I am a proud Ohio farm girl living and working as a Christian Peacemaker with our Palestinian partners in Palestine. My rootedness to the earth has helped me feel at home here in the West Bank where the land is valued so strongly.
Back home, however, we never had to see our home demolished, the trees uprooted, the land we cultivate confiscated or our irrigation lines destroyed like my Palestinian friends have. We have never been threatened with the possibility of losing our home just because another family wants it, or is taking revenge for an act of violence I had nothing to do with. No one ever forced me to leave the huge fig tree shading my courtyard or the terraced garden that feeds my soul.
The Jabbers love the amazing capacity of their plots to give them almost everything they need. They marvel, as I do, at the mysterious productivity they see in every growing season. For them the earth is Mother. It provides for their family.
Ghassan raises tomatoes. For him the earth is Teacher giving daily lessons about how to receive the good, the bad, the blows, the storms, and the sunshine in this life under Occupation. It teaches strength, endurance, and ways to cope and survive.
For Zabadie and her husband the earth is Friend. Its sand and soil soothe their hands, their feet and their spirits. The clusters of plump grapes hanging heavily from the vines near their front door provide daily pleasure and are shared generously with friends around their table.
Not long ago, the wretched cycle of violence claimed the lives of four settlers in the area. Since then, none of these farmers feels safe. Their farms border Route 60 where the deplorable murders happened.
Because the settlers who live in the nearby settlements always demand revenge, these families fear for their farms, their land, and their lives. They have seen the impact of settler vengeance often. They have experienced burned fields, home invasions, confiscation of land, and ruthless violence on their properties from these settlers.
“I don’t mind if the settlers eat my grapes,” said one of our farmer friends, “but why do they cut the vines and throw them on the ground?”
As we enjoy the fruits of the year’s harvest, may we all extend our vision a little farther to these people whose ownership of the land is challenged on a regular basis. May we find, in our love for the land, enough motivation to pick up the phone, call our legislators, and ask them to take more seriously the plight of the Palestinian people who lose their precious livelihoods daily to Israeli settlers and settlement policy.