Don’t Call Me Resilient

Palestine was never a ‘land without a people'

Episode Summary

Modern settlers to Palestine viewed the desert as something they needed to “make bloom.” But the land was already blooming, thanks to Palestinian agricultural systems that have long been overlooked by colonial powers.

Episode Notes

As violence continues to erupt in Gaza, and more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7 remain missing, many of us are seeking to better understand the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has been raging for decades.

Some of us assume that the violence between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians — a majority of whom are Muslim — is a religious conflict, but a closer look at the history of the last century reveals that the root of the tension between the two communities is more complicated than that.

At its root, it’s  a conflict between two communities that claim the right to the same land. And for millions of Palestinians, it’s about displacement from the land.

Land has so much meaning. It’s more than territory: land represents home, your ancestral connection and culture – but also the opportunity to be productive with the land; to feed yourself and your country.

One of the things that colonizers are famous for is the idea of terra nullius – that the land is empty of people before they come to occupy it.

In the case of Palestine, the Jewish settlers in 1948, and the British before that, viewed the desert as empty and as something they needed to “make bloom.”

But the land was already blooming. There is a long history of Palestinian connection to the land, including through agricultural systems and a rich food culture that is often overlooked by colonial powers.

Our guests on this week's podcast have been working on a film about the importance of preserving Palestinian agriculture and food in exile.

Elizabeth Vibert is a professor of colonial history at University of Victoria. She has been doing oral history research to examine historical and contemporary causes of food crises in various settings including Palestinian refugees in Jordan.

Salam Guenette is the consulting producer and cultural and language translator for their documentary project. She holds a master's degree in history.

Episode Transcription



Vinita Srivastava: [00:00:00] Hi, everyone. Before we get started today, I have a few things to tell you about. First, we're always trying to make Don't Call Me Resilient better. We'd love you to help us do that. We've put together a listener survey to find out a little bit more about you, what you like about this podcast, and what you want to see more of.

It only takes about 10 minutes to fill out the survey, and it would really help us out. You can find the survey at don' com. I also wanted to tell you about another podcast we thought you might like. It deals with similar issues to the ones we cover here on Don't Call Me Resilient, but through a public policy lens.

It's called InEquality. It's a fairly new series from the Policy Options Podcast. As the name suggests, the podcast centers on issues of inequality in Canada. Host Debra Thompson speaks with researchers who have spent their careers thinking carefully about what kind of solutions are needed and how public policy can help us get there.

Find InEquality in the [00:01:00] Policy Options Podcast feed. Wherever you get your podcasts


Vinita Srivastava: From the conversation. This is don't call me resilient. I'm Vinita Srivastava. 


Salem Guenette: It's important to talk about Palestinian food and how Palestinians carry their culture through food because although millions of us are scattered in a diaspora, it is the food that we carry, the food that we pass on, is part of our identity.

That's how we remain what we are. It's our minute connection to somewhere far away. 


Vinita Srivastava: As violence continues to erupt in Gaza, and more than 200 hostages taken by Hamas on October 7th remain missing. Many of us are seeking to better understand the context of the Israeli Palestinian conflict that has been raging for decades.

Some of us assume that the violence between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians, a [00:02:00] majority of whom are Muslim, is a religious conflict, but a closer look at the history of the last century reveals that the roots of the tension between the two communities is much more complicated than that. It's also a conflict between two communities that claim the right to the same land.

For millions of Palestinians, it's about displacement from that land. Land has so much meaning. It's more than territory, land represents home, the opportunity to feed yourselves and your country. It represents culture. It's your ancestral connection. One of the things that colonizers are famous for is the idea of terra nullius.

But the land is empty of people before they come to occupy it. In the case of Palestine, the Jewish settlers in 1948 and the British before that viewed the desert as empty and as something they needed to quote, make bloom. [00:03:00] But the land was already blooming. There is a long history of Palestinian connections to the land.

Our guests today have been working on a film about the importance of preserving that food culture in exile. Elizabeth Vibert is a professor of colonial history at the University of Victoria. She has been doing oral history research to examine historical and contemporary causes of food crises in various settings.

Including Palestinian refugees in Jordan. Salam Gannett is the cultural and language translator for the documentary they are working on, Aisha's Story. She holds a master's degree in history.

Thank you Elizabeth and Salam for joining us today. 

Elizabeth Vibert: Thank you. 


Vinita Srivastava: Thank you. We have so many questions. And the first one is, for people [00:04:00] listening who may be thinking that right now we're in such an overwhelming time with devastating losses, why is it important to talk about Palestinian culture and agriculture and food culture right now?

Elizabeth, I'll start with you. If you could just briefly lay out why you think it's important to talk about this now. 

Elizabeth Vibert: I'm a historian, so I always think about how we got here, the history that lies behind the current crisis, because nothing ever happens in a vacuum. In the case of Palestine and Israel, the loss of land And the set of ideas about the supposed backwardness of the agricultural practices of the Palestinians, that's a really fundamental part of the history.

So often people think of big military events in 1948 or 1967, but much more fundamentally, this is a conflict over land and ways of being on the land and using the land. And so [00:05:00] that's about land as food systems. And 

Vinita Srivastava: Salam, do you want to add to that? 

Salem Guenette: From my perspective as a Canadian of Palestinian heritage, the double standards of how the reporting on the loss of Palestinian life is It's happening over news media is being addressed by world politicians.

It's important to put Palestinian lives within the context where they lived and thrived and ended up being just numbers. It's important to keep reminding people that we are. All humans and our way out of this is not by continued bombardment. 

Vinita Srivastava: I know it's a very long history, but I'd like to go back to the early days of colonial land control after World War I.

This conflict didn't start in 1948. It didn't start with the creation of Israel. Elizabeth, can you tell us a little bit about that complicated history? 

Elizabeth Vibert: Before the Zionist [00:06:00] project began in Palestine in the early 1880s, when Zionists from Europe began to imagine building a safe homeland for Jewish people there.

And making the desert bloom as you, as you made mentioned, before that project began, Palestinians were living on the land for millennia, uh, generations were farming and harvested the water in sustainable ways, which they continue to practice where they still have access to land today. When the Zionists began to eye the historical Jewish lands in their perspective as a future homeland for Jews from around the world, very quickly there came this narrative about, I don't think they thought the land was literally empty.

They knew there were people there. Yeah. But they saw the desert as a kind of unmitigated, barren, and hostile landscape that needed modernizing. In the 1880s, 1890s, small numbers of Jewish [00:07:00] newcomers, supported by the Zionist movement in Britain and elsewhere, began to move in. But during that period, Palestinians alive today, who were alive before 1948, talk about the intergenerational positive relationships between Muslim, Christian, and Jewish people living on the land.

The Arab Jews, who have a very long history on the land too, were in close social and economic interaction with the Muslim majority and the Christian smaller but significant population in Palestine. I have a really great quote from a Palestinian newspaper in 1926, so jumping forward to post World War I.

An editorial in the Palestinian newspaper Philistine, the editorialist wrote, Ten years ago the Jews were living as Ottoman brothers of those under the Ottoman Empire. Zionists, the Zionist Project, put an end to all that and prevented any intermingling with the indigenous people. So this is a 1926 statement by a [00:08:00] Palestinian editorial team speaking to the way that the Zionist Project and the Zionists who began arriving from abroad began to really remake the relationship among the peoples on the land and then began to remake the land.

Vinita Srivastava: I just want to go into the history a little bit from a personal perspective, which is Salam, your perspective. Your family is from Palestine. Can you tell us a little bit about your personal history? You can start maybe in 1948. 

Salem Guenette: Absolutely, I am Palestinian on both of my parents side. My mother's family for generations has been living in Hebron.

They still live in Hebron. My father's family is from El Khalil and my father's family is from Jerusalem. Al Quds grandfather was He was an officer in the Ottoman Empire, and he was part of the Palestinian grouping that was trying to stand up against the British mandate during the 1936 revolt. He was imprisoned for a [00:09:00] year.

After leaving prison, he had a home in Jerusalem and a home in Amman. When the 48 War happened, they were in Amman, so they were caught behind the lines, and my father at the time would have been 17. So he never actually went back to Jerusalem post that date. My mother was teaching outside of Hebron when the six day war happened in 67.

And because the policies of return will give permission more to women who had families living there instead of men who had families living there, my mother still holds onto her Palestinian ID cards or what were at the time the Israeli travel permits. I hold on to that through her. I still have extended family on my father's side in Jerusalem as well, but my greater connection is to the one in Hebron.

I still have my aunt and uncle live over there with their children before I left the Middle East [00:10:00] myself and moved away from home. I was able to go visit, and I have fond memories of my grandfather's grove and orchard. But those fond memories are also mixed with the reality of an Arab or a Palestinian trying to cross the border into the West Bank.

It is humiliating, it is dehumanizing how women and children are stripped of their underwears to make sure that they're not hiding anything that they could be taking in. The long hours of wait for a crossing that is from Amman to Hebron is probably an hour, maybe an hour and a half drive. It would take us the whole day to get there.

I am so lucky and privileged to be Canadian. I know that deep in my heart, I love this country more than anything, but my blood is Palestinian. Yes, Jordan gave Palestinians citizenship more than any other country in the neighborhood. And I grew up there, but even in Jordan, my identity was Palestinian.

It's connected to [00:11:00] my family name. It's connected to our traditions. It's connected to the circles of people that people move within in Jordan. It's part of us. We carry it wherever we go. My father's family lore say that they entered Jerusalem with The Crusades. So it's been a while.

Vinita Srivastava: We were talking about the importance of food and culture and how that has traveled with you, Salam.

You talked about being in the West Bank and visiting your family there in Hebron. Elizabeth, you study food and land. You had mentioned how food and land in Palestine was viewed by the British and others and how that particular view helped to set the tone for how things unfolded in the region. 

Elizabeth Vibert: Early views of so called backward Palestinian agriculture really continue to play into our assumptions, misperceptions, misconceptions, and really racialized misunderstandings of [00:12:00] Palestinians today.

So the notion of British colonizers post World War I and of the British and other visionaries of the new land for Jews in Palestine was that Palestinians were practicing an entirely outmoded, backward form of agriculture, if it could even be dignified with the name of agriculture. These are really common colonizing views of Indigenous land practices really all over the world in the imperial era.

Famously, colonizers, French and English, came to the future Canada and saw Indigenous people, quote unquote, wasting the land, failing to make the most productive use of the land. That notion of wasting the land and wasting the resources of the land was really widespread. And a massive justification for dispossessing indigenous peoples of their lands and was applied in a really cookie cutter kind of way in Palestine as well.[00:13:00]

Coming in and viewing the Palestinians as not making proper use of the land, not making the most modern and intensive use of the land. But many Palestinian farmers have held onto those intergenerational age old methods of, for instance, terracing the land in order to harness water, which is pretty scarce in this region.

Parts of the country are close to desert and semi arid. Other parts along the Jordan River Valley do get seasonal rainfall, and that precious seasonal rainfall is harvested and conserved through techniques like terracing the land to grow the olive. trees and other crops on those terraces, which retain soil moisture in a way that the land would not in large monoculture fields.

So there's all kinds of methods that Palestinians knew to be as productive as possible in those lands that today scholars and practitioners who are into agroecological methods of farming are [00:14:00] suggesting are the ideal methods for that landscape. So it took us a while to catch up with Palestinian knowledge of the landscape.

There's a Palestinian geographer at Birzeit University called Omar Tezdal who's doing research on the Bali methods of rainwater, rain fed agriculture, and the ways that the very scarce water is harvested for agricultural use. And you know, we look at the Central Valley in California and all the overdrafted, overtapped aquifers around the world that are supporting really unsustainable agricultural methods, which have indeed fed a lot of people over the years, but are increasingly clearly unsustainable in the era of climate crisis.

And Omar Tezdal and Palestinian farmers are showing us how their methods are actually the ones that we may well need to pursue on a larger scale in other parts of the world. 

Vinita Srivastava: When you're saying, like, they thought that the land was being wasted, was that because they didn't recognize what they saw, or is it because it wasn't [00:15:00] large enough?

Elizabeth Vibert: There was a lot of misrecognition. When we drive through the countryside on the east bank of the River Jordan in Jordan today, you can see the terracing. And I traveled with Imad al Quran, who works for the Food and Agriculture Organization and is an agricultural engineer across the countryside, and he had to interpret the landscape for me.

I am not familiar with this landscape. He had to read it to me. The British newcomers did not recognize this eastern Mediterranean semi arid landscape that they were seeing. And they had this whole baggage of a very modernizing, improving set of practices that needed to be carried out on the landscape, which involved enclosure and fencing.

And they weren't seeing fences. I mean, that was a big symbolic lack for them. Right. 

Vinita Srivastava: And Salam, do you want to tell us a little bit about some of the agriculture in your life?

Salem Guenette: Both my families were mostly city dwellers, but my grandfather in Hebron [00:16:00] had a big tract of land in front of his house. It was filled with olive trees, grape vines, some very precious fig trees that I can close my eyes and see.

Still taste them 30 years later. It explains to my very Canadian husband, who's never had a fig before he met me, why I'm so fascinated with fig season. There are certain flavors from Hebron that. I see in, in the fall here, I see crab apples and I would think of the crab apples that would come from my grandfather.

They would send them from Hebron for us because it was the season. So they would send apples from Hebron to Amman because they knew that we wouldn't get the same ones that they had over there. My aunt in Jordan made sure to grow. A tiny little branch of my grandfather's fig tree in her orchard in her backyard in Amman so that she would have something from that land with her.

It wasn't by any means a massive piece of land, but it was enough to produce their fruit for the season, to [00:17:00] produce their olives for the season, to produce their olive oil. And these are extremely important staples in Palestinian cuisine. If I may just add a tiny bit to what Elizabeth was saying about not recognizing the methods when colonial forces went into any place that they thought not as civilized as they were, or maybe even on a more primitive level, they intentionally did not want to see.

Because whatever they had was not important for them to see, they were already way beyond it. So why should they look back at the practices of other people? For me, my Jerusalem family, they were not farmers. They were in commerce. They were in politics. As I said, my grandfather was a member of the Ottoman forces at some point.

I don't have a tradition of farming on that side, but I know that they exist. The family still exists within Jerusalem. My grandmother's grave is there and she died before the start of [00:18:00] World War II. I was never able to visit it. My father was never able to visit it after the war. I should stop in there and just talk about figs and grapes.

That's much better. 

Vinita Srivastava: No, it's okay. And I'm sorry that you've never been able to visit. It's part of the story, I think, and I think we want to talk about that decades long occupation of Palestine. And we are also talking about how it impacted food culture, food sovereignty, and agriculture. Maybe, Elizabeth, can you expand on that a little bit more?

Like, how has this decades long occupation of Palestine impacted food sovereignty and agriculture that pre existed in 1948 and 1917? 

Elizabeth Vibert: The decades long occupation of the West Bank, for instance, which began legally in 1967 but was underway in all kinds of ways before that, and equally in Gaza, has affected food sovereignty for the local farmers in every way you can imagine.

Just to give a couple of symbolic examples, I talked about how enclosed, improving [00:19:00] agriculture involved fences. Well, so does improved security management of populations. The West Bank is literally walled off from the rest of Israel by this, in most of its run, eight meter high separation wall, as it's called, or security barrier, as the Israeli government calls it.

Except for the little special settler roads that are allowed to permeate that wall and go off to the illegal settlements in the occupied territory. And that wall literally cut off farmers from their olive fields, from the fields where they would range their livestock, from fields where they would grow a whole variety of crops, so farmland was completely cut off from the farmers on the other side of the wall in many instances.

And the settlements themselves, which are growing and growing apace as we are completely preoccupied with Gaza, those settlements themselves are also taking up farmland. They're usually up on the hill and the Palestinian [00:20:00] settlements are down in the valley or on the hillside and often the livestock ranged up on the hill and now that's walled Jewish settlements.

So those are just two examples of the ways in which sovereignty over food systems and the ability to sustainably steward food systems, or even just grow your own food, has been really truncated by the occupation. And then to chime in on something that Salam was saying so powerfully about her own family in the film that we're making about the Palestinian miller Aisha Azam.

Aisha, who has never been able to return to Palestine since she was 10 years old, lives in a refugee camp in Jordan. She talks about the za'atar, which we translate as thyme. It's actually a specific plant, but we translate it as thyme, and it's a really crucial ingredient of Palestinian food. She talks about how the za'atar that grows in the wild in the hills of Palestine is its own thing.

They can grow the plant in Jordan, but it has a completely different taste. It has a completely different [00:21:00] aroma. It lasts longer. The one that they grow in Palestine, it has better drying properties, and that's all about terroir. That's all about what soil it grows in, what level of mineral content, and what climate, and so on.

And Aisha reminisces really enthusiastically about some time that a woman was able to get a pass and visit the West Bank a few years ago, and she brought some of this thyme back to Aisha's mill, and Aisha milled it, and the smell filled the neighborhood, and a man came from some distant That's a great way of interpreting words.

Vinita Srivastava: And this is the film that you're talking about that you've been working on for the last five years and the film really explores this relationship between traditional agricultural practices and culture. As you said, it's in Jordan and inside a Palestinian refugee camp. And you've talked a little bit about Aisha, the main character, [00:22:00] but can you tell us a little bit more of this main character and her family's history?

Elizabeth Vibert: Her personal story and her family's story is a total microcosm of the Palestinian experience, to simplify it in that way. Her grandparents fled Palestine in 1948 with every intention, like so many Palestinians, of being able to return. They fled with their basic worldly possessions, the most important of which, she tells us, was the grinding stone, an essential everyday tool on which they ground their wheat, on which they ground their herbs, the basis of their cuisine.

And they fled initially to a West Bank region near the river and then ultimately to the east side of the river. Aisha was born in the late 50s and in 1967 her family had to flee again. They left their community on the edge of the river and in the course of the hostilities and yet another kind of exodus of Palestinians, they went to the Baha refugee camp where they've lived [00:23:00] ever since.

And so the first 10 years of her life, Aisha was able to travel on Fridays for the Friday prayer at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem with her father. But in 1967, as she puts it in the film, now we had hard borders and they were no longer permitted to travel to Jerusalem on Fridays. And she speaks about how that was one of the biggest losses of her life.

So she's never been able to return. She's never received permission to return since 1967. And she and her family, two generations more, her children and her grandchildren all live in Baha camp. One family lives in Amman. 

Vinita Srivastava: And Salam, you have some connections to this camp in Jordan as well. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that?

Salem Guenette: My mother, in the late 60s, early 70s, she started teaching. She was a teacher very briefly in Saudi Arabia. Then she came back to Jordan and by then the refugee camp was being established in Baha. and they needed teachers. So she became one of the teachers for the United [00:24:00] Nations Refugee Agency, UNRWA. Her first six months of teaching were in that camp.

And when I was sitting down and translating pieces of the film, and Aisha would say, I used to go to the school and it was tense. Then I recalled my mother, we were driving to deliver something to Aisha on a different visit. And my mother said in the car, when I first started teaching, everything here was tense, and I'm like, oh my goodness, what are the odds that my mother would have taught this woman?

When we went back last time, we brought Aisha and my mother together, and they sat and looked at pictures and reminisced. about their days as the young teacher and the young student. My mother did not teach Aisha, but they knew teachers in common. To think that I would remember teachers from 50 years ago in a refugee camp, it must have been such a visceral, informative experience for her to still have that in her mind all these years on.

They looked at [00:25:00] stuff, they remembered pictures, they laughed a little bit at the sad situation that they were in, but it's part of a coping mechanism. Whatever there is misery, you have to find the comedy in there so that you can survive. To see them just laughing about how the tents would blow and everybody will go after their flying books and notebooks.

So that was my connection to her. My mother's school, where she taught for all her life, was just on the hill that's overlooking the camp. It's not the only camp for Palestinian refugees in Jordan. It is the biggest. There are many in Amman, in the cities. It's very normal that you're going from one neighborhood and suddenly you're in a much more crowded, denser, differently built neighborhood and you know that you're in a refugee camp.

There are no walls, there are no real identifications that you're now moving from one part of the city to the other, but you know the scenery is different, the human density is different, the infrastructure is even different. Amman is a [00:26:00] very old city. It has established neighborhoods, and you can see where these new entities had to find space and grow within these areas in between.

It's very big camp. It's full of people, and most of these people have never seen Palestine, but they know that they're Palestinian. In Jordan, I have citizenship, but my family name will indicate that I'm Palestinian for anybody who looks  at it.

Vinita Srivastava: When you were talking about the stories of the wheat and how she left, you said, but the, the grinding stone, our producer on this episode, Atika, said she saw on Twitter, people leaving Gaza with bags of wheat, that same idea of how important wheat is.

And I think in one of the clips in your film, Aisha says, wheat is so important. It's more valuable than gold. It's everything. When you talk about fleeing, you don't have time to necessarily think, Oh, I want to take these seeds or these things that you can never return to that. As you [00:27:00] say, it's the very earth that we're talking about here.

I wanted to ask you in this context, our conversation right now about land, this expression has really been talked a lot about it's from the river to the sea. Palestine will be free. And I'm just wondering, in the context that we're talking about right now, what does this expression mean, from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free?

Can I ask you to start, Elizabeth? 

Elizabeth Vibert: From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free is a controversial phrase, often said by, by the Israeli state and supporters of Israel to be aimed at annihilating Israelis from the Palestinian lands, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. So it describes that geographical space that is historical Palestine.

I tend to side with Congresswoman Pleib on the question. It's really an aspirational phrase. about liberty, about [00:28:00] liberation of the territory so that Palestinians can live in their homeland, in the homeland that they view as their mother. I'm sure there are Palestinian political movements that may have formal policies of removing Israel from the land.

I don't hear it in that way, and I would recommend to listeners a book by Israeli historian, Israeli American historian Shai Haskani called Dear Palestine. And it's about the 1948 war. And he is the first to have gone into all the Israeli Defense Force archives and looked at a lot of Arab sources. And in fact, he does not find in that pre 1948 and 1948 rhetoric on the Arab side, any narrative about a desire to drive Israelis out of Israel and into the sea.

But rather, he tends to find more of that rhetoric on the Israeli side. And this is entirely based in the historical [00:29:00] documents that he assiduously studied across 10 years. And he doesn't say that there were no Arabs saying, drive the Israelis into the sea in the time of warfare. There certainly were. The Muslim Brotherhood was an organization using that rhetoric, but there was very little such annihilationist rhetoric on the Arab side.

When I hear it, I don't jump to the conclusion that it's about annihilating Israelis. I don't hear it that way with my historical perspective.

Vinita Srivastava: Elizabeth why is it important that we talk about this relationship with agriculture and the land at this moment? 

Elizabeth Vibert: The relationship with agriculture and the land is the original colonizing relationship. The colonizers came in, viewed Indigenous peoples worldwide as not moving and living appropriately and productively enough on the land, and used that as a massive justification to dispossess the Indigenous peoples of their land.

It was the underlying justification for dispossessing people. [00:30:00] And that played out as we've seen through early Zionist Just rhetoric about backward, primitive, unproductive, even lazy Palestinians, and then the British colonial rhetoric of the early 20th century, which continued in that vein. The rhetoric today is not specifically about agricultural practices.

Although it is in the West Bank, the settlers are going to come in and make better use of the land. But the rhetoric today of backwardness and even animal like qualities that is coming out even of some cabinet ministers in the Israeli government, that dehumanizing rhetoric and failure to recognize a sophisticated and ancient but also very contemporary culture, That's with us today, and it is grounded in ideas about land use.

And agriculture and food production. Hmm. 

Vinita Srivastava: And Salam, did you wanna add to that as well?

Salem Guenette: It's important to talk about Palestinian food [00:31:00] and how Palestinians carry their culture through food because Although millions of us are scattered in a diaspora It is the food that we carry the food that we pass on is part of our identity That's how we remain what we are In my own house, I would cook many things, but when it's something Palestinian, my son is sure to know that this is a Palestinian dish that my mother made for me, so that I will teach him how to make it in the future, so that he will keep that with him.

It's our minute connection to somewhere far away. 

Vinita Srivastava: I think you're talking partly about how much you can love land, but also what land produces and what that brings to you and your families and your communities. 

Elizabeth Vibert: Yeah. How that sustains body and life, but also community. And memory. And memory, of course, keeps memory alive.

As Aisha said about the smell of the za'atar, right, bringing the whole street in to try to get some. [00:32:00] There's a really wonderful moment in the film where Aisha is reflecting on how Palestinian identity is kept alive in exile. And she says, when women get together, when we come into a gathering, the first thing we do is ask, where are you from?

And that means where in Palestine does your family come from? She says, I'm from Beit Massir. That's a village near Jerusalem in which Aisha never lived. I'm from Beit Massir, says Aisha, and others are from Hebron or wherever. That's the first question. The second question the women ask each other is, what are you cooking?

And they're cooking muftul, which is Palestinian couscous. They're cooking all the various Palestinian dishes that are so definitive of identity that the grandchildren view that way as well. So that's absolutely central. 

Vinita Srivastava: And I love that story that Aisha tells about how she feels responsible for imparting this culture through the food, through the wheat, through [00:33:00] the mill, that she's producing this wheat that is from home, from her land, that she is now responsible for imparting to her Palestinian community in Jordan.

Elizabeth Vibert: When I first met her, after hearing about the mill and her activities to keep the heritage, rain fed wheat available and to mill that wheat for the local community into eight forms of wheat that are used in Palestinian cuisine, when I first talked to her about that, I said, Aisha, You're keeping alive Palestinian food culture in the camp.

And she laughed, twinkle in her eye, and said, I am single handedly keeping Palestinian food culture alive in the camp. She was joking. She's not doing it single handedly, but she has a wonderful sense of humor, and it was a great response.

Vinita Srivastava:  It's really a testament to the power like of what one person can really do, you know, as you said, she could only Take what she could take but she knew how important that wheat mill was and how Important that has turned out to be [00:34:00] for her in terms of a marker of what she's been able to do.

Mm hmm Any last things that you want to say about what would you like the takeaway of this film to be? What do you want people listening to this conversation today to take away as they're thinking about this current conflict? I can start with Salam. 

Salem Guenette: I would like people who might watch the movie and listen to this podcast to know that Palestinians are a lot more than the images that they see on TV.

They are a lot more than images of destruction or violence. They were, they are, they will continue to be people who, just like the rest of humans, they want a good safe place for their families to grow. They want to protect their children. They are definitely not the angry, violent mob that anybody thinks that they can portray them as.

Before the wars, they were very well established communities, not just as farmers, but in their urban centers. [00:35:00] They are people full of joy, full of life, and that life is being denied to them, especially for those in Gaza and the people who are in the West Bank who are increasingly feeling, if I may use the word, noose tightened around them, because they don't want to leave.

It is their home, but it's very difficult to live in that home at the moment, the way things are going.

Elizabeth Vibert: I think that the film takes people into the heart of a wonderful Palestinian woman, Aisha Azam, but into the heart of her household, her community, her vibrant and loving and dignified community. When we made the film, we weren't thinking we needed to show people the heart of a Palestine.

Um, and how a Palestinian grandmother would be so connected to her children and would feel this intergenerational responsibility to share deep connection to Palestine with them. We weren't thinking we had to essentially, quote unquote, show [00:36:00] the human face of Palestinians. Since October 7th, that feels like a really deep need that people understand Palestinians are humans with human wishes, desires, hopes for their children and grandchildren.

And the film certainly gets at that. And then it gets at these incredible sort of micro cuisines in the very different parts of Palestine, Amal and Aisha together, Salam's mother, the former teacher, and Aisha together discussing what they're cooking at home. Their communities, Hebron and Jerusalem, 28 kilometers apart, and they have completely different micro cuisines.

Mm hmm. different names for dishes, different ingredients in the dishes over which they squabble at one point in the film. Microlocality of cuisine within the larger Palestine is also really fascinating. And so there's all these currents of human communities making their way in very difficult circumstances of historical [00:37:00] dispossession and yet living meaningful, loving, dignified lives.

Vinita Srivastava: I did want to say, Salam, I do see you, I do see the emotion, and I didn't mean to skip over it. 

Salem Guenette: Oh, no, no. Yeah. It's hard not to live in the emotion nowadays. It's all over. I go to sleep in it, I wake up in it. I think all humans have a mechanism to survive with grief, but for Palestinians and for the Israelis, what Hamas did to them, which is absolutely atrocious.

There is too much grief at the moment to see the others suffering. But without seeing the others as humans who suffer, we're not going to be able to reach across and create something in the future. I don't know how far in the future this war has pushed any sort of resolution for that little piece of land, but it's a land full of people, and at some point the people can't go on killing each other from one side to the other.

It's difficult to disentangle the emotion. People can't, [00:38:00] whether Israelis or Palestinians, they can't always see themselves as only the victims. People can be victims and perpetrators of pain at the same time. I hope that they will see a way to stop the cycle of violence because at the moment, that is difficult to see.

I am a person in Victoria, I have no idea how politicians will look at it, but I don't see the pain stopping on either end until each groups of people start seeing the others as humans who deserve to go about their lives without having to worry about a bullet or a rocket or somebody invading their homes at night.

Vinita Srivastava: Thank you both very much for your time. 

Elizabeth Vibert: Thank you, Vinita. 

Salem Guenette: Thank you.

Vinita Srivastava: Thank you for listening to this episode of Don't Call Me Resilient. That was an emotional conversation to have and maybe to listen to as well. If you want more information about the stories and the people that Elizabeth and Salam mentioned, [00:39:00] those resources are on our website. You can also find an article by Elizabeth on this week. And just a reminder, we have a new listener survey to get more information about you, what you like, and what you might want more of on Don't Call Me Resilient. It only takes about 10 minutes and will really help us shape the podcast moving forward with you. Our listeners in mind, you can find the survey by going to, don't call me

Don't Call me Resilient is a production of the Conversation Canada. It was made possible by a grant for journalism innovation from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The series is produced and hosted by me. Benita Sava. Our associate producer is Atika Kaki. Our fabulous consulting producer is Jennifer Moroz.

Ramatullah Shaikh does our sound design and mixing. Kikachi Memeh is our student producer. [00:40:00] And Scott White is the CEO of The Conversation Canada. And if you're wondering who wrote and performed the music we use on the podcast, that's Zaki Ibrahim. The track is called Something in the Water. Maybe they