I was recently hiking at Juthour, an arboretum eco park on the outskirts of Ramallah, Palestine. It was just before sunset, and this February day was especially stunning. The air was clear and warm, but the earliness of the season meant there were no annoying bugs out yet. We could see clearly for an especially long distance all the way to Tel Aviv. As I walked up the hill with a couple friends, chasing the sun before it sank down into that western hillside, I thought of how grateful I am for Juthour's existence. My gratitude quickly turned into a desire to help Juthour grow, since I know that the land Juthour protects is under constant threat of development, bulldozing by Israeli extremists, poisoning by shepherds who fear the wild boar, and toxic construction waste dumping. Whew, that is a laundry list of threats to this beautiful land:
When I told Morgan, one of the co-founders of Juthour, about my urge to help preserve this piece of land, she suggested I write a blog post about it. So here is my little love letter list to Juthour.
My gratitude is especially deep when I think about these nine special attributes of Juthour:
- It's on one of the last undeveloped hillsides near Ramallah, so I don't see or hear construction noise as I enjoy nature.
2. It's proximity to where I live in Ramallah means that I don't have to make a day trip of it, and plan a hike only for special occasions. I can zip out there any time for a quick hike.
3. I can go with friends or alone, and feel safe because the friendly park rangers are frequently in the arboretum, and they expect to see me.
4. I can run on the dirt road around Juthour with my dog, without fear that people will stop and try to steal my dog because no one drives on this quiet dirt road.
5. Not only is there already an incredible variety of trees, flowers and birds at Juthour, but the park rangers are always adding more botanical treasures to this eco-park.
6. The park founders take action by reporting nearby illegal construction dumping, so I know that there won't be huge piles of trash around my hike, like there are in other hiking spots around Ramallah.
7. Juthour (which means "roots" in Arabic) is being preserved so that people can learn about and enjoy Palestine's natural beauty, so I feel welcome there as a hiker.
8. The park founders are dedicated to peaceful, non-violent resistance of the Israeli occupation of Palestine, so I'm supporting a good cause by supporting Juthour.
9. I can be inspired by the founders, who are resilient in the face of setbacks. I know when and if the Israeli government or extremist settlers destroy the trees in the park, the founders won't give up on saving the land, but will start planting the park all over again, always in a sustainable way.
I hope this natural treasure continues to grow and thrives so that Palestinians, expats, and tourists alike can enjoy the incredible sights and sounds of this special place. Are you a hiker and nature lover? Like the Juthour Facebook page to show your support for the eco park.
Top image credit: Juthour Arboretum. The others are from my Instagram feed, which you are welcome to follow.