The Run Across Palestine was a 129 mile, 5 day ultra-marathon across the West Bank to replant uprooted olive trees and raise awareness of the struggles of Palestinian farmers. Ultimately the goal was to help reestablish sustainable olive growing practices in a place whose history, economy, culture, and identity are all rooted in the ancient olive tree.
On The Ground is a Traverse City, Michigan based non-profit whose purpose is “to support sustainable community development in farming regions across the world.”. In 2011 they organized the Run Across Ethiopia, where a group of American ultra-marathoners ran 250 miles in 12 days across the coffee growing regions of Ethiopia, raising over $200,000 to build three schools there.
Click here to read more about the mission of On The Ground.
Palestinian farmers have lost access to 2.1 million olive trees, which grow behind settlement walls, separation barriers and security zones. 500,000 more have been uprooted or bulldozed since 2001. Trees for Life, the program that On The Ground is partnering with, has replanted over 50,000 trees in the last 5 years. $20 replants three olive trees. If you’re interested in replanting trees, you can donate here.
We feel that the the mainstream American media gives little attention to the human side of the Palestinians. For this film we wanted to show the perspective of the Palestinian fair trade farmers that were hosting the run. These farmers face harsh realities – the everyday challenge of farming is compounded by living under military occupation and controversial policies of the Israeli state. It’s impossible to tell this story without presenting policies such as the “separation barrier” and illegal Israeli settlements. These policies have been condemned as violating international law and they present a major challenge to the livelihood of the farmers.
This is a complex and emotional subject and we spoke to many experts and activists, both Palestinian and Israeli to give context. And on a personal level, during the documentary we see the internal struggle of the musical ambassador of the run, Joshua Davis, a Jewish-American, who grew up in family that strongly supports Israel, trying to come to terms with the reality he sees.
In the end though, this film is less “anti” and more “pro”. It’s an uplifting story about connecting people on the human level. We wanted to show viewers that Palestinian farmers are farmers like everywhere else. They love the land from which they have fed themselves and families for generations.
The web-series was a media marathon that followed the ultra-marathon. Dennis and Wheeler spent the days of the run filming the activities and interviews with experts and then working late into the nights, editing and uploading the videos to give the world a daily view into the experience. These videos were viewed over 10,000 times worldwide. The documentary builds on the web-series but has been completely restructured and re-edited to tell the whole story, including much that was not included before, including many new scenes, interviews with dozens of farmers, activists and academics.
We’re excited to present the documentary to a wider audience through film festivals, a theatrical release, universities, and other venues. For the present, the web-series will be available only to its supporters via password.
This project has been a labor of love. Over 80 supporters helped us raise $5000 via Kickstarter to help pay for our travel expenses and to get the web series off the ground. Since then hundreds of hours have been donated by the filmmakers and many volunteers to create the documentary. Soon a new Kickstarter project will be announced to help raise some of the costs accrued during the post-production and help support our distribution goals (film festivals, DVDs, etc). We’re also excited to announce that 50% of all proceeds from the film will go directly to On The Ground to support further planting of olive trees in Palestine.