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      Jews, Arabs Work Together to Save Hevron's Olive Trees

      Jews and Arabs work together to save ancient olive trees near the city of Hevron.
      By Maayana Miskin
      First Publish: 7/12/2010, 12:58 PM / Last Update: 7/12/2010, 1:56 PM

      Israel news photo

      Residents of the Hevron area are concluding a weeks-long battle to save ancient olive trees next to the city. The project brought together Jews and Arabs from Hevron.

      The ancient trees of Tel Hevron – some of them up to 2,000 years old – were endangered by a parasitic plant known as divkon hazayit. The plant was first discovered growing on the trees last year, and quickly multiplied, threatening to devastate the area.

      The danger was spotted by Noam Arnon, spokesman for Hevron's Jewish community, who noticed the invasive species taking root while hiking through the area. He contacted the Ministry of Agriculture and the IDF Civil Administration to warn them.

      Ministry of Agriculture workers were sent to the region and confirmed that without treatment, many trees could die. They created a plan of action to save the trees.

      Over the course of several weeks, volunteers from both the Jewish and Arab communities of Hevron went from tree to tree and pruned off the invasive species. Olive tree branches found to be infected were cut off and burnt.

      Some trees were so badly infected that they were cut down completely, leaving only a stump. However, olive trees are known for their ability to regrow, and experts say even those trees left with no branches at all will eventually flourish.

      While the media often prefers to focus on Jewish-Arab tensions in Hevron, there is not insignificant Jewish-Arab cooperation in the city as well. In 2005, Arabs and Jews united in order to expel extreme-left foreign activists from the city. In 2008 an Arab sheikh prevented left-wing anarchists from destroying the Hazon David synagogue; Arab and Jewish leaders later sat down together in an attempt to create friendly Muslim-Jewish ties.

      In April, local Jews and Arabs worked together to restore an archaeological site in Tel Hevron.