Listen to the Almond Tree…
The olive season is over, trees shed their leafs, and the smell of smoke mixed with the fog fills the air. At home the family gathers around the fire to keep warm; it’s winter. The wind sings a song as it passes through the cracks of an old wooden door and into the courtyard. The puddles of rain water reflect the grey clouds filling what used to be a bright blue sky. On the inside wall of their storage room there is wheat that was harvested in early summer. Later that summer they brought in wine from the vineyard. Closest to the door is the freshly pressed olive oil. As the day closes tired eyes, the family lies sleeping to the sound of the leaky roof dripping, a reminder that more work awaits tomorrow. With the first ray of light ushering in a new day, the fog leaves the ground to reveal the desolate state of the land. Is all hope gone? An answer seems to be lost in the echoes of an axe collecting wood for the fire. The grass is too young to know, and a song in the trees is merely a memory. And the voice of the exhausted olive tree says, “Ask the almond tree.”
There stands the almond tree, bare from the stump piercing the ground to the tip tickling wind. Its pale bark is dry, and it’s skinny branches are like hands reaching out to hold on to something. What hope might one seek in a tree that looks sick or stricken by death? “Have hope,” said a small still voice, had it been louder it would have been a whisper. Such weak, yet sure voice could only come from the ill-looking almond tree. “I might not be as strong as the olive tree,” said the almond tree, “nor as tall as the cypress, but I know a lot about hope.
“I’ve seen many hot summers where I felt the sun burn my leafs. My roots dug deep into the ground to reach water only to find more bedrock. Then the farmer would come to quench my thirst with water from deep wells. I have hope.
“And when the fall comes with its yellow and brown dress blowing with its wind through my branches. Allured by the charming wind, my leafs leave me dancing their way to ground only to be swept away. Still I have hope.
“And in the winter I look around and see the olive tree in its beautiful posture bearing olives. It stands there with its friends, the cypress and the pine, wearing their green gowns, ever so ready for a cold winter. Yet I stand exposed, shelterless, shaking in the cold, I still have hope.
“A pilgrim once told me I am special, which couldn’t be farther from the truth, at least the way I saw it. He told me God said that He is like an almond tree. And who am I that the Almighty might say that He is like me? I am fragile, helpless in the heat of the summer and naked in the cold of the winter. The pilgrim explained to me God’s promise to Jeremiah 1:11-12 and that the Lord is ‘shaked’ in Hebrew. He said ‘shaked’ means almond, but also awake and watching. God is watching over His word to perform it.
“That is why I have hope. When the summer is hot and man is helpless in the face of the famine, God orders the clouds to cry tears of mercy to fill the valleys and wells. And when my leafs fall to the ground I am assured that I need to let go of past glory to receive a new one. Although I have to weather winter shaking in the cold, I have hope.
“I have hope because spring comes and while the trees sleep I awake. My blossoms come first, ever so white, ever so beautiful, as if it had snowed only on me. You can see me from across the valley and know that I, the almond tree, am blossoming, declaring the fulfillment of the promises. The promise that He takes care of me. That though my leafs abandon me, that He will clothe me with the most beautiful green gown a tree can wear.
“Therefore, O man, do not fret at the news of war. Look not at the smoke-filled fog, the cloudy sky, or listen to the lies of the wind sung through the cracks in your door. And when you sleep at night listening to the drops from the leaky roof, remember that you have a roof over your head. And when the fog disappears in the morning, look across the valley, you’ll see my white blossoms and hear my small still voice say ‘have hope.'”
(Written by Majd Shufani – Guide at Nazareth Village)
(Can you spot the almond tree in this photo?)