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Season of prickly pears in Palestine, the fruit of patience

September 20, 2015 at 5:04 pm

In Padras, a town in west Ramallah, one can find prickly pears in all houses, the summer fruit of choice for Palestinians and a symbol of steadfastness and patience.

Zainab Awad, 37, lives in Padras, a town known for its cultivation of prickly pears. She wakes up early every day to harvest the fruit. Awad, who works as a teacher in a private-sector kindergarten, harvests prickly pears in the summer as a second source of income.

“In the summer months, I harvest and sell prickly pears,” she told Anadolu Agency. “It is the main source of income for my family and I because I do not receive any salary during the summer holiday.”

“Prickly pears are a delicious fruit favoured by Palestinians in summer, especially by the poor due to its low price compared with other types of fruit,” she added.

Wearing plastic gloves, Awad uses special brooms or carob tree branches to clean the pears.

The price of one kilogram is about three shekels ($0.80) and the name of the fruit differs from one country to the next in the Arab world.


File photo of women harvesting cacti in PalestineIn Palestine and the Levant, it is called “sabr,” in Egypt “spiny fig,” and “albershoom” in the Arabian Peninsula. “Sabr” means “patience,” a core value held by Palestinians in the occupied territories.

The pears only grow in dry places and has the ability to survive drought as its stalks are filled with water. They are a favourite food for camels in the desert despite the sharp spines scattered on its surface.

Inside the pears there are pulps full of small seeds. Its outer shell contains many pores, in each of which grow sharp and smooth spines.

Padras is one of the highest producers of prickly pears in Palestine, producing around five tons per season starting from mid-July every year and for lasting for three months, according to Abdel-Rahman Awad, a journalist and one of the town’s residents.

The town’s population does not exceed 2,200 and is known for its cultivation of olive, figs and prickly pears, Awad said. “Eighty percent of its territory was seized by Israeli occupation forces after the building of the apartheid wall,” he said. “There is not a house in the town that does not have prickly pears trees.”

One of the town’s residents, Awad Khalaf, 64, has cultivated prickly pears since childhood. He has 17 dunums of cacti, with one dunum being equivalent to 1,000 square meters, surrounded by around 500 prickly pears trees. “Cacti trees are considered the walls that protect the earth from dangerous animals and are the fruit of the poor farmer,” Khalaf told Anadolu Agency.

“Every season, cacti are harvested and sold in the markets of Ramallah and Jerusalem,” he added. “Cacti are trees that do not need to be taken care of. They grow without water. The only thing it needs is to be harvested!”

Awad said he earns around 3,000 shekels ($800) from prickly pears each season, along with his work in cultivating olives and breeding sheep.

File photo a boy harvesting cacti in Palestine

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