Roses for Europe

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As some might know, flowers have a language of their own. Every sentiment is expressed in one form or another by these fragile blooms. A lily speaks of purity, a daffodil is the promise of eternal life, Carnations assure friendship and of course the red rose is the universal message of love. But in Palestine flowers are a symbol of resistance, of hope and of the ability to survive the most adverse conditions. The people of Gaza have proven to be defiant and resilient in the face of adversity and they demonstrate their resistance in every means possible. While the Gaza Strip has been suffering from the siege imposed by the Zionist regime of Israel, and it has been battered and bruised severely by Operation Cast Lead yet the spirit of renewal and beauty has not died out. Although the Gaza Strip is the most populated region on earth, its residents have found enough land to plant flowers and strawberries. The flowers are exported abroad, symbolically as a token of friendship, but in return the people of Gaza have received nothing but neglect.

Isam Abu Halima

Strawberry Farmer

Our farms are near the boarders

The Israelis are only 300 to 400 meters away

We are often bombarded

We suffer all the time because of the occupation

Here are the Israelis.. There they are.

See, they come from there

And sometimes from there

They plow the land and destroy our crop growing

What have I done for them to destroy our land

It’s my, and my family’s, livelihood

Why should they live, and we die?

Be careful. They might shoot you and kill you this time.

My in-law was working in the land.

They shot, and almost killed, him. God is most kind.

Good thing he did not die.

They shot him in leg, in the main vein.

He was sowing strawberries.

All of us here are strawberry farmers. And vegetable farmers.

A farmer has to go to his land, even if the Israelis shoot at him.

Do you want to join us?

No. I’m busy. I have work to do

My God be with you.

Hamdi Hegazi

Student

My life was really nice with roses.

We go back a long way.

I’ve been working with roses for last nine years.

Hamdan Hegazi

Flower Farmer

The first year we grew roses was really good.

The income generated was good.

It provided work for a lot of people.

Many homes made reasonable income.

Everybody benefited.

We kept with it.

Now, we’ve been planting roses for twenty two years.

Still

Rafah – Southern-most of the Gaza Strip

Area: 55 k/m2

Population: About 120,000

30% of the land is agricultural

Rafah is best known for producing Olives and Flowers

Most popular Rafah flowers are Carnations and Lumina

Karm Abu Salem Crossing is located east of Rafah, and it is the only commercial passage.

Gaza – Beit Lahia

Isam Abu Halima,Strawberry Farmer:

Planting strawberries was passed down from our ancestors

It also became our profession

Our parents stopped and retired

But we stayed the course and kept planting strawberries until today

Strawberries will remain in the market as long as the market helps us grow them, we will keep growing them, God Willing

We cannot forgo strawberries

They provide work for us, our children, and our wives. They help us.

Hammuda Abu Halima, Student:

Strawberries are real delicious

People love it. I love it too.

I have lived around strawberries for as long as I remember.

When I was younger, my family used to come to harvest strawberries.

I always wanted to work with them. I helped and ate at the same time.

When I grew older I decided I want to be like my family.

I learned everything from my father.

I learned everything from him.

I asked him about everything I did not know.

Anything I did not know, I asked him about.

When I learned everything as I grew older, I became experienced.

Still

The Town of Beit Lahia – North-Most of the Gaza Strip

Located on the Line-of-Contact with the lands occupied by Israel since 1967

Area: 24500 Acres

Population 75,000

80% of its residents are farmer families

Beit Lahia is most known for growing crops, especially Strawberries

Strawberries from Beit Lahia are considered amongst the finest in the world.

Nabil Al-Naooq,General Administrator of Forests and Pastures:

Many might be surprised there is farming in Gaza. That in spite of the little available space in the Gaza strip with a population of more than 4600 persons per square kilometer, there is still farming and farmlands.

Yes, There is farming and farmlands.

We have more than 135,000 acres of farmlands that are planted with vegetables, fruits, flowers, and strawberries.

Flowers do not necessarily represent a substantial economic value in the Palestinian Agricultural Economy, specifically in Gaza. However, it has a symbolic significance in that in a strip as constrained as Gaza, the most crowded place in the world, is capable of producing flowers. It is a message to the world that there is in Gaza who has the right to live. There is in Gaza what can be exported to the world. This gives a humanitarian message through Gaza’s flowers.

Song

O’ my roses, who will purchase you?

And, to a dear one, gives you?

Gives them hope

Love, and Kisses

O’ my roses.

Hamdan Hegazi,Flower Farmer :

I feel really good when I work with roses

It is an enjoyable job

I collect the roses

I place them in the carton boxes outside

Then I take them to the factory

Then I prepare them for packaging.

Song

White

They embarrasses the day

Shy and Confused

Dew coats their cheeks

The branches raided them

O’ my roses, why are you shy

Flirting with you is a delight

O’ my roses

Hamdan Hegazi, Flower Farmer:

After that we package them in special packets

We pass them through these buckets

Then we place them in the refrigerator

They must be refrigerated for 24 hours before they are taken out

After that we place them in boxes, carton boxes.

Because cartons can withstand (the shipping).

They are taken from here to the “Crossing”

From the “Crossing” they go into Israel, to the airport, and from the airport they are flown to Holland.

The Journey takes about two days.

In these two days they arrive to the stock market.

There they are off-loaded and placed in the Hour-System.

Then they are sold for our account.

Flower buyer:

we have in Italy many beautiful flowers

and I like to buy flowers for my mother

just to bring home some flowers

yea I like it

Nabil Al-Naooq, General Administrator of Forests and Pastures:

Of course Gaza’s flowers are unique.

Because any product carries with it the origin’s characteristics.

This is known as the Geographical Identification

The flowers reflect something that is in contrast with the situation in Gaza.

In spite of the rockets that land on us.

In spite of the blockade

We produce flowers

And we still have the desire and will to keep producing flowers.

Hamdan Hegazi,Flower Farmer:

From 2007 to 2010 we lived through tough times with the roses production

There was the closure of the crossings, the Gaza blockade, the war on Gaza.

All these caused the farmer to fall in debt to the agricultural unions.

We stood our grounds, thanks to God, until we were able to pay off some of the debts.

We could not quit. Otherwise we would not have been able to pay off the debts that were piling up.

That’s why we stayed with growing flowers.

Nabil Al-Naooq, General Administrator of Forests and Pastures:

Before 2005, the area was about 400 acres.

Production surpassed fifty million flower

We are required by the European Union deliver a quota

We export through the stock market

This quota is 2500 tons of flowers

We have never been able to meet this quota because of the obstacles hindering our exports.

daivd cornin, expert in european-israeli affairs

emm..

Exports cud able opinion from is really settlements in the west bank

are a push 15 times higher than to talk to

amount of produce from Palestinian produced exports to recent

to their opinion

every every every year ,,

if you go beyond the rather you will find that their opinion its forth neutral

its broke to the Palestine

Hamdan Hegazi, Flower Farmer:

It’s like you raise a son and you just lose him.

You wait, as you employ 40 to 50 workers

Hoping you would sell the roses and pay the workers, pay the rent, pay the electricity

The first year we were planning to export the crossings were closed, and the blockade was enforced.

After that we were harvesting, and hoping.

We never stopped.

We were hoping the crossings would operate again.

We put the flowers in the refrigerators

The we would take them out of the refrigerators and put new batches

What we took out, as you probably have seen on TV, we would feed to the sheep and cattle.

That’s what was going on.

Still

The Crossings agreement of 2005 states that Israel will allow Gaza to export 400 truckloads of Palestinian products

Since 2006, Israel has been imposing a crippling siege on Gaza preventing 80% of the products to enter or leave Gaza

Since the year 2000, it is estimated that the Gaza agricultural industry has suffered more than 1.4 billion dollars of direct and indirect losses.

The Israeli wars on Gaza in the years 2008 and 2012 have cost Gaza more than 200 million dollars.

Since the year 2005, more than 2500 farmers have lost their only source income from farming.

Sakhnin Junior High school for boys

Beit Lahia – Northern Border Area

75% of its students are children of farmers

Menem Obaid, Teacher:

Today in our civics class we will discuss Israel’s control over the Palestinian economy

We know that ever since the British mandate over Palestine

Britain gave Israel, in the year 1917, the permission to occupy all of Palestine.

Our school is located in the area adjacent to the Israeli-Palestinian borders

This has caused our suffering

We all know that our homes are right in the middle of this border area.

We want to discuss the suffering.

Who can tell us about the different types of the Israeli aggressions?

Go ahead, Mohammad.

Mohammed, Student:

One type of aggression is weakening the Palestinian economy through damaging large areas of the Palestinian lands that are close to the boarders.

The lands they could not destroy with their tanks, they bombarded with white phosphorous.

They also burned the trees, and much of the land. After that the leaves dried up.

The farmers went back and fixed their land.

The Israelis took advantage of this and started firing on the Palestinian as they worked.

The farmers became distressed and under pressure.

The farmers were under pressure to leave their lands and be silent.

Menem Obaid, Teacher:

Then, some examples of the Israeli aggressions are uprooting plants and forcing farmers to leave their land are,

We want to see what other tactics there are.

Who would like to tell me?

Go ahead, Wa’el

Wael,Student:

We had a home on the second floor, near the Eriz Crossing, or Dokait settlement. Our home was on the second floor. There also was an orange orchard.

The Israelis shouted: “All the guys at the crossing should vacate.

Suddenly, an Israeli bulldozer came and demolished our home. My dad showed them the (ownership) papers, but the ignored him and destroyed the house.

Menem Obaid, Teacher:

Wa’el is telling us that there are violations other than ones done to the farmlands, there is also home demolitions that are meant to force residents to leave and go elsewhere.

There are other types of aggressions. Who can give us other examples?

Go ahead, Bilal.

Bilal, Student:

My uncle’s family were watering the plants. Suddenly, they saw fighter planes. They heard a rocket exploding. They looked and found out they targeted my cousin as he stood under the tree.

Menem Obaid, Teacher:

So, we have direct targeting of the farmers as they are on their lands so they would escape to other places.

Also, Israel seeks to ruin the Palestinian economy so that we remain under their mercy, importing from them.

Another thing, not only the Palestinian economy was targeted, but also the farmers and their children were. They were targeted as they were in school or working in their fields. They were constantly shot at.

Even students were shot at to prevent them from reaching their schools. To make them un-educated.

Even here at our school, some students were shot at. Who knows the names of the students who were killed in the school?

Who could tell me?

Go ahead, Abdulsamad.

Abdulsamad, Student:

Zaid

Menem Obaid, Teacher:

Zaid what?

Abdulsamad, Student:

Zaid Sa’adAllah Abu Haleemeh

Menem Obaid,Teacher:

How was Zaid at school?

Abdulsamad

Student

He was polite and used to participate

He sat in the desk in the second row

He loved to play Bus and soccer with us

We used to talk a lot

He used to have a bike that he rode to the farm

Still

Since the year 2000, the Israeli occupation has destroyed 13 schools in Beit Lahia

The Israeli Occupation also destroyed Sakhnin School. Some parts were rebuilt.

17 students were killed and 60 wounded.

Hammuda Abu Halima,Student:

Every time I walk down this street I feel sad, Hammood.

Hammood, Student:

I’m sure because you remember the days of the war

Hammuda Abu Halima,Student:

Can anyone forget those days?

I remember Zaid as he walked to school

And when he took the food to his brothers

Do you remember?

Hammoodm,Student:

I do

I remember when we were friends at school

I remember as we were escaping the war

I saw him.

Did you see him?

Hammood, Student:

I saw his sister

His sister was killed right in front of me

Hammuda Abu Halima,Student:

We were gathered in the middle of the house

Her sister was in the street

The Israelis attacked

They hit them with a missile

They took them to the hospital

They were all injured

They took them to the hospital but the Israelis blocked their way at the roundabout

The tank crushed them

I saw him and his brother and cousin pinned under the car

Do you remember Matar as he ran to the truck

I remember Omar

Here is their house, which was bombed

And here is Farah, the one who was shot

Farah

How are you

Still

Farah Abu Haleemah – 5 years old

Was severely burnt with white phosphorus bombs during the war on Gaza in 2009

8 members of her family were killed

Hammuda Abu Halima,Student:

How many times did they uproot your land?

Hammood, Student:

Maybe four times

Hammuda Abu Halima, Student:

Three times to ours.

During the last war (2012), we were really devastated. Our house, the berries, cucumbers, pepper

They shot at our feet

Whatever we did, they destroyed

We build, they demolish

I hope we’re not late for dad.

Hammood, Student:

What do you have to do?

Hammuda Abu Halima, Student:

Harvest strawberries. You?

Hammood,Student:

We must fumigate the plants.

Hammuda Abu Halima, Student:

After we finish our work, we’ll meet again

Bye

Hammuda Abu Halima, Student:

Hello

Join us

No thanks

Have lunch

I already have

Where is dad?

Your dad went downtown.

The problem with this job is that you have to bend your back all the time.

You keep your back bent as you are collecting (the strawberries) until your back breaks.

And you have to grab each one carefully so it doesn’t get squished.

You are not allowed to pick the unripe berries

All of these are rules

A very tiring job

I am obligated to work so I can help my family, my dad, and my mom, in these economic conditions

We have to do this to survive

I want to help my family

And help my dad

Isam Abu Halima, Strawberry Farmer:

I began to bring Hammooda along since he was young

We do not want him to learn farming only

I would have preferred he attended school over learning how to be a farmer

When Hammooda, or any one of my children, comes with me, he saves me the cost of a worker

We are renting this land.

Strawberries are like babies

You raise it. How do you raise a baby? You embrace it.

Hammuda Abu Halima, Student:

The baby’s mom protects him. She wouldn’t let a fly see it.

That’s how you treat berries.

Isam Abu Halima, Strawberry Farmer:

The farmer has to be at the farm by six in the morning

Many times I was shot at by the Zionist occupation.

Hammuda Abu Halima,Student:

Just like in the past war (2012)

During the war, my uncle used to take me along.

He used to say come with me to uncover the berries. Because you are a child, they won’t shoot at us. They would not hurt us.

I told him let’s go

After we got there, they would bomb the greenhouses, bomb the land

They left nothing alone

The berries got ruined

We picked the berries, but people would not take any.

The berries smelled like fire, medication, phosphorus

We work hard to grow it, and they destroy it. Just like that.

Isam Abu Halima, Strawberry Farmer:

They say the farmers pose danger to them

The farmer is only a farmer from the day God created him.

I used to come in spite of the shooting and shelling

The days the war planes were bombarding

I used to come to keep the saplings alive.

I came to water ours and my cousins’

They were afraid to come

I risked my life. I knew I risked my life just to protect the berry saplings

And to work, to put food on the table for me and my family

Still

Khaza’ah Vilage

Eastern Border of the Gaza Strip

Adie nistelrooy ,human rights activist from England

The farmer calls us in deferent area in khaza'ah

and they ask us to come because they think

that if the somebody recording with the video cameras

and send what guenon

than that could be a last chance

peoples calls the volunteers and they if you come and we come

because we feel likes that at least we can do just try to enough the something and also witnessing ourselves and to report if there is shooting

because very few media organization come to this area partly

because it’s a danger and because that no caring about the Palestinian casualties and this is the whole problem for media internationally

Fatima Ali, Farmer:

I would have showed you yesterday, near the barracks.

Yesterday, they shot at the people how collect firewood.

They fired at us before the war. They shot at whoever they saw. People ran away.

They could not plant.

Yesterday, the shots came from the barracks.

Some women like me came to collect firewood for baking, but they shot at us. .

Bullets were blazing

Those who came to collect firewood ended up running away

What else can we do?

Adie nistelrooy ,human rights activist from England

we don’t go away from here!!

Its serious this is forming its hard is people here form his lands they are

already leaving the difficult life, the means the lack of machinery coming in , all of this things made life very difficult but then you have the extra situation on a happen a lot, when the Jips come and the tanks come and the guys some out in compound decision and they shoot .

Rosa schiano,human rights activist from italy :

We are here to give them a kind of protection against these attacks

Adie nistelrooy ,human rights activist from England

The Israeli, they kill Palestinian just like that … when they kill internationals like Carry his American and Tom Hando his British, the media in the west , they worried about the media more because the media in the west is also very racist but although make a story of when somebody from their country shot or killed ,,, but there is part of a problem , the racism is the point, I think you shoot a Palestinian child and nobody wants seek for him , this is disgusting and it is murdured that take place right here on the border against formers family

Rosa schiano,human rights activist from italy :

I used also to report about the israelian against in gaza

I was here in last war I still remember

it was the worst experience for me ..

of course

Nabil Al-Naooq, General Administrator of Forests and Pastures:

Over the last twelve years we lost over 25% of these lands.

Most of which are at the eastern and northern borders of Gaza.

Israel isolated these lands and prevented us from reaching them right after the 2000 intifada

This caused a loss of 60 million dollars annually

With all the constant and re-occurring Israeli aggressions

The Palestinian farmer is still steadfast on his land.

Holding tight to it

Because not only does the land resemble an economic value

But it also has a traditional value, a political value, and a religious value as well

Mohammed Okal,Flowor Farmer:

This year we planted in the month of June

In November, the flowers began to peel

This means we have to start collecting

On Friday, at 6:05 am

My family and I were having breakfast

We suddenly heard a loud explosion

The Israelis bombarded this piece of land, this acre.

As you can see, they destroyed this acre, and this one.

Instead of exporting the flowers to Europe for Valentine’s day

We sold them to the local market

Can you see how much we’ve spent on it?

Losses.

Six or five months of work, and then they bombard it for me.

God is the One who compensates.

-Dad, that one is nicer.

Which one?

The Lumina.

Yes

The Lumina always saves us.

Why did the Israelis bombard them, dad?

During the war the Israelis shelled these greenhouses.

I pray to God for revenge.

This used to produce a lot before.

More than two thousand roses.

It was better than that one before the Israelis bombarded them.

Still

Since the year 2000, more than 150,000 acres of farmlands in Gaza where uprooted or destroyed

While the number of martyred farmers reached 350.

Losses in the farming industry exceeded 5 billion dollars.

The Israeli occupation dropped more than 50000 tons of bombs on the farmlands in the Gaza strip.

Daivd cornin, expert in european-israeli affairs :

in November 2011 as we know

israel attacks Gaza

just a few days before Israel blanch attacks to Gaza

there was a very large weapon fair held in Talaviv

who sponsored that’s expiation that weapons fair, the European commission ? The European Union’s sponsored those expiation?

In another words in their the European Union impressed Israel in war industry

just a few days before Israel attacked Gaza

and anybody looks us , the structure of Israeli occupation will say this

Israel uses ..Israel basically accords the Palestinians to state as animals that are used in very cruel experiment

as a European citizen , I found this is so disgusting and found that European Union is prepared embrace the manufactures of weapons in Israel.

The girl:

we are extremely throw many websits

and of course it is the information

just throw the enternt because usually the television

doesn't speak about this situation

but I can see for example in my seat there is now

people now know more about situation in Gaza

and I think I be the something to have the knowing about

situation about Gaza

we cant do anything

what we can do its just to make report about this situation

but of course let people watching in this disaster to Palestinian people so we hope reporting these to international law community that our governments can force Israeli government to stop these policy to stop these things against civilians in Gaza.

Adie nistelrooy ,human rights activist from England

well I mean all of these small things

we can horn with

I think they back horn in a few months

we are working in lot of deferent companies to affect our government policies

because we see what happening, we witnessing what happening we can report back as earliest to work that crimes are taking place on regular bases with no one noting do to in question in my government , Britain support Israeli policy and they continue in weapons they are sending

Daivd Cornin

expert in european-israeli affairs

we know for example that Israel uses the components

from Britin in the west bank

that’s by agreements between Britin and Israel

but you know

do we see daivd cornin and other similar british politcals

of course we don’t seeing they doing this

Adie nistelrooy ,human rights activist from England

also there is a rising campaign which is conflict with instructions

and a lot of Israeli company they target it

and a lot of companies disappointing Israeli occupation and companies being targeted and this is based on a Apartat campaign is South Africa that eventually contributed to helping Apartiat in South Africa, many South Africans who lived in white Apartiat in South Africa in 60-70s they have said what its happening here is worse than South Africa.

Daivd Cornin

expert in european-israeli affairs

You know how politicians are continuously are line to us about really up to in terms of policy towards the middle east , it was became so obvious thus the primer interest in middle east , we have nothing to do with people of the …Palestinians in that region region , they have to do with energy recourses, the arms in the streets , with very strategic … humiliate our…….they only pay service to human rights of Palestinian and European people in the middle east

Isam Abu Halima,Strawberry Farmer

The strawberries from Palestine and Gaza come from here, and we export them to Europe where they still the favorite.

No one in the world produces strawberries between 15 November and 1 January except in Palestine.

Adie nistelrooy ,human rights activist from England

As well Israel even take an advantage here because these Israel is not allowed the marketing companies from the west bank for example to manage the export , Israel imposes its rule ,,,they have to manage the export ,. In fact in many places about products they said made in Israel

Daivd Cornin, expert in european-israeli affairs

Despite the European Union claim to be shocked by Israel attack in Gaza, after the few months after the attack to extend the …. It s given to Israel particularly in the area of export that we found it with Israeli label and has come in to European union without have to pay the tax of customs

Nabil Al-Naooq

General Administrator of Forests and Pastures

In a convention in France, a well known French researcher said

“Europe is an entity that produces values, not only talks about values.

Europe produces Human rights.

Europe produced the Geneva Convention.”

Europe indeed produces values, or what is known as ‘Norms” in the European languages like British or French.

Unfortunately, however, Europe is the biggest loser for its support of Israel since its establishment in 1948 through the Legal Protection. And that is the most risky.

Legal protection and legalizing the occupation’s crimes in the International forums.

In addition to the direct financial support through financing arms and arms exports.

We send them flowers, and they provide Israel with the money that is used for rockets that kill our children and women and destroy our future.

We grow roses, and, regrettably, they plant animosity and hatred, whether willingly or not.

Daivd Cornin, expert in european-israeli affairs

I think it s safe to say that main European Union country ,and provide weapons to ,,, components of weapons to Israel , these countries with major weapons in the streets ,, I am thinking particularly about Britain , France , Germany ,Italy has a mechanical company which in 2012 signed a contract with Israel , they works about the billion dollars for war planes, there was the largest single weapons contract and signed between Europe and Israel the last few years

Hamdi Hegazi, Student:

When we work, we are curious to know what happens to the roses. How and where they go?

When I see roses on TV I feel happy

Because I see the results of my labor on TV.

I consider that these roses have originated from here.

Why? Because I put my sweat and blood in it.

When I see roses in television shows, when a lover gives a rose to his loved one, I feel happy.

Because I helped make it happen

I mean when a person gives his loved one a rose

I feel that I helped him.

Hammuda Abu Halima, Student:

Thank you.

Isam Abu Halima,Strawberry Farmer:

I just want to know, do the Europeans realize that the Palestinian farmer suffers because of the occupation.

Any regard for the farmer?

Do they feel for the (Palestinian) farmers and their products?

I really wish I can get an answer.

Hammuda Abu Halima, Student:

I feel they don’t realize the difficulties behind it.

We work hard from early morning to the end of day, and they just come to pick them up.

We export them, and then we see them doing strange things.

They eat them (nonchalantly)

We feel sad.

They eat them as if there are no people (who worked hard)

They think their own countries produced them.

They just do not appreciate the pain we go through.

Come on, we should go.

Still

Beit Lahia

North-Most of the Gaza Strip

Here is the drone.

Rafah

South-Most of the Gaza Strip

Hamdi Hegazi, Student:

Here is the drone.

   

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