“It is important for young people to keep a strong bond with their land that they were deprived of as a result of the occupation. It is important for them to sense and feel the needs of this land and its environment and learn more about ways through which they can not only protect it but also preserve it and love it.”
Al-Harah Theater is a Not-for-Profit Cultural Organisation based in Beit-Jala in Palestine, established in 2005. Al-Harah Theater has been committed to building and maintaining a civil society that emphasises human rights, democracy and freedom of expression through working directly with children, youth and older age groups. Through performances, festivals, training programmes and cultural projects, Al-Harah Theater has been able to engage the local community in Palestine, reaching out to marginalised areas and gazing towards international communities in different countries; building partnerships to develop its own work and the performing arts sector in Palestine.
Seed heritage and regeneration
Throughout the project, the young artists with Al-Harah Theater held rich discussions on the economic and identity struggle of local Palestinian farmers, of technological advancements in the modern world and its effects on agricultural and consumption behaviours, and how, ultimately, these issues are not addressed in any local or governmental political agendas. Through working with Vivien Sansour and the Palestine Heirloom Seeds Library, the young artists started learning about the modification and fertilisation of foreign crops, alongside the heritage and hopeful regeneration of original Palestinian seeds.
Part of the Fertile Crescent, Palestine has long been considered one of the world’s centres of agricultural diversity. Yet this biodiversity is being threatened by policies that target farmers and force them to give up their heirloom seeds to adopt new varieties. Heirlooms, which have been carefully selected through generations of Palestinian agricultural history and thousands of years of research and experimentation, are beginning to be lost to the new agricultural, socio-economic and political contexts of Palestine today.
While holding conversations and workshops with the seed library, the young artists learned that lands originally used to cultivate Palestinian crops are now occupied by modified Israeli plantations. These manufactured crops are then sold in Palestinian markets for higher prices, creating greater competition between farmers and simultaneously absorbing any existence of the original seeds in the marketplace. With these multiple injustices, the young people realised they don’t feel in control of the changes being made to their environment. Traditions are rapidly disappearing and the occupation of this agricultural history becomes another form of confiscation for the Palestinian people.