In February 2012, a team of American and Palestinian amateur runners will embark on a 5-day, 129-mile "Run Across Palestine" — a project of On The Ground, which last year successfully fostered the "Run Across Ethiopia" — which aims to raise awareness about the struggles facing modern-day Palestinian olive farmers as they work to reestablish sustainable olive-growing practices in a place where the economy, culture, and identity are rooted in this ancient tree.
As a journalist, I will be documenting the journey in photos and text. Other facets of the support crew include additional members of the media team, members of a fair-trade cooperative, athletic trainers, and a Lansing-based Jewish American musician.
There are endless possibilities for story angles to pursue, and some may not even crop up until we arrive in the West Bank. Below is a list of a just a few of the possible themes for documentation:
- Reestablishing Sustainable Growing: 45% of the region's agricultural land is devoted to olive farming, which employs 100,000 Palestinians.
- Peace Through Food: Olive branches have been used to represent peace for thousands of years, and the trees themselves each are given names based on physical characteristics and "personalities" that the trees give off: in a sense, they become family members. In our globalized world, society has come to depend on certain regions that are prime for growing certain foods — wine from France, tea from India, cacao for chocolate from the Amazon — and the Palestinian olive farmers are hoping that the world will come to depend upon them for olive oil production, according to Vivien Sansour of Canaan Fair Trade, the first cooperative in the world to produce certified organic olive oil. She says perhaps if people make a connection to the food, they will make a connection to the people who grow the food, and therefore will see value to the lives of the people living in that region.
- Beyond Fair Trade: The cultural connections — from American retailer to West Bank distributor to Palestinian olive groves — by foot.
- Ultramarathon: The endurance associated with running the equivalent of five consecutive marathons, from the perspective of the runners. Every day they will run from one farming community to the next, and at night they will be housed by these families, deepening the cultural connections through food, stories, and music.
- Musician Profile: Jewish American musician Joshua Davis, who is writing an album based on his cross-cultural experiences.
- Images: The unknown faces of Palestine, a culture currently without statehood.
- West Bank Water: Palestine's water resources are deeply connected to those of neighboring Israel and Jordan. In many countries around the world, around 75% of national water use is devoted to agriculture. With my extensive background in water issues, I am very interested in how these three countries share water and how agriculture — specifically that of olive trees — plays a part in this.
The money raised with this Kickstarter campaign will pay for my airfare, lodging, and living expenses during the trip. None of these funds will go toward On The Ground's mission, which is to raise money to plant olive trees in Palestine, as well as to fund educational scholarships for the children of olive farmers. To donate to this cause, go to On The Ground's website. Below is a video produced for the Run Across Palestine by Aaron Dennis of Stone Hut Studios.
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