There Were Three Trees in the Garden: A Midrash

by Rabbinical Student Alana Alpert

In Al Arakhib, tree planted by JNF

And the Lord God caused to sprout from the ground every tree pleasant to see and good to eat, and the Tree of Life in the midst of the garden, and the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:9)

There were three forbidden trees in the garden: the Tree of Life, the Tree of Knowledge, and the Tree of Violence. The Tree of Violence is placed just behind the Tree of Knowledge, for it only takes effect after you become aware of right and wrong. When you eat of its fruit, what you have learned to be true will become false and what you have learned to love will turn against you. Were Adam and Eve to eat of this fruit they would not have been banished – remaining in the Garden of Eden, suddenly a scary place, would have been punishment enough.

It’s been hard year in Israel, when things that had once seemed benign, good, or even perfect, slowly become shadowy, even threatening: A Jewish star, a blue box, a flag…

There is a particular pain that comes when my religious and cultural symbols are being disfigured, when violence is being done to and issuing from them. But the sinisterization of the most basic human symbol, a tree, is a crime even harder to digest. The Jewish National Fund in Israel is using trees as tools of displacement, as facts on the ground, as soldiers in the quiet war against the Bedouin in the Negev. I will not easily forgive the JNF for making a tree something to fear.

But this is bigger than the JNF. Here are just a few examples of places around the country I have visited recently where theft is being perpetrated in the name of the environment:

West Bank: Wadi Kana has been declared a nature reserve by the Civil Administration and Palestinian farmers have been told to uproot 2000 trees from their own lands or pay for the cost of the bulldozers themselves. Of course, this designation has not affected over 100 buildings built within the “nature reserve” by Jewish settlements, which by the Civil Administration’s own law are illegal.

East Jerusalem: growth of the Palestinian neighborhoods of Issawiya and A-Tur is being prevented by the designation of parts of their lands as a national park.

Negev: the village of Al Arakhib has been destroyed and is being forested, in an effort to force its residents to move to the recognized Bedouin village of Rahat.

I offer the words of naturalist Enos Mills:

The forests are the flags of nature. They appeal to all and awaken inspiring universal feelings. Enter the forest and the boundaries of nations are forgotten.  It may be that some time an immortal pine will be the flag of a united peaceful world.

Ken yehi ratzon – May it be God’s will.

To read more about the “forestation” Al Arakhib and take action, click here.

To read more about the “Nature Reserve” in Wadi Kana and take action, click here.

To read more about “National Parks” in East Jerusalem, click here.


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