The opening of the playground in Salem is a landmark in a journey that began seven years ago (January 2003), when a small group of Israelis (who in time adopted the name: the ‘Villages Group’) began regular visits to the blockaded village of Salem near Nablus.
The opening of the playground in Salem is a landmark in an ongoing journey in the prevailing reality of the years 2001-2005 in the fields of the village of Salem, where the Israeli military prevents inhabitants from working their fields and olive orchards; where settlers from Elon Moreh and the nearby outpost settlement (‘Scally’s farm’) do as they please in the area, burning, cutting down and destroying the olive orchards of the people of Salem.
This reality made founding member of the ‘Village Group’, Uri Pinkerfeld , initiate a widespread ongoing operation under the banner: ‘rehabilitation of Salem Olive Orchards’. This operation has gone on for over two years, with the cooperation and coordination of Salem council and inhabitants and with the help of many Israeli volunteers and organizations, among them the Kibbutz Movement and ‘New Israel Fund’. As a result of their efforts, a large part of the village’s agricultural land has been restored to its owners and many plots that were badly damaged by neighboring settlers have been rehabilitated.
The opening of the playground in Salem began with a ceremony held in London two and a half years ago; a ceremony at which the British branch of the ‘New Israel Fund’ awarded Uri Pinkerfeld a prize for his initiative in rehabilitating the olive orchards of Kfar Salem. Uri decided to use the prize money to build a playground for the children of the village on a site known as the ‘little spring’.
The opening of the playground in Salem is the direct result of construction work on the site of the ‘little spring’ undertaken these past two years by a devoted team from the village, led by Ahmed Shatiya (Abu Zaki) with the ongoing support of Uri and his Israeli friends – Moti, Buma, Michal and others.
The opening ceremony of the playground on 9.1.2010 was attended by the head of the Salem Village Council, members of the village council, many inhabitants and children, and about 20 Israelis.
At the ceremony, Uri spoke the following words:
“This place is known as ‘Hadikat El-Ein – the ‘garden of the spring’ and the spring is known as ‘El-Ein El-Zarira’ – the ‘little spring’ and today it becomes a great spring. The spring garden is not only a playground it is also a symbol; a symbol of joint initiative and work and a symbol of joint resistance to the occupation. A joint struggle of Jews and Arabs in Palestine and Israel. Israel and Palestine is a common homeland for returning Jews and local Arabs . The joint struggle is very important. It is a struggle against evil and violence. A non-violent struggle of the people. May the future bring us a life of peace and goodwill together.