United Church of Christ

Under Trees

"In days to come,
all peoples shall stream to the Lord's holy mountain;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation shall not rise up against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more;
but they shall sit under their own vines
and under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid." - Micah 4:1-4

Years ago, several Israeli contractors overseeing the construction of the separation wall were prosecuted for stealing Palestinian olive trees. They'd been uprooting and selling them to Israeli settlers to create new gardens and parks. Trees they couldn't sell they destroyed.

To their owners, the trees were economic lifeblood. To the thieves and buyers, they were ornamental details. Neither contractors nor settlers, it seems, had read Deuteronomy: "Seek peace and pursue it. But even if you are at war with a city … you shall not destroy its trees" (20:19-20).

It doesn't seem they'd read Micah, either. God's will, the prophet points out, is for creation to enjoy an encompassing peace—no more war, no more walls, everyone sitting undisturbed under their own trees, not somebody else's.

It's hard to imagine such a peace while the strong still uproot the hopes of the weak just because they can. But faith asks us to imagine it anyway, stubbornly reaching for a shared humanity beyond the daily bulldozing of dignity, livelihood, and dreams.

I recently read about some Israeli rabbis who've started a tree-planting movement. Through their efforts, hundreds of new olive trees are taking root in Palestinian villages. It's a fragile gesture—a sapling is not a thousand-year olive. It can't bring back all that was stolen. But tree by tree, a little hope returns. Tree by tree, you see it, something new.

Prayer

God of peace, imagine with me. What small hope might I replant today? In whose demolished orchard might I sow some peace?

About the Author
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.

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