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– The following Text is published in its German version in the Butzbacher newspaper on 31.12.2020
In Hesse recently, in the midst of the pandemic, the debate between politicians and climate activists escalated. It is about the clearing of part of the Dannenröder forest because of the cultivation of the A49 motorway. Unfortunately, the Griedeler Wald in Butzbach could soon suffer the same destiny. In parallel, a tragic scene of the environmental and human disasters in Syria came up to my mind. They all generated some comparisons and thoughts, between here and there:
Four years ago, I was a new arrival in Germany. One Christmas Day, while walking along the streets of Bad Nauheim City to do shopping and buy some sweets for my children, I passed by the Holocaust Memorial, the monumental bronze chair covered by a jacket as a reminder of the deportation of the Jewish community from their homes. Without hesitation, I threw my body onto the chair next to the jacket and let the thick cold December breeze pass between us. I closed my eyes, and didn’t have to travel back in time 70 years to feel the victims’ momentous misery, agony and fear while their roots were being cut down out forever from their nest of memories, from the soil that once nourished them. No, I didn’t need to, why should I, when the present replays a similar film on a different tape?. At that time, my memory was fresh, my wound was open. Aleppo City, then, was witnessing a mass evacuation of its people who were held in siege for several months. Old men, women and children, those who are the weakest targets and unfit for war were expelled. A photo, out of thousands, of an old dead man, caught my attention at the time. I imagined that he had walked and walked, then fainted, and finally had surrendered and laid down for rest, for death. His mouth was open, his bag was stuffed with his sweet memories and buckled with stripes of hope; it was beside him, dirty and calm. I imagined him struck down because of having been uprooted; an almost 90 year old man, who was raised in this city, could not bear exile, so he died on the outskirt of his beloved home. With all of these flying thoughts of here and there, the jacket on the bank, the suitcase on the street, I wrote a text about my thoughts and feelings. I ended up feeling grateful, grateful for a home to return to, to hug my children and plant joy, hope, and love in their hearts. The text was later translated and published in the Wetterauer Zeitung in the Christmas Eve of 2016.
Today, four years later, the whole story come back to my mind, and I wonder if stories ever leave us! Forgetting deeply is an act of dissembling. When I remembered that text, I was like any mother nowadays –multifunctional, cooking and reading the newspaper after finishing my call with my mother. So the stories dovetailed with each other. I wondered if it all came to my mind just because of the current deteriorating human situation in Syria that my mother had told me about in detail. With and without the pandemic or the American economic sanctions, there is nothing new there, no definition of a ‘decent life’ . People have done lots of farming this year since they need daily basic supplies with lower costs. However, they were distressed by the huge firestorm that blazed through the olive and apple trees last September and came up to the eastern woods of old pines, chestnuts and the rare cedar trees reaching as far as to the Lebanese forests. There was neither electricity to pump enough water, nor enough firemen and equipment to extinguish the flames. I would ask my mother: “But what to do? And how will all this come to an end?” And she would reply with a broken voice: “I don’t know! We are living just by chance!”.
Here, to the north-west of there, a completely different image bounced before my eyes while reading the newspaper. Although it has long been an essential part of the public debate and the media, the incessant and courageous demonstrations of the environmental activists against the deforestation machinery aimed at the Dannenröder Forest, triggered my memory to rethink it all in parallel. I asked myself: why do we think locally? Why not universally? Perhaps blessed is the one whose heart has two homelands?, two contrasting realities and two differently beautiful whereabouts. Thinking universally means, among other things, to think selflessly and thus to think for the future; while thinking with a limited perspective, locally, means judging things narrowly and momentarily. With the burning forests and fertile trees in Syria in the background, I asked myself: is a highway really more important than the natural living forest!
I was not raised in this country, I have not had childhood memories in these forests, but I have walked and still walk along in its arboreal paths. I’ve found solace under the shadows of the trees in the Griedeler Wald whenever I felt anguish in my heart. Indeed, I feel peace and serenity whenever I walk there, I enjoy being surrounded by all the voices, smells and the moist air tickling my face gently. Whenever I am there I remember a wise sentence I once read, that the ‘wilderness speaks to our own wilderness’ and that’s why we feel ourselves unconsciously fond of it. I may not know why, but what I deeply believe, from my own experience, is that cutting the roots is aggressive, brutal and painful; it is also unnecessary and can be undone.