Al Khumaini Msallam Qudiah leaving the ruins of his home in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Nov. 1, 2014. Khumaini and his sons live in the home while his wife and daughters live with their relatives. His farm was bulldozed by the Israeli army and he began building a new farm with the bricks and material from the rubble. (Jošt Franko)
In October 2013, when Slovenian photojournalist Jošt Franko went to visit Palestinian farmer Khalil Zaanin, the farmer had already begun harvesting his crop. Fast forward to present day, after months of fighting between Israelis and Palestinians this past summer, and Khalil and his family have harvested nothing. His farm was bulldozed and hit several times by airstrikes. “It’s a life with no guarantees whatsoever. Whether you have plans or not, it doesn’t matter,” Zaanin said.
Jost Franko first began embedding himself with farmers in Gaza in October and November 2013. November is generally olive harvesting season, but one year later, in the summer of 2014, the scene and the landscape for farmers has changed. The 50-da war that Israel designated “Operation Protective Edge,” in which more than 2,100 Palestinians were killed and over 17,000 homes destroyed in summer 2014, left many Gazan farmers displaced rather than harvesting their crops after their homes were demolished in the fighting. They were living in the middle of the buffer zone. Those who are considered “lucky” are the few who have been fortunate to find shelter with friends in Gaza City and not ushered into one of the UNRWA (United National Relief and Works Agency) schools , small overcrowded classrooms where several families live.
Franko returned to Gaza for two weeks in November and October 2014 to document the stark contrast in the farmer’s livelihoods. “Some neighborhoods were unrecognizable, leveled to the ground. Every morning before going to the field to re-meet the families, I had a very bad feeling in my gut, and it was usually there for a reason. Almost all the families have lost their homes,” Franko said.
Kemal Abu Rauk and his wife burn the overgrown brush in their farmland in Khan Younis on Nov. 3, 2014. (Jošt Franko) Rubble surrounding a farm and a demolished mosque in Khuza’a, Khan Younis, southern Gaza. (Jošt Franko) A farmer works in a greenhouse on Oct. 31, 2014. (Jošt Franko) Farmers unload a truck in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, on Oct. 28, 2014. (Jošt Franko) Azmi Qudiah stands in front of a damaged home in Khuza’a, Khan Younis, southern Gaza. Their family’s home had been damaged seven times before. During the war, they evacuated to Khan Younis, and upon returning found that their rabbits, chickens and sheep had been killed; they were left with only 10 pigeons. (Jošt Franko) Sami Qudiah in his damaged home in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Nov. 1, 2014. His family evacuated the house during Ramadan in July after three of his children were wounded by an Israeli tank shell fired at their house. Qudiah’s farmland was bulldozed and used as a military base for Israeli ground operations. (Jošt Franko) Azmi Quidah leavs his damaged home in Khuza’a, Khan Younis, southern Gaza. Because most of the rooms were destroyed, his family recently rented a house so that they can live together again. (Jošt Franko) Azmi Qudiah’s wife makes coffee in their damaged home in Khuza’a, Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Nov. 2, 2014. (Jošt Franko) Children play on a farm in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, on Nov. 7, 2014. (Jošt Franko) Mohammed Abu Daqqa and his children are seen leaving his destroyed home and farmland in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Nov. 1, 2014. The family has been living in a shelter in a UNRWA school for three months. Every day, Mohammed takes his five kids to school in the morning and waits for them in his destroyed house next to the buffer zone. (Jošt Franko) Samir Al Daberi is seen walking on his bulldozed land near the buffer zone in Rafah, southern Gaza, on Nov. 6, 2014. Samir’s leg was amputated during the second war in Gaza. His farm was bulldozed and he had to hire workers to remove ruined olive trees. (Jošt Franko) Workers on Khalil Zaanin’s farm in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, on Oct. 30, 2014. Zaanin’s farm was hit several times by a F-16 missiles and bulldozed completely by the Israeli army during the war in 2014, and he estimates the loss of income and damage to be about $50,000. (Jošt Franko) Hala Abu Daqqa eats her lunch in the family’s farmland in Khan Younis, southern Gaza on Nov. 3, 2014. Her family has been living in a shelter home in a UNRWA school for three months. (Jošt Franko) Khalil Zaanin with his nephew Meera in his home in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza, on Oct. 28, 2014. (Jošt Franko) Mohammed Abu Daqqa in his damaged home in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on Oct. 31, 2014. (Jošt Franko)
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