Jerusalem is on fire

Last week, a wild fire broke out west of Jerusalem. The fire lasted about three days and was extinguished on August 20, 2021. Such a fire had a detrimental effect on the mountain’s landscape and heavily increased air pollution around Jerusalem. 

The fire’s rapid spread was difficult for Israel to contain. Major headlines may report that the difficulty of containing such a fire was largely due to the dry winter and hot summer. However, what such reasoning fails to acknowledge is the role that Israel has had in contributing to the intensity of the fire. Palestinian historian Johnny Mansour comments on that how the afforested villages were stripped of its oak trees once after the Nakba in 1948. Israel cut down native oak trees which are fire resistant and more adept to the local climate, with pine trees from Europe. Pine trees are much taller and more dry than the native oak trees and thus contributed to the vast spread and degree of the fire. 

The burnt pine trees offer further insight into the projects of the Jewish National Fund following 1948—which largely contributed to Israel’s non-native landscape. The native landscape of Palestine was intentionally changed by the settlers, to erase uprooted Palestinians’ connection to their land. The burnt pine trees revealed terraces along the mountainside dating back 400 years. Such terraces are strips of flat land along the mountain side built by Palestinian farmers as a agricultural tool that encourages irrigation. The terraces were covered by the tall pine trees in an effort to erase Palestinian legacy. However, the fire revealed the reality that despite strong efforts, such a connection could not be erased.