Fayez’s farm is in an extraordinary and highly symbolic location, on a narrow strip of land between the separation wall and and an Israeli chemical factory, which is in a compound also surrounded by a seven meter wall with guard towers.
The wall is better known than the factory, but both are strikingly unjust. It amazes and depresses me that the world tolerates, and then rationalizes tolerating, these things. What saddens me the most is the indifference of those who are both close enough to know what is happening, and far enough away to be objective. For example, I mean the UN and other international organizations that at most pass resolutions condemning the Israeli government, and then ignore their own resolutions; and I especially mean the western nations whose unconditional support makes Israel’s dehumanizing treatment of Palestinians possible.
The factory, which makes pesticides among other things, was previously near Netanya, in Israel, and was moved due to local Israeli health concerns. It was moved to farmland in Palestine directly adjacent to a large city. A narrow railroad right-of-way initially justified claiming land for a huge sprawling complex, displacing many farmers. When the separation wall was constructed, a passage was included to allow direct connection with Israel; the compound is a kind of pseudopod of wall, a bubble of occupation. And here’s a nice touch: The factory only operates when the wind is blowing away from Israel and the wall and into Palestine. The rates of cancer in Tulkarm—and especially in the lee of the factory—are the highest in Palestine.
It sometimes numbs the human capacity for compassion to hear these lists of banal humiliations. The numbness is partly due to the shame that we, the international community, allow the cruelty to continue. And then this numbness feeds the apathy and indifference, which in turn allows the abuse to go on. Should I say anything about the loss of Fayez’s previous lands to Israel? Should I go on about the three gratuitous destructions of the remaining farm, by the bulldozers of the IDF? Fayez’s history of political activism and his subsequent history of prison and persecution? Or would this narrative turn him into some kind of noble cliché, blending into a forgettable background of heroic victims?
I hesitate to try to describe him as a unique human individual because I don’t know him so well, and also because I don’t feel up to the task. I don’t understand where he gets the inexhaustible energy for peacework and revolution from. He isn’t Gandhi; he’s very political and his focuses, though not exclusive, are communism and Palestine. But he is nearly tireless, compassionate, and seldom forgets his mission.
After the last destruction and re-creation of the farm from nothing, Fayez promised his wife Muna that every kind of uprooted fruit tree would be brought back and restored. A large part of his precious land is now “Muna’s Garden,” an entirely organic, mixed culture fruit orchard, from which nothing is commercialized. Production from Muna’s Garden is not sold; it is only for the family, or to be shared and given as gifts.
I don’t dare to try to capture what this might mean exactly, except to say that I was moved when I heard about it, and continue to be moved whenever I visit this garden, which is often. Muna’s Garden itself tells the story, of a relationship with land—with this land—with life and love, with community and family. This story makes a striking contrast to the narrow and repressive context of the occupation, the economic calculations of the different interests, the political triangulations of the struggling factions. This is where we are, and why: Despite the existential struggle to survive, there are people who are still so romantic, and so beautifully impractical: a garden and a love story, trapped between the walls and the guard towers of the occupation.