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Gardening Near Gaza

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

We believe in eating local and organic, both for the health benefits as well as helping to make the world a nice place to live. but that can be a daunting expensive task. Organic is expensive and not really organic in the sense that we want to support. Local is difficult to find because where we live , I think my family is one of the only families with a vegetable garden or animals in our area, raised on a small scale where everything is grown organic, naturally, non GMO and with love.

Most farmers out here are big business and mostly non organic. So our answer to finding what we're looking for is to grow/raise it ourselves. As soon as we got here, we got to work raising kids, planting trees, and starting a herd of goats. We've planted orchards of lemon and olive trees. We've got almost every fruit bearing tree we could grow in the desert. We also planted a vegetable garden from seeds. We've got a garden, goats, chickens , bees, orchards and many fruit bearing trees. In quiet times we prosper and our harvests provide our family with plenty. But this requires a lot of time outside spent clearing land, putting up shade cloth, planting, milking, taking care of/treating the animals, pruning, weeding, mulching, digging, pasturing, , creating water systems, and of course harvesting and milking.

When we've got missiles smashing down all around, it is almost impossible to do any tending to animals or plants, so it goes undone and they suffer for it. So do we. The whole point of all of this is to feed our family the best, most important way we can: healthy, whole, fresh, inexpensive, local, truly organic and with love. The stress is felt by all of us (my family,plants and animals ). There is no where to hide from missiles when we're outside on the farm. We've got less than 15 seconds to find shelter, so many times I go out by myself to do the minimum for everyone.

The reason we're here in the south is because we wanted land. It is the only place we could afford land: to keep animals, farm and give our kids room to play outside. There aren't many choices when looking for land in the south. This led us to the area we are in now which was a farming community built for the families pulled out of Yammit in the Sinai peninsula in 1982.

Our community borders both Egypt and Gaza. Everything in the periphery in Israel was built to settle land to protect and fortify it's borders. So we're here with many other moshavim and kibbutzim. We are free from traffic and Arab communities (big plus) and we're in the middle of lots of farm lands. In the beginning everyone farmed here, but slowly many people closed their farms and found other things to do or moved away to other areas. But as time passed people moved in and today farming is still the norm here along with yoga instructors, ceramicists and other small businesses.

When it's quiet we spend our days outside, but when Gaza starts shooting missiles, we have to be close to our "safe rooms" in order to get there before the missile lands. So gardening is out. Farming is out. Tending to plants or animals is out. Playing or doing anything outside is out. So that leaves us inside the house rather than being outside in the sunshine and fresh air. Which is the whole reason we came here in the first place.

There have been more "cease fires" in this war than any other. And each one has been violated by Hamas. So that now when there's a declared "cease fire" , we're not sure what to do. What if we go travel and then they start shooting and we're stuck (it's happened before) somewhere far from home? Even letting the kids go play soccer at the field is nerve racking. Some people here rely on tourism, but not many come anymore. Farmers need to continue to farm the big farms. The public pools are closed and it's too risky to swim in our own pool. Knowing that at any moment they can open fire- whenever they feel like it. There is no end to this insanity and it's making us all crazy. Many people left the area during the war .

During a cease fire when Israel went to Egypt to discuss terms for a long "cease fire" the government called everyone back, saying it was safe to return and continue normal life. That means families return with children, farmers to their fields, summer activities to resume, work, tourism, etc. The day many came back, the missiles started again. So this is it.

The government's way of getting rid of terror is to pretend it doesn't exist. We're expected to build our lives around the terror from Gaza. When it's quiet we sow our seeds and go about our lives, but with apprehension about what could happen everyday. School? Travel? Work? Weddings? Picnics? Everything we do with foreboding. For everything we do , we need to think a hundred times before we do it. Every time we move forward with one step, the uncertainty keeps us from going beyond that. Every missile (or tunnel) keeps our area from developing the way it should (not to mention the entire country).

Many people are scared to live here. Others are scared to visit. This is not how a developed country deals with terror. We are expected to build our lives around terror. We still plant seeds, harvest, learn, work and have somewhat normal lives , but with that underlying feeling that terror can intrude at anytime.

Our children grow up not knowing anything else. It creates a heightened sense of awareness, stress, confusion, fears and many other consequences of living with terrorism.It's like living in slow motion and breakneck speed at the same time. Many things are put off while we're trying to get everything done before the next round.

Our garden on the other hand provides a kind of safe haven (in quiet times). To us our garden is a grocery store, ph(f)armacy, meeting place, playground, baby sitter, therapy session, work out club (no membership required), yoga class, meditation retreat, science class, menu planner, biology class, stress reliever, family together time, oxygen tank and seed catalogue all rolled up into one. Our garden not only feeds our family, it also feeds our animals. All the left over corn husks and stalks, weeds, old or extra vegetation all goes to our 4 legged friends. We use the garden's produce as gifts from the heart to give to friends and family.

I think if the Palestinians spent more time planting gardens with their families, they would spend less time trying to blow us up. So although we live not far from the border with Gaza, we continue our lives the best we can. I keep planting seeds to grow my garden to feed my family and harvest the crops under sirens warning of incoming missiles. What else can we do? We confront terror the only way we know how: We continue.

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