• Mohammad Atiyeh, who says he’s originally from Jericho owns and runs the farm. (Facebook/Mohammad Atiyeh)
Instead of gifting roses this Valentine's Day, Mohammed Atiyeh wants locals to exchange khubaizeh - a native plant - to bring different factions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict together and perhaps create lasting peace.
By
Kate Bettes

Source:
The Foreign Correspondent Study Tour
12 Feb 2018 - 9:52 AM  UPDATED 12 Feb 2018 - 10:19 AM

The Children of the Valley Farm in Jordan’s south Shuneh is dwarfed by rising slopes. 

To one side of the valley is the West Bank. To the east – the rising Jordanian mountains. 

The farm is less than 5 kilometres from the border with Israel and is close to Jericho in the West Bank.

It's an area with a long, sometimes bloody history, including the 1967 Six Day War between Israeli, Egypt, Jordan and Syria.

Mohammad Atiyeh, who says he’s originally from Jericho – one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world – owns and runs the farm. 

He hopes that instead of buying expensive roses, “people can adapt the habit of giving each other khubaizeh on Valentine’s Day".

He grows crops of dates, figs, citrus and khubaizeh – a leafy green plant that grows widely in Jordan. 

Mohammed says he wants to promote the native khubaizeh to the local community, and with the help of the World Food Programme he founded the Khubaizeh Festival two years ago. 

It's held on February 14 - a date Mohammed has chosen for a reason - he hopes that instead of buying expensive roses, “people can adapt the habit of giving each other khubaizeh on Valentine’s Day.”

Mohamed says he has a vision that it’s events like this that can help create safer environments in the tension-ridden area.

The farm is close to King Hussein's Bridge, also known as Allenby Bridge, which crosses the Jordan River. It is currently the only point at which West Bank Palestinians can travel abroad as they are prohibited from using Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. 

Now that Jericho lies in Palestinian territory, it is difficult for the people of Shuneh to visit because they must cross a border that has tight security.

“Before the war of 1967, Jericho and South Shuneh were almost one,” Mohammad says, sitting in the shade of golden brown stone arches in the middle of the farm.  

“People of Shuneh used to go for medical help in Jericho, used to go to school, to entertainment, to shopping in Jericho.”   

Now that Jericho lies in Palestinian territory, it is difficult for the people of Shuneh to visit because they must cross a border that has tight security. 

“The idea is basically to if you wish, to break the border but in a peaceful humane manner." 

Jericho residents were once Jordanian citizens after the Jordanian annexation of the territory in 1950. Since the Israeli occupation of Jericho, like Mohammad, many residents crossed over to Jordan.  

Mohammad says he helped create what’s known as the ‘twinning agreement ’ between Shuneh and Jericho.

The agreement is an initiative between the two municipalities of Shuneh and Jericho to Jericho to strengthen the relationship between the people from the two towns that were once close. But it also works to exchange knowledge, agriculture expertise.

The Children of the Valley Farm forms a core part of the agreement, but Mohammed says he hopes the farm can also help build Palestinians and Jordanians relationship with Israelis while exchanging knowledge and ideas such as about greywater and permaculture technology. 

“The Palestinian farmers – they are learning a lot from the Israeli farmers,” Mohammad says. 

“The idea is basically to, if you wish, to break the border but in a peaceful humane manner." 

“The Palestinian farmers – they are learning a lot from the Israeli farmers.”

And while he's at it, he wants the international community to learn more about the area by inviting tourists to stay at the farm.

French twins Elise and Justine stayed there in January of last year. They helped on the farm and prepared food.

“Actually we didn’t know [the farm] was so close (sic) from the border,” says Elise. “At night you close your eyes and then you see Palestine. It’s wonderful.”

 

Video by Donal Sheil and Kate Bettes.

 

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About Israeli food
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The Foreign Correspondent Study Tour is a joint UTS and Swinburne University project, supported by the Commonwealth through the Council for Australian-Arab Relations, which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.