The Challenges Faced By The Palestinians As Highlighted In The Film Lemon Tree

The Lemon Tree gives a very different perspective on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Most material on the subject is focused on hard politics and justifications for both sides concerning historical and legal considerations. However, this film presents a unique perspective. This film is not about politics or legal arguments, but rather moral ones. Through the protagonist’s struggle in her lemon grove to keep it, the story depicts the palestinian people’s plight from both an emotional-spiritual level.

Salma, an Israeli widow from Palestine, is the subject of the film. Her son is gone and she is alone with an elderly man. He helps her tend to her lemon trees. It is her most prized possession and sits right at the border of Israel. The Israeli Defense minister moves in next door and sees the tree as a threat. Salma joins forces with Ziad, an attorney, to try to get legal action for her lemon tree. After a long and well-publicized legal battle, the Supreme Court ruled that the grove would be pruned to remove any threat. Salma regrets this decision. It is her only link to her past life. The lemon grove is a symbol of the happy times she had in her past, as her husband, father and son are no longer there. This is a sign of the struggles of the Palestinian people. They lost their land and way of living, and are spiritually persecuted every day as the Israelis surround them. Salma feels that the lemon tree is her last link to her family and her home country. In the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, she is determined to keep her cool. It’s because Israel has already taken most of what she owns and will take the lemon-grove. The flashback scene in which she remembers playing in the tree grove with her dad is a great example of the connection. The film cuts immediately to the construction of the wall. These images are juxtaposed to show her suffering from the Israeli presence.

This film provides a nuanced and balanced view of the role that Israelis are playing in all this. Israel, the Defense Minister, views Salma’s grove in a way that threatens his safety. This is representative of the current geo-political stance taken by Israeli officials regarding the remaining Palestinian land. The Palestinians possess a tiny fraction of the land and resources that Israel has, compared to what they had previously. They are still considered a threat to Israel’s strategic interests and are being persecuted and isolated. Although the Defense minister may have a considerable advantage with a guard wall, barbed wire fence and surveillance around his home and troops on his payroll, his strategic perspective leaves him wanting to get rid of the entire grove.

Mira, Minister’s wife is what makes this film so nuanced. Salma is someone she empathizes more with. She sees Salma as a poor, sad widow trying to protect her way of living as best she can. Mira is a symbol of many secular Israeli’s feeling the pain of the Palestinians because of their shared humanity. Mira wants her husband to be happy and she will do whatever he tells her to continue their life. However, Mira can’t help feeling for Salma because she has the exact same goal. Mira wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice much, while Salma would. In today’s Israeli society, many young Israelis are faced with the dilemma of choosing between honoring the nation and the people they love and supporting their fellow Israelis. This is illustrated well by the conflict between his wife and Minister.

This film highlights another real-world problem in the Palestinian struggle to hold on to their past ways while assimilating to western culture. Salma lives with her son in Washington D.C. He tells Salma to “Forget all the trees, come to America” but Salma refuses to let go. Salma is reminded every day by the reminder that her husband died, as she keeps her home stocked with his portrait. She refuses to accept compensation from the Minister for the loss she suffered in her grove. Assimilation to Israel’s new world is her main goal, the Minister offers her compensation. As a protest, she stubbornly refuses the offer to leave her grove.

Salma struggles to keep her old ways in check when she sees the attraction between Ziad and herself. It is obvious that she wants to abandon the past and accept Ziad’s love. She almost puts on her headdress when he visits her at night. But she decides to not. This is a sign of her desire to find something new. For her Ziad, it represents an escape from the expectations and rules imposed on her by her old life. Her dead husband is constantly reminded by the men of the community that she has an obligation and that it would be disrespectful to honor his name if she got involved with the lawyer. However, she feels a special kinship and secret desire to be with her husband. She decides to end her relationship with him after the court hearing.

Many Palestinians will have experienced this exact problem. As the circumstances get worse, it seems that the urge to preserve the relics from the past is lessening. Many feel that assimilation is their only choice and that they have no place in the new world. Salma loses her fight. The political elites take Salma’s lemon trees and leave her with only sad reminders from the past. She is there, as are the Palestinians who live in occupied territories today with little of their past. This is a very sad end, and it is fitting considering the current situation. The Minister’s reaction to the whole mess was quite interesting. He lost his wife and the view of the orange grove that was once so beautiful has become a stark view of the wall he had always wanted. The moral of this story is that while rhetoric and policy may be useful for your practical needs, they will not serve you well inside. It is important to recognize our humanness and be open to empathy for others.


  • kaylarusso

    Kayla Russo is an educational blogger and volunteer and student. She is a 27 yo educational blogger and volunteer and student who loves to help others learn.



Kayla Russo is an educational blogger and volunteer and student. She is a 27 yo educational blogger and volunteer and student who loves to help others learn.

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