Being Peace 2019

Mediation in the Olive Groves

SanghaSeva | Meditation in Action
4 min readFeb 13, 2022

By Liz Mason
Deir Istiya — Palestine 2019

I rest my hands on the warm bark of a split olive trunk, feeling its rough, wrinkled skin on mine. This tree, scarred though centuries of growth, and dripping with ripened fruit, stands like a living statue of resilience.
Walking through the red soil, still sticky from yesterday’s rain, I navigate the now familiar limestone sticking
up like sharp ancient bones from the earth. The smell of soil, bark and olive leaves surround me, and above, the unwieldy branches twist upwards, leaves hanging haphazardly against the blue sky.

The call for prayer rises mournfully from the belly of the earth, reverberating around the hills until it settles quietly within my soul. Into the ensuing silence we are invited to call out the sights and sounds of Palestine as we walk rhythmically around the trees and over the rocks. Our voices call out, like a chant, a small prayer…

Debbie begins, calling out in her clear soft voice
“Welcome, Welcome”
A warm invite embracing humanity with open arms, each Palestinian with their own voice, but always spoken from the heart with optimism and joy. Different tones forming a symphony that makes a complex song into a clear and simple message. ‘Welcome, welcome’

We continue to walk slowly, the soil collecting on the soles of our shoes. Looking around me, I see the circle we are forming as we walk, sometimes meandering round an olive tree or standing up on a larger boulder. I call out into the silence
“The passionate hopes of young people”.
I smile as I remember the conversations, Sana who wishes to study media and eager to show tourists the land, history, and people of Palestine. Ibrahim, who is supporting his family with love and pride, in spite of all the hardships he faces.

“The school children calling out ‘hello’” Sarah chips in, just as I’m remembering the children in the olive groves trying out songs from around the world, embracing unfamiliar languages, transcending boundaries and history.

Chris invites my straying mind to return
“The voice of Aziz who has no hope of seeing his son again and doesn’t want to live any more.”
I try to imagine what it would be like if our sons in the UK had to leave our country and, due to an occupation, could never return. Never to be able to hug them again, never to be able to sit alongside each other sharing feasts and weaving dreams together. Yet knowing their leaving would set them free, it’s an unbearable dilemma.

Pause and breathe.

I notice my breath and the ancient trees I am immersed in. I climb up onto a smooth boulder that stands firm in our moving circle, independent of our narrative, independent of time. Our group walking slowly, reflecting, mindful that each step we take, is another step towards a new beginning. Small steps in the hope that others will join in.

Zohar speaks with a focused, steady voice, an Israeli on Palestinian land intent on transcending the destructive boundaries that people create.
“Volunteers giving Issa a lift to the olive groves, packing his wheelchair into his car.”
Issa continues to work, to move forward, immersed in a dance with freedom. I stand in admiration of his refusal to hold hatred in his heart. He demonstrates that peace is not a passive state of mind to obtain, peace needs cultivating.

Pause and breathe.

“The stories of prison and collective punishment.” Linda is walking, deep in reflection. We are all merged into the depths of human suffering with these Palestinians who have opened their hearts to us. Healing is a collective endeavour and an honour.

Pause and breathe.

“Feasting in the olive groves” calls out Nathan joyfully. Feasts laid out under a canopy of soft green leaves that cast welcome shadows onto the ground. We sat on the warm earth around bowls of hummus, yoghurt and pickled vegetables with stacks of fresh pita bread to mop it all up. The families urged us to join in the eating and the conversations that were mingled with laughter and tears.
I can still smell the fresh sage gathered for a sweet tea.

We walk, we pause, we breathe.

I feel the warm breath of the wind on my face and look up at the sunlight sparkling though the pale green leaves that dance in the gentle breeze.

We walk, we pause, we breathe.

I feel the silky leaves hanging from a young tree and rub a ripened olive between my fingers to reveal its glistening purple gold.

We walk, we pause, we breathe.

I hear the pattering of olives as they fall onto the tarpaulin placed beneath the tree. I close my eyes and see olives raining down in front of me. Furthermore, I am the abundant tree from which they fall; I am the harvest; I am this land; I am these people.

We walk, we pause, we breathe, until all that remains are footprints in the silence.

Liz Mason