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The Olive Tree 2011, 2011

On July 14th 2011, I bandaged a dead olive tree at the Hizma checkpoint located at the North-Eastern entrance of Jerusalem. This performance being part of a body of works striving to convey the existential dead lock of the conflict through absurd and Sisyphean acts of ‘healing’.

The tree had been uprooted and replanted years ago to beautify the walled landscape around the checkpoint. However it hadn’t survived this dreary environment and there it stood, dead, yet majestic in its bareness, an impassible witness to the flow of Palestinians and Israeli cars driving around it in some mysterious dance devoid of violence. The tree, carrier of many symbols, personified a silent casualty in the midst of this contested landscape. Filming the tree at dawn, the dressing ended at sunset. Curious onlookers stopped and watched as I carried on. Towards the end of the performance, I instinctively bandaged my feet, both as a protection from the thorns but also as an act of identification with the dressed tree. Upon ending the dressing, I stepped back; the tree looked magnificent in the reddish light of dusk. Dressed in white like a bride, it seemed to rejoice. Reuniting with Mother Earth, its loose straps of bandages dancing in the wind reaching towards the moon and the kites flying high over Hizma.

The next morning, to my amazement all the bandages had disappeared and no one, not even the Palestinian man flying his kites above the bleak naked tree, could tell me whom had stripped off the tree from its bandages. Two years later, in March 2014, I saw that the dead olive tree at the checkpoint had been replaced by a coloured sign with a huge howling wolf and little white houses with red roofs standing on a green hill.

In the video created in 2012, I decided to make a tribute to mothers on both sides of the wall, so I contacted Ruth Wieder Magan and Salam Abu Amneh and both immediately agreed to participate. Ruth sang Ladino and Hassidic songs and Salam, Palestinian traditional songs.Their voices, soothing me as I dressed the olive tree, wept for the dead olive tree and for Jerusalem, the mother of all cities, now surrounded by new walls.


Video: “The Olive Tree” 12:52′

Script, director and producer: Ariane Littman

Cinematographer: Ran Aviad

Editor: Tamar Gan – Tzvi

Soundtrack designer: Marcello Pilewski

Original Music and melodies: Ruth Wieder Magan and Salam Abdu Amneh

Ariane Littman