n March 30, 1976 hundreds of Palestinian citizens of Israel took to the streets to protest the confiscation of their land. The Sate of Israel had announced they were confiscating the land in order to build Jewish-only neighbourhoods and security bases on privately owned Arab land. Despite several communities being put under curfew in order to prevent the protests, hundreds of Palestinians within Israel took part in the demonstration. The protesters were met with a barrage of police and military. Six Palestinian protestors were killed, over hundred were wounded, and hundreds were arrested. This day became known as Land Day.
land confiscation and the violent repression of demonstrations are still part of the Palestinian experience. Most recently Israel has announced the confiscation of land in the olive orchards and vineyards of Cremisan, a monastery close to Bethlehem and one of the final green spaces people from Bethlehem can enjoy. It is a green space that MCC partner, Lajee Center, would use every summer for their MCCsponsored summer camp programming.
Lajee is a community center within Aida Refugee Camp in Bethlehem. With very little space in the camp, Lajee previously relied on Cremisan’s land to provide nature education for their children and youth. Therefore this year to commemorate Land Day, Lajee Center, along with other organizations from Bethlehem organized a tree-planting activity on the land of Cremisan. Over 200 children, youth, and adults gathered to plant olive trees on land that is threatened confiscation. Their action not only served as a demonstration, but also a reminder to the children and youth of their connection with the land. Kholoud Ajarma, activist, photographer and board member at Lajee took part in this action reported,
“On this day more than three generations of refugees gathered to plant olive trees on land that is in danger of being confiscated. It showed that the young people will not forget their rights… Olive trees are known for their strength and deep roots into the earth, and so is the Palestinians’ link with the land. We are rooted in this land and we will continue to do so.”
ere in Palestine, Land Day is not one isolated day t is a reality that many Palestinians live on a daily basis. Land confiscation, violent repression of demonstrations, arrests, and curfew are all part of the current reality that Palestinians face. Ajarma states, “In Palestine every day is land day as we continue to live under occupation and continue to be deprived from our right to our land. It is a day that reflects belonging to the land, to our country, and to our right to freedom.”
Therefore, this year Land Day protests were not only in commemoration but also in response to Israel’s closure of Jerusalem to Palestinians living the West Bank and Gaza. MCC partners Wi’am and Stop the Wall took part in a demonstration with hundreds of Palestinians from Bethlehem marching towards the wall waving flags, chanting slogans, and expressing their frustration their oppression and the occupation.
Thirty-six years ago, six Palestinians with Israeli citizenship died protesting the confiscation of their land and the denial of their rights. Today Land Day is a day that serves as a reminder of the collective oppression Palestinians experience whether they are within the Occupied Territories or within Israel. As Ajarma
“Land day is an opportunity to show the unity of Palestinians wherever we exist. It is not important where we live, what political party we follow, which checkpoints we pass or which settlement is built on the land of our city, or if we live on the historic land of Palestine or elsewhere. What matters on that day, is that we are all Palestinians, we all have the right to this land, we all have the right to justice and to have the right to self determination.”