A thankfully relatively calm day of farming on Tuesday in the border region near southeastern Khoza’a village, east of Khan Younis. The last time we’d been in Khoza’a, the Israeli soldiers patrolling the border area had opened fire on us within minutes of our arrival, shooting closer than previous times, although it was obvious we were a mixture of elderly farmers and internationals, all unarmed. Hours later, Israeli soldiers shot a young woman, Wafa, from Khoza’a in the kneecap as she surveyed the land where her the ruins of her house –destroyed in Israel’s war on Gaza –lay.
With those memories in mind, we’d returned to Khoza’a warily, aware of the Israeli soldiers fondness for shooting at civilians, but more aware that the Palestinian farmers were determined to harvest their crops: lentils and squash.
It was too late for the squash, which were meant to be small and green but which had over-grown and over-ripened because farmers had been afraid to harvest them weeks earlier.
“Kuulo kharbaan,” one of the women said when I asked whether they could be saved: they’re all ruined.
Tariq, a young man studying at university who was also serving as a coordinator for the area’s farmers and us, explained the financial loss. There were about 4 dunams of land, on which about 15 cases of squash had grown. Each case was roughly 11 kilos in weight. The squash should have sold for 8 shekels/kilo (roughly $2). Had the harvest been done, the plot of land would have yielded over $300. But it was all ruined, kharbaan.
The farmers, mostly elderly women, with a few of their younger male relatives helping, picked lentils swiftly, still wary of potential shooting.
After nearly an hour of picking, two jeeps patrolling the region stopped for about 20 minutes, watching. Some shots were fired a few hundred metres further south from our group, but thankfully that day the soldiers didn’t go further.
The rest of the morning went quickly and successfully [allowing, even, for some practise of Dabke steps during the calm harvesting], a small miracle in a Strip of siege and war manufactured tragedies.