Future as Resistance

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To be honest, I thought that the Palestinian Heirloom Seed Library in Bethlehem would give me an opportunity to put down my notebook and rest my brain for a bit. I didn’t realize that urban gardening could be such a remarkable site of struggle.

On the bus ride over, our tour guide Said reminded us how Palestinians are steadily losing more and more of their own land. As a consequence of the Oslo accords, the Palestinian West Bank has been split into three governance zones:

  • Zone A, administered by the Palestinian Authority;

  • Zone B, administered by PA, but with Israel wholly in control of security; and

  • Zone C, controlled entirely by Israel.

Zone C makes up over 70% of the West Bank. While Palestinians in Zone C are almost always denied permission to build on their own land, Israeli settlers are incentivized by the government to spread as far and wide as possible.

With the ever-encroaching specter of Israeli settlement, Palestinians are having their lands, homes and farms destroyed, paved over and settled with no sign of this trend slowing down any time soon. In this way, the Israeli colonial project puts the very future of Palestine in jeopardy.

Still, Ayed Arafah and Vivian Sansour persist in planning for the future, preserving the native vegetation of Palestine through their Heirloom Seed Library.

At the seed library, Ayed explained to us the value of not just Palestinian seeds, but precious seeds from all around the world. While acknowledging the death and destruction surrounding protests and police retaliation in the surrounding Bethlehem neighborhood, Ayed explained how he chooses to emphasize life, hope, and future.

In spite of the neighborhood’s status as one of the most teargassed places on the planet, he refuses to give up, or even to move away. Instead, he and Vivian are redoubling their efforts to grow teargas-resistant plants and respond in other creative ways to the constraints imposed by Israeli occupation.

For Ayed, the seed repository project reflects a progressive vision of Palestine, one that involves “looking back at our history to build our future.”

Under siege by a Zionist government that would like nothing more than to cut off any hope for a Palestinian future, this urban farmer resists by staunchly asserting that Palestinians do in fact have a future: a future that is bright, green, and quite literally rooted in the soil. It’s a future that refuses to replicate the oppressive logics of the occupation, but instead moves beyond them in service of a joyous, communal, and eco-diverse Palestine.

With the Israeli state working tirelessly to erase both the past and the present for Palestinian people, asserting and creating your own future is a radical act of resistance.