou hast besieged a city a long time, and hath compassed it with bulwarks to take it, thou shalt not cut down the trees that may be eaten of, neither shalt thou spoil the country round about with axes: for it is a tree, and not a man, neither can it increase the number of them that fight against thee. — Deuteronomy xx. 19.
‡Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture figures