Mohammed Abu Jerrad, 12, works with his older brother and 4 others to gather their wheat. Although it is still somewhat early for harvesting, the family hopes to harvest their 5 dunams quickly, preferring the early harvest over the possibility that Israeli soldiers will demolish or lit afire their crops, as they have routinely done in the past. [One such incident occured in Johr Ad Dik last May, when Israeli soldiers shot incendiary devices into ripe wheat and barley fields, setting nearly 3 km, 200 dunams, of crops and fruit trees afire.]
Abu Jerrad’s 5 dunams lie roughly just over 300 metres from the border, along which Israeli military tower and remote controlled machine gun towers loom. From these towers, Israeli soldiers regularly shoot on farmers, workers gathering rubble and scrap metal for construction uses, and civilians on the land.
This plot of wheat is on rented land.
“We grow it to feed our sheep and goats,” Abu Jerrad says of his 150 animals.
“This morning when we came here to work the Israelis began shooting, so we left,” he says.
“Yes, Mohammed was with us,” he answers of the 12 year old helping him.
“Sometimes they even shoot at the sheep,” he adds. “Are they afraid of the sheep?” he jokes.
The 6 farmers can do two trips of 3 loaded donkey carts per day, if all goes well. It will take many more days before their crops are harvested.
In a Strip under years of siege and an area where Israeli shooting, shelling and kidnapping is the norm, every incident of farming is an act of necessity and an act of defiance: Palestinian farmers will not be driven off their land.
*Sheep, most often seen scouring Gaza’s vacant lots and garbage dumps, find good grazing land for a change. Much of Gaza’s prime grazing land has been destroyed or is inaccessible due to the Israeli-imposed “buffer zone”.