Khoza’a is the place where we did some farming accompanyment. It’s very close to the border and most of the farm land is next to or in the buffer zone so it’s been out of reach to the farmers for many years now. Since the cease fire the farmers are supposed to be able to go to 100 m from the fence. We helped them plant the wheat crop during December they managed to get 20-30 dunams planted before the Israelis began to fire on the farmers and they had to stop. Just over a week ago the Israelis spent 3 days with tanks and bulldozers destroying much of what had been done, ploughing up the land again for a distance of 8km along the fence. We went to see the damage early last week. It’s very depressing to see but the farmers are going to try to re plant.
We were asked to go and spend the night there in order to see what it’s like on a normal night. When we arrived we were welcomed first at the offices of one of the smaller political parties in Khan Younis the nearest big town. The Palestinian Popular Struggle Party is around the 6th party in Gaza, it is a party which supports people who are farmers and in unions and is committed to non violent means of resistance by way of continuing to live and work despite pressure to stop by the Israeli’s, ie carry on farming even although the Israeli’s try to intimidate you out of the fields. They gave us tea and cake and thanked us for our help, then some local musicians and dancers arrived and did and impromptu performance for us in a really informal way which was really nice. Everyone was incredibly friendly and it was a really nice welcome.
We then went to the houses of a couple of the PPSP members who were hosting us for the night where we met their families, chatted and had dinner. On cue at around 10pm we heard the Israeli tanks arrive on the other side of the fence and some random gunfire from them. Flares were fired into the air every so often as we carried on blethering and drinking tea, this apparently is normal every day stuff for the people of Khoza’a. One of the strange things about being in Gaza is how quickly you accept as normal that you can sit around having an extremely pleasant evening with tanks and random gunfire as background noise.
The family of one of our hosts has just been swollen in numbers by the arrival of family from Syria who had to flee the fighting there. They had been living in the Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus which was attacked, some got out, others are still inside trying to escape. How hard must that be?
We then slept and when we got up the next day we again heard gunfire from the Israeli’s, we had a look from the roof while we were being fed breakfast, beautiful homemade bread with zater and eggs. There was a tank and some jeeps over the border which were firing into the buffer zone every so often. We were then taken on a tour of the town, visiting a couple of houses where we were given tea and shown round the gardens which were full of a huge range of citrus, apple, pear and olive trees as well as herbs, veg as well as a few chickens. Again our pleasant, relaxed chat was accompanied by random gunfire from the Israeli’s on the other side of the fence.
We then drove for a bit around the fields closest to the town where we were fed randomly from the fields with peas, saber (cactus fruit), citrus etc by our hosts. Amazing the range of crops in this rich farmland. And back to our hosts house for a beautiful meal of fish cooked by Sabrina his wife before going back to the roof to check on the tanks. When we left there was a tank and around 12 jeeps on the other side of the fence, when I checked my film afterwords I noticed that there was also a jeep in the fields very close to the town, all on it’s own, which just radomly appeared heading back towards the fence. Very strange. At no time that day did we see anyone in the fields anywhere close to the buffer zone so the firing form the Israelis appeared to have no purpose except to try to intimidate. The number of Israeli vehicals was ridiculous and again didn’t seem to have any purpose in being there other than intimidation.
In spite of the Israeli Military activity we had such a relaxing and enjoyable time there, Khoza’a is such a beautiful place. I would love to see it without the fence and constant Israeli activity. The town suffered a horrific attack during Cast Lead when many people were killed and many of the houses were bulldozed. They are under constant pressure from the Israelis because it is so close to the border, the edge of the town is around 1 – 1.5 km, from the fence and yet the people there are so friendly and open. Many of the farmers actually hold papers proving their leagal ownership of land for several miles on the other side of the fence which is now part of Israel and farmed by Israelis. They are re building many homes at the moment and making them so beautiful. The people there are not only farmers but many of them are also highly qualified, for instance the farmer who coordinates much of our work there is also a qualified micro biologist. They are just wanting to live their lives like people anywhere else, peacefully and with dignity. They certainly manage dignity and generosity with friendly openness. I will take home with me very good memories of Khoza’a and I hope so much that the town will be left in peace by the Israelis although I fear very much that they will have to continue to endure continuing harassment.
I have to wonder why the Cease Fire doesn’t stop this type of intimidation. I must be very stupid but I thought that Cease Fire meant stop firing. Whenever we have been anywhere near the border we have seen the Israeli’s shooting through the fence.
Still I came away from Khoza’a feeling like I had had a fantastic relaxing time.
By Theresa in Gaza