Gazan farmers attended an agricultural conference and trade show in Tel Aviv with the help of the IDF.

Around 65 Gazan farmers and 200 Palestinians from Judea and Samaria attended an agricultural conference in Tel Aviv. The farmers arrived at the conference from Gaza with the help of the Israeli Defence Forces who facilitated their transportation. This visit by Gazan farmers is the third of its kind and is also the first conference they have visited with an international market.

The Gaza Coordinating and Liaison Administration organized the event with the IDF to support agricultural cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as to market Palestinian agriculture abroad and within Israel. Uri Madar, an agricultural officer in the Gaza Coordinating and Liaison Administration, reported, “Buyers from around the world are being exposed to Palestinian produce. In the Coordinating and Liaison Administration, we facilitate a platform for agricultural connections. From Israel’s perspective, this shows that the Gaza Strip is not in a state of distress and hunger, but rather that there is enough fresh food both for the local market and for marketing abroad.”

“We want to sell in Israel,” said Mahmoud Ikhlain, chairman of the Beit Lahiya Cooperative in Gaza. “The market in Israel is a good market. All the time, we and Israel are in contact. We are neighbors.” Ahmed Shafei, a colleague of Ikhlain, claimed, “We hope that Israel will open its markets – we can import from them and then they can receive exports from us – in order to build a good relationship between the Palestinian and the Israeli people. As you see from our visit here, we are friends. We are not political people; we are economic people.” There is presently $450 million in trade between Israel and Gaza.

According to Madar, “Agriculture knows no borders. If things are calm on the security front, there is no reason not to boost agricultural and economic ties.” Israel used to be Gaza’s best and biggest market. More than one Gazan farmer has stated that they prefer to trade with Israel over Egypt, claiming that they trust Israeli facilities more than Egyptian ones. One Gazan farmer claimed, “We were able to do good business here. We make a living and create jobs. And when the economy is good, people are happy and there are no political problems.”

By Rachel Avraham, staff writer at United with Israel