June 2007


Devora Neumark and Tali Goodfriend
Photo Credit: Louise Lachapelle

Performing Solidarity : Jewish/Palestinian alliance-building, street art interventions, and the power of symbolic encounters

One year almost to the day after the collaborative performance and how shall our hands meet? Tali Goodfriend and I once again took to the streets, this time in association with a coalition of protestors denouncing Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land and its practice of apartheid. For several hours, walking in front of a crowd of about 1000 people all marching for peace, Tali and I carried an uprooted olive tree symbolizing the ongoing cycles of displacement and related destruction of nature. Dislocated individuals, the communities they leave behind, and those into which they subsequently integrate, are part of an increasingly fragile ecological balance. As Dr. Vandana Shiva points out in her introduction to Close to Home: Women Reconnect Ecology, Health and Development Worldwide: “Ethnic conflict, xenophobia, fundamentalism, and the rise of narrow nationalism are tearing apart the social fabric just as ecological destruction is tearing apart the web of life in nature.” However large the current human deracination problem, to truly understand the scope of the Nakba, one has to also take into consideration the environmental context including the uprooting of centuries-old olive trees by the Israeli Defense Force.

Unlike the zealous rants and passionate speeches that were proclaimed through the loudspeakers at Dorchester Square (across the street from where the Israeli consulate was at the time), along St. Catherine Street and in front of the Federal offices in the Complexe Guy-Favreau, people told us that our intervention moved them to tears. Many individuals made a point of thanking us for the haunting beauty of the gesture. Some even helped us carry the tree.

As we walked through downtown Montreal the tree’s roots were drying out and the intensity of the flower-scent grew almost overwhelming. It was heart-wrenching to us both to be part of what could have been the tree’s demise, and equally heart-wrenching to know that the acts of other Jews were participating as decidedly, if not more so, in the deracination of the Palestinian people.

After the march, Tali and I (along with help from friends and strangers who happened to pass by) planted the tree in a downtown park. Despite an initial period of shock, the tree has taken well to its new home. Someone has even placed a tree stake support system to help it grow straight. Most recently, the tree was displaced again as the park is undergoing a major landscaping reorganization.