The West Bank has become, more and more, a seemingly permanent patchwork of Israeli settlements and nearby Palestinian towns and villages. Neighbors share many of the same roads, but almost never meet face-to-face.
Harvey Stein, writing in the Huffington Post, describes an experiment in peace-making where Israelis and Palestinians come together to jointly operate an organic farm. Through volunteering their time, sharing the fruits of their shared labors and getting to know one another on a deeper level, they can create a climate for peace that the founders say is missing right now between the two peoples.
This spring, Nahum [an Israeli settler of the West Bank], Ziad [a Palestinian] and Shaul, another settler, came up with a concrete idea to manifest their lofty ideals: they decided to start a small organic farm business together. While many Jews and Muslims here believe their religions have exclusively bequeathed them the land, these guys assert a higher wisdom, “The land doesn’t belong to us, we belong to the land.” They’re calling the project Fields of Heaven.
The guys went on a first visit together to the wadi (valley) next to Ziad’s town, where they plan to start the farm. It was an amazing spring day, and the perennial springs were full.
Becoming more public with their ideas, the farm will be a test of their commitment, and probably also their courage. Especially among Palestinians, an “anti-normalization” movement has arisen recently, which believes generally that until the Palestinians have more rights, or a state of their own, fraternizing with Israelis, and especially settlers, is frowned upon. There have even been rumors (causing fear among several Palestinians I’ve talked to) that Palestinian Authority officials have scoured YouTube, looking for videos that show local Palestinians and settlers together.
Still, Nahum, Ziad, Shaul and their friends believe that the best way to change preconceptions about “the other” is face-to-face meetings. They want Fields of Heaven to be a place that will attract people from all sides, to do precisely that. To spend an hour, volunteering at the farm together, or taking a workshop there, that will give them precisely what is missing for most settlers and Palestinians: a place where they can meet, even for an hour, as equals.
From the Heaven’s Field Organic Farm web-site:
Israel/Palestine often sparks images of violence and conflict but there are also Palestinians and Jews dreaming and realizing a different future. Whatever political agreements may be reached- we know that our future on this land is together and its upon us to start working within our communities for a better future. Where we make space for each other- Heavens Field is exactly a space like that- a farm where we recognize and embody that this land is ultimately neither of ours; our design and farming on the land reflects our understanding of each other as long-term neighbors: perma-culture.
We hope that by our working the land together and hosting inter-cultural work and dialogue sessions we will nurture a future of greater understanding- reducing the fear and violence between our peoples.