East of Gaza city, on some of Gaza’s most fertile land, little to nothing is growing, and what had grown has been repeatedly mowed down over the years by Israeli military bulldozers and tanks.
I am re-visiting the region to record farmers’ words on a vital issue: water. Their wells and cisterns have also been bulldozed, pumps and motors destroyed. In some areas there is a complete lack of water; in another region east of Beit Hanoun there’s just one water source.
We see the remains of pumps, some destroyed in prior Israeli invasions, the majority destroyed (again) in the last Israeli attack, the winter massacre of Gaza.
A cascade of house rooves and beams is nothing new, and taking the photo is more of habit than of awe.
Stopping for tea at one of the farmer’s houses, I expore what’s left of their farm livelihood. They are among the hundreds who have had their citrus, olive, and other fruit trees razed, their wells destroyed, their land polluted by chemical weapons.
I’m interested in bees, and want to know more about their small-scale honey production.
Turns out it used to be much larger: in 2004 they had 250 boxes of bees, each box containing up to 8 slots of bee hives (imagine a picture frame filled with honeycomb). These were destroyed when the Israeli bulldozers cut through their land.
Prior to the winter massacre, they had 80 boxes. But after the rockets and phosphorous, 15 boxes of bees perished. Along with the razed trees, bees and honey production in general got worse and worse, the bees no longer finding the flowers needed to sustain themselves.
The farm also lost 25 sheep during the massacre, I’m told.
Two handsome camels remain: a mother and her 8 month old son.
As we walk past more of the same: artfully destroyed homes, Mahdi, a Beit Hanoun resident, mentions that his family also kept bees. 500 boxes. All were lost in 2003 when the Israeli dozers came. His family has been raising bees for three decades, but with that invasion it came to an abrupt halt.
They did try again, he said. Two months ago they re-started their bee tending, but all the bees died, for want of flowers, trees, sustenance.
We won’t bother anymore, he told me. There are no trees in the area. Everythings been razed.