Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A portrait of steadfastness in the Gaza Strip’s deadly “buffer zone”


Abu Jamal Abu Taima (right) poses with an international activist. (Photo by Charlie Andreasson)

An older man meets us when we step out of the taxi, a patriarch, his back straight, with a firm handshake and a welcoming smile. The other activists I shared a taxi with have all been there before, and we sit with no major ceremonies at the gate of the house as the sun casts its last warm rays upon us.

Soon we are served soft drinks and biscuits, followed by coffee, tea and dates. Our visit is clearly expected. Around us gather children and grandchildren. By Palestinian standards, Abu Jamal Abu Taima is a large-scale farmer with his 50 dunams. But he also has many mouths to feed: three generations with 71 people. “It was crowded during Eid,” he says with a smile that shows more pride than concern with making room for everyone. But as we begin to discuss the conditions of this great crowd, the smile vanishes.

The years between 1995 and 2001 were something of a golden age. He grew a variety of products, and had greenhouses and a substantial income from what he could export. Then the worries began. His land is adjacent to the Israeli separation barrier, and as Israeli forces expanded the “buffer zone,” it swallowed more and more of his land beside it.

Within this zone, there are no longer any olive or other fruit trees. In 2003 Israeli bulldozers devastated his greenhouse and former home. All he can grow there now is wheat, because it does not need to be tended as regularly as other crops.

And it is only wheat that he hopes to sow when the rains start in November. The occupying power does not allow irrigation. They destroy any irrigation pipes in the area. There is also the danger of death if farmers go onto their fields to manage crops.

Today Abu Taima can grow enough to feed his family, but no more. Before his olive trees in the “buffer zone” were destroyed, they produced enough olives for 70 bottles of olive oil. Those left this year gave six. No exports of what he can grow are allowed. more

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