The discourse around the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in film has shifted recently from the wider scope of the conflict to the stories of communities and individuals that are struggling in their day to day lives under Israeli occupation. Documentaries such as Bil'in Habibti (Shai Carmeli-Pollak, 2006) and the more recent 5 Broken Cameras (Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi, 2011) have utilised these stories, and brought aspects of the occupation that the outside world was vaguely aware of into focus.
Resistance Recipes builds upon this discourse by touching on an important aspect of Palestinian life; agriculture and food. When my friend Yazeed first discussed the premise of his upcoming collaboration, Resistance Recipes, with me my curiosity was piqued. As a third generation “displaced” Palestinian, I am far removed from the reality of everyday life in Palestine, especially since the handful of times I have visited were before the separation wall. Both Yazeed and I come from farmer families, Fallaheen (farmers), in villages surrounding Jerusalem, so this is a subject that is close to our hearts.
Resistance Recipes comprises four resistance stories centred around cuisine and agriculture in the West Bank. Poignant and insightful, it affords the viewer an insider’s view of how Palestinians are affected by the occupation, the separation wall, and the checkpoints that control the flow of travel within the West Bank. It also brings into focus the main issue of the conflict, not religion or politics, but the ownership of land.
Hosh Yasmin is an organic farm in Beit Jalla, located close to the city of Bethlehem
Palestinian agriculture has always been the mainstay of Palestinian culture, and the depopulation of mainly agricultural villages in the 1947-1949 war was an attempt to erase the existence of a Palestine inhabited by Palestinians, who cared for the land and lovingly cultivated it. How else would the Zionist slogan “To make the desert bloom” hold true?
The Israeli state was founded on the conviction that Palestine was a land without a people, but Palestine is, and has always been, a land of the people, belonging to us as we belong to it. This holds true even for the estimated 5 million displaced Palestinian refugees. Each refugee holding on to a name of a village, town, or city, and a story of a piece of ancestral land their family owned. Resistance Recipes tells the story of the plight of those who stayed behind, and for me this was the most integral part of the story.
This is where Resistance Recipes excels, unravelling a narrative where each story touches on an aspect of land: confiscated, separated, and unlawfully claimed.
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The film takes the viewer to the ancient village of Battir with its terraces and thousand year old irrigation system, one of the oldest in world.The water from which is shared between eight major families in a fair, eight-day rotation. This has been done for countless generations and continues to this day. Battir is also the home of the famous Battiri (of Battir) aubergines, delicious when stuffed because of their narrow oblong shape. Having been spared from uprooting in 1948 and 1967, the people of Battir now live in fear that a separation wall will isolate them from their cultivated land.
Hosh Yasmin is an organic farm in Beit Jalla, located close to the city of Bethlehem, and surrounded by an ever-growing backdrop of settlements, encroaching on its land. Mazen Saadeh, the owner of Hosh Yasmin is a refugee who hails from Jericho. He recounts the hunger he faced as a child in refugee camps, this, he humorously says, is the reason he now does not settle for anything other than the best when it comes to his food. Using his home-grown vegetables, organically farmed, and lovingly cultivated, he will not have to deal with store bought Israeli produce, as long as his land is not confiscated as part of the expansion of the encroaching settlements.
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These are only two of the stories recounted in Resistance Recipes. With accounts from greengrocers in Jerusalem’s Old City, to the initiatives of a women’s farmer’s market cooperative, Resistance Recipes succeeds in portraying not only the struggles but also the triumphs of a people under occupation. One of my favourite lines in the film is spoken by a woman who volunteers to bake for a school in the village of Al Ma’sara (another village that is threatened by the shadow of a separation wall), “The struggle with the occupier will be long; this is why our school children have to be well fed,” Al Ma’sara, like Bi’lin has held weekly peaceful demonstrations protesting the building of the wall, in an ongoing battle for the community’s existence.
On the 65th anniversary of Al-Nakba, the Palestinian Catastrophe, it is painfully apparent that we are no closer to finding and implementing a solution that will address the issues discussed in this film. However, films such as Resistance Recipes offer a measure of hope, hope in the steadfastness and strength of the Palestinian people and their dedication to peaceful meaningful resistance. These are their stories, stories that do not get airtime, stories of hope, and belonging to the land.
Resistance Recipes was shown as part of The 2013 London Palestine Film Festival, and directed by Dasa Raimanova, Alicia Qandil, & Yazeed Abu Khadair. The film can be viewed on IMDB through this link.
The views expressed are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of Your Middle East.