Guest Blog

Local peacebuilding – a story of hope

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Friday, 28 August, 2009

Gali Agnon shares her story of using organic produce to foster solidarity and dialogue between the Palestinian residents of Wadi Fukin and their Israeli neighbours across the Green Line in Tzur Hadassah.

My name is Gali. I am from Jerusalem. This is the story of how I began to market organic vegetables from the West Bank into Israel.

My first visit to the West Bank was fascinating. I discovered a parallel world, on the one hand poor, occupied and systematically oppressed, and on the other hand, rich with culture, friendliness, and very interesting for me - the practice of sustainable agriculture.

"This is organic! It sells for lots of money in our stores in Jerusalem!" I said excitedly to a Palestinian farmer.

"Yes but we are prevented from entering Israel and therefore our options for marketing our produce are so limited" the farmer responded.

"But I can pass through these checkpoints?" I naively replied.

"Yes, you are Jewish, they don't even check you at the checkpoints..."

I purchased the oldest Subaru I could find and began searching for the perfect village to work with - and I found it. The Palestinian village of Wadi Fukin has received a lot of attention due to the work of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FOEME) active there building cross border relations for the past 8 years, and not for nothing. First, the village is beautiful. Its agriculture seems as if it has not changed for hundreds or even thousands of years. Second, the story of the village exemplifies many of the elements of the Israeli Palestinian conflict and allows people to better understand the issues from a human perspective.

Some of the lands of the village were taken for the construction of the Jewish settlement of Beitar Elite, creating harsh environmental impacts.

On the other hand the solidarity and cooperation with the residents of Tzur Hadassah, over the Green Line in Israel proper, gives people of good will hope that we can live together as good neighbours.

Tzur Hadassah residents had been active against the building of the separation barrier. There were regular cross border meetings held and they had even already initiated a farmers market buying the produce of Wadi Fukin farmers. My idea was simply to expand the line of customers, who eventually became supporters, partners, and friends.

For the past 3 years more than 600 Israeli families, mostly in the Jerusalem area, chose to purchase vegetables from the Palestinian village of Wadi Fukin. Through the vegetables they got to know a different reality, much easier to digest then what we get in the media, and much tastier then demonstrations and tear gas.

I believe that people want to be a part of a positive dialogue and constructive cooperation. We need to tear down the checkpoints and walls so that we can start benefiting from our differences rather than living in fear.

Gali Agnon is 21 and was born in Jerusalem. A dedicated peace activist, Gali has devised a method to market Palestinian organic produce in Israel, helping Palestinians who cannot enter Israel find a market there for their produce.

Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Elders or The Elders Foundation.

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