Image: Chim Hod
Bob Wood  /  NBC News
Chim Hod, shown holding fruit from his orchard, farms on the Israel-Lebanon border and is caught between two warring sides.
By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/13/2006 12:07:33 PM ET 2006-08-13T16:07:33

METULA, Israel — If there is ever peace in the Middle East, let it begin in Chim Hod’s orchard.

His farm is on a rolling hillside on the Israel-Lebanon border, a place where he grows peaches, apples, lemons and nectarines.

“That’s Lebanon over there,” Hod says as he steers his truck past a long row of tall concrete blocks that serve as a fence between the two countries.

Hod stops to check on his peach orchard. Rows of trees begin at the border fence and go as far as you can see over the hill.

“You see, it’s nice, see how nice?” Hod says in broken English. He reaches over his head and picks two plump peaches from a tree full of fruit. He crushes both of them in his hand. The peaches disintegrate and fall to the ground. “It is too late. They are no good.”

Hod’s peach crop — all 12 acres — is past its prime for picking. Within days, all of his peaches will be on the ground, rotting.

“They’re too soft. It’s too late. They’re finished,” he says wiping his hands on his shirt.

You might wonder why Hod never got his bountiful crop to market.

“The workers are afraid to work here because the bombs fall all the time,” Hod says. “And they make [a] big noise.”

Hod’s farm is caught between two warring sides. Kaytosha rockets zip over the orchard and explode to the south. Israeli tanks and bulldozers crush a row of his peach trees to get a better aim at the enemy hiding in the distant hills to the north.

“Look at the tracks,” he says, pointing to the muddy ground where Israeli tanks have severed his irrigation lines. “We have to fix [them] all the time.”

“You see that house, you see the Hezbollah flag?” Hod asks, pointing to his nearest neighbor, a Hezbollah supporter in Lebanon. The house just beyond the orchard and the border fence is vacant. A yellow Hezbollah flag still flaps in the wind.

“His wife’s a good cook. I smell the cooking,” Hod says, smiling.

Image: Chim Hod's harvest
Bob Wood  /  NBC News
Chim Hod, whose farm sits on the Israel-Lebanon border, hopes peace will arrive soon so he can get his fruit to market.

But pointing to a distant village on a hill in southern Lebanon his expression changes.

“The worst people, the Hezbollah, come from this village and all the time they fight,” he says as his English becomes more choppy. “They make many trouble.”

More trouble will come, he fears, unless Hezbollah is disarmed. “They will come back. We must attack all the guns and all the rockets of Hezbollah,” he warns.

Until it’s safe, no one is tending the farm, so the peaches are rotting, costing Hod thousands of dollars in lost profits this season.

It’s a price he seems glad to pay, if it means peace in the long run.

But he is hoping peace comes soon: his apple crop will be ripe for picking next week.

NBC’s Charles Hadlock on assignment on the Israel-Lebanon border.

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