Photo Essay: Farming on the Frontlines in Gaza

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Farmers install an irrigation system in Beit Lahia, near the Erez checkpoint. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program

In Gaza, with the Israeli border within sight, Palestinian farmers lead worn-torn lives, dealing farming fields on the frontlines. Trying to make a living cultivating crops like strawberries, oranges, grapefruits and olives, their task became even more difficult after a military blockade in 2007 made it impossible to export their products. Up to 80 percent of agricultural yields from Gaza and the West Bank used to be sold abroad, but a ban on exports has devastated the Gazan economy. At the same time, essential supplies including fuel and electricity are strictly regulated by Israel. Farmers are most likely to be settled in small communities like Rafah, Khan Younis and Beit Hanoun, which are now known as frontlines, where missiles most likely to be fired and lives taken. In these struggling farming towns, the Israeli army has bulldozed land and sniper fire is a familiar occurrence.

More than 35 percent of Gaza’s agricultural land is in so-called buffer zones. Officially, these restricted-access areas extend 300 meters into Gaza. In reality, they can extend up to 1,500 meters from the border fence and are enforced with lethal means. In addition to declining agricultural production here, existing water shortages are exacerbated by heavy pollution, leaving just 10 percent of the water supply potable. (All images from October and November 2013.)

GazaFarming_Franko Khalil Zaanin works at his farm in Beit Hanoun. His land was bulldozed several times by the Israeli army. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko Workers gather products and load them on a car in Khan Younis. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko A white flag leans on the ruins of a farm in Rafah. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko Geese at Medhat Hamad’s farm in Beit Hanoun. He and his wife work on the field during the day. After school, their children and grandchidren come to the farm to play. Their land was bulldozed several times by the Israeli army. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko Medhat Hamad’s grandchild lies on the ground on their farm. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko A donkey eats from a bucket on a farm in east Rafah. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko Remains of a rocket following an Israeli air strike lie next to the shadows of Eyad Qudaih’s two daughters, as they stand near their house in Khan Younis. The children ran to their fathers just before the projectile hit their bedroom, Eyad remembers: “If they stayed in the room, they would have been all dead.” He says his wife was pregnant with twin boys, in her sixth month, and had a miscarriage the night of the bombing. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko A wife of a farmer makes bread in the area of Rafah. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko Tomatoes are transported to market in a pickup truck in Rafah. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko Mohammed Abu Daqqa’s farmland in Khan Younis is in the buffer zone. Abu Daqqa cannot hire workers because the land is considered to be too dangerous, so he has to work on the field on his own. Foreign activists accompany him from time to time as human shields, to protect him from Israeli army sniper fire. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko Left: Abu Tareq Wahadans’s son unloads fertilizer in Beit Hanoun. Because of the fuel crisis, many farmers use horses and carts to transport their goods. Right: Medhat Hamad’s wife peels an orange on their farm in Beit Hanoun. The family says their farm was bulldozed several times by the Israeli army. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko Baby of the Al Roomi family sleeps in her mother’s lap on a farm in Rafah. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko Palestinian children and a man gather near a greenhouse at the farm in the Msabbah area in Rafah. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko A farm in Rafah. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko Daughter of Mohammed Abu Daqqa plays on the roof of their house in Khan Younis. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko Ghanma Jbara, prepares tea on the ruins of her house in Rafah. In June 2006, one day after Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped, the Israeli army invaded the area, and her land and house were bulldozed. The farm was surrounded by tanks and soldiers for more than two weeks, and food and water had to be provided by Red Crescent. She refuses to leave her land and move from the ruins of her house and now lives in a shelter home next to her former house and land. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko The Abu Daqqa house in Khan Younis. In the last war in 2012, their house was occupied by the Israeli army. They detained their father Mohammed for several days while their mother Jihan and their kids were forced to stay in the house with Israeli soldiers. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko A man holding a cabbage, stands next to his son in Rafah. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
GazaFarming_Franko Abu Daqqa's farmland in Khan Younis. Jošt Franko/VII Photo Mentor Program
View more work by Jošt Franko here.
 
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