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The Time And Space To Enjoy The Beauty Of Plants

Khan Younis, Gaza Strip- “I am searching through the rubble, looking for anything that might still have some green in it to bring it back to life.” This is how thirty-three-year-old Rami El Breem describes his hopes while he stands over the rubble of his destroyed nursery. His nursery, in the Zanneh district east of Khan Younis, housed more than 5,000 different saplings and plants. He had trees like figs and olives, he had vines and lemons, and he had roses and jasmines among many others, including his beloved cactuses.
“We left our home under heavy shelling at night. I carried my daughter Ritaj in my right hand and held my wife’s hand in the other,” Rami said. “We ran to a shelter with no plan. We carried nothing, no clothes, nothing! After 30 days of displacement, we went back to our house and nursery to find them struck down.” Israeli tanks had entered people’s lands and had run right over Rami’s nursery after burning and erasing it. The plants that did not die from the Israeli army’s incursions died of thirst.
“We’ve been through tough days,” his wife said. “Right after we got married, I sold all the gold we had, Rami borrowed from friends and family, we put everything we own at stake, and gathered $30,000. One year into our nursery project, and after paying only a quarter of its cost, the Israeli tanks destroyed it.”
After the war was over, Rami had high hopes of receiving support from NGOs and support agencies to rebuild his nursery. But only a few came, and those who did come and assess the damage have not returned. As he spoke, Rami’s face turned pale, as if life has been sucked out of him. His wife tried to support him and raise his morale. Being totally broke and surrounded by debt, he could not even rent a house to shelter his family.
“I have faith in Rami, he is a good person,” his wife said. “He is a skilled gardener. I borrowed $2000 from my father to rent a piece of land since the land owner we rented from kicked us out, and Rami borrowed another $2000 to start the nursery again. We know that reconstruction will be late and we need money to live.”
Rami rented a piece of land south of the previous one. He planted his new saplings and whatever he salvaged from the rubble. He erected a wooden room but has not covered it yet. “I want to cover the wooden structure with nylon sheets and live in it with my family. I put up the wood, but I couldn’t finish it. I don’t have money and I’m waiting for a new baby now… our landlord gave us another week until the end of December, but after that we have to leave if we don’t pay the rent.”
Rami has started planting again, hoping that he could provide some income, but his plants are young and cannot resist the cold and frost. They have to be covered with nylon sheets. Rami loads his toktok every day with plants and goes to the market place to sell them. “I do not have money, and I am waiting for support to cover the plants with nylon so that they might grow. They will die otherwise… I am scared of the debt I have, I feel crippled, but I will not stop, I will keep pushing through.”
Standing by nursery’s iron door, his wife added: “We dream of stability and tranquility, we dream of freedom, we fantasize about the moment we will have no debt, to have the time and space to enjoy the beauty of these plants.”

By Mo’ath al Amoudi (17 December, 2014)

Translated by Fidaa Touma