Shoshan Haran, presumed captive, has dedicated her life to helping African farmers

When Aviv Havron returned from his sister Shoshan Haran’s house in Kibbutz Be’eri a week after she was kidnapped along with some 200 other civilians by Hamas terrorists on October 7, he brought with him a ceramic pot.

“It’s all that’s left from Shoshan’s house,” he said, sitting in the living room of his Tel Aviv home, describing the painful visit in a quiet voice. “The terrorists detonated the home with explosives after abducting Shoshan and nine other members of her family.”

Just a week before the terrorist attack, Havron, a journalist, phoned Haran from Bhutan after meeting the prime minister of the tiny Asian country and describing the work that Haran was doing to help alleviate poverty in the developing world.

“The prime minister was very excited about the prospect of bringing her project to Bhutan,” recalled Havron.

Haran is the founder of Fair Planet, an internationally acclaimed farming project that over the last decade has enabled tens of thousands of previously impoverished farmers to earn a good living while providing an estimated million Africans with a reliable source of food. The project has been growing steadily in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Rwanda and has the potential to expand exponentially to many more millions suffering from hunger. Now, with Haran being held hostage, it — like her life — is suddenly in jeopardy.

When asked what led Haran to launch a humanitarian project of such huge proportions, Havron mentions their family background, kibbutz values and Haran’s character.

“Shoshan is the kind of person who puts her heart and soul into everything she does,” said Havron, noting that this was a trait shared by their grandparents and parents.

“Both our grandparents were doctors in Stuttgart with expertise in orthopedic surgery. When they fled the country after Hitler’s rise to power, they started out with conventional medical practices in Jerusalem, but they soon decided to take on a greater challenge.”

The couple went to work at the newly founded Alyn Hospital, a rehabilitation center for disabled children, treating patients with polio and some of the most difficult physical injuries faced by children in those times, Havron said.

Their son Abraham — Havron and Haran’s father — also set out to take on a major challenge. “When he was 20 years old, he gave up the relatively comfortable city life of Jerusalem and joined in the founding of a kibbutz,” said Havron.

He describes how on a single night in 1946, in defiance of the British Mandate authorities, his father Abraham and hundreds of other Jews founded 11 new Jewish communities.

“The place he helped found became Kibbutz Be’eri,” Havron said, pointing out that the pioneers were able to turn the barren desert near what is today the Gaza Strip into lush, green, cultivated fields.

“Our father became an almost legendary dairy farmer in the kibbutz movement. He was still offering advice to younger farmers just weeks before he passed away last year at the age of 96,” said Havron. “He also managed to fit academic studies into his life and obtained a PhD from the Hebrew University, where he wrote a thesis on agricultural pests.”

Like her forbearers, Haran would also make a major shift in her career. After studying plant biology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Rutgers University in New Jersey, she built a successful career at Hazera Genetics, a leading seed producer.