More often than not, we come across only negative and heartbreaking news about Palestine, especially since 7 October.
Many are unaware that Palestine, known as the “land of olives and vines”, is a country rich in history, tradition and flora that has made strides in many areas.
At one time, some referred to the country as the “land of milk and honey”.
Going by its biodiversity, Palestine is an environmentalist’s delight, particularly its crop cultivation.
Crops cultivated in this region include grains, fruit trees and vegetables. The life-sustaining crops of wheat, barley, vines, olives, onions, vetches, lentils, peas and legumes are found all over Palestine.
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Edible wild plants are consumed either raw or cooked, according to local traditions.
Palestine’s distinct topography and environment have ensured the survival of traditional wild plants that are used as food for its people.
Variety of wildflowers
Palestine has five different climatic regions, and the climate allows some 2,500 species of wildflowers to flourish across the country.
Many of these wildflowers’ bloom from cities like Galilee to the hills around Ramallah and some in Jericho.
Wildflowers bloom as early as December and January and some later if the weather is colder and wetter.
Some wildflowers – like the pink and white cyclamen and the red, white and purple anemones – bloom from December to March. This is followed by the blue lupine and yellow corn marigold.
Palestine’s native plants, like the crocus and squill, are geophytes, storing nourishment in their bulbs and blooming at the end of the summer.
Olives – a lifeblood
Palestine is noted for its olives, widely regarded as the lifeblood of its culture. Harvest time, which falls in October, coincides with the school break and everyone is out in the fields picking and collecting gathering olives. Sadly, political unrest in the country has disrupted this year’s harvest.
The handpicking of olives is a centuries’ old tradition in Palestine. Specially selected olives ensure the production of high-quality olive oil, loaded with antioxidants.
Besides being an important ingredient in Palestine cuisine, olives are an important source of income for the people. They are also used in cosmetics and soap.
Many wild fruit trees bloom in spring, such as olives, almonds, wild plums, peaches, pears, figs and medlars. Loquats, pomegranates and other species bloom in the summer. In the south, acacia trees and the prickly sabra cactus suck moisture from the desert.
Among all the fruits, the watermelon is the fruit that represents Palestine. Watermelon trees can be found across Palestine, from Jenin to Gaza. Coincidently, it bears the same colours as the Palestinian flag – red, green, white and black.
Palestine’s ICT sector
Palestine has a relatively small population of 5.5 million. But its young and well-educated people provide rich human capital. If given the opportunity, they can produce a booming and sustainable economy.
Many are unaware of Palestine’s progress in the ICT sector.
- 100% of the digital telecommunications sector has been entirely developed by the Palestinian private sector
- Palestine hosts over 250 companies specialising in ICT. The ICT sector is increasingly competitive and plays an increasingly important role in the Palestinian economy, accounting for 7% of its gross domestic product (GDP) and contributing $530m annually in added value to the economy
- 40% of Palestine companies are engaged in outsourcing projects for multinational companies;
- 13 Palestine universities teach ICT-related courses
Taybeh – the good village
Taybeh is a little hamlet located 13km northeast of Ramallah, Palestine’s capital. It is a Canaanite village, formerly known as Afra, which means the gazelle or the beautiful. The name was later changed to Ephraim in the Roman era during the time of Jesus.
The name of the village was once again changed to Taybeh, meaning good, as a result of the warm hospitality of its people. Legend has it that it was Saladin who gave the name to the village after staying there for a few days in the 12th Century.
A predominantly Christian village, Taybeh’s history is linked to Christian influences. Over the years, modernisation of Taybeh has taken place and this may make it difficult for tourists to trace some of its historic places.
Taybeh today bears only a semblance of its past splendour, but it still represents the convergence of three different Christian faiths – Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Greek Catholic (Melkite).
Religion aside, these days Taybeh has gained a reputation, especially among tourists, for quality Palestinian beer from its brewery.