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Palestine’s top delicacies are harvested at points spread around the country and calendar, so dedicated foodies must always know what to eat and where. Celebrations have grown out of some of the most popular harvests, so we picked out some of the best food festivals in the best locations. The festivals are in alphabetical order.
Aubergine (Battir) Festival - Fall
The Aubergine Festival is set in a village that is rightly regarded as one of Palestine’s most beautiful, having received international prizes for the safeguarding and management of a unique, terraced landscape. In early October, Battir hosts a celebration derived from its most famous produce, with two days of art, music, and exhibits relating to agriculture. The festival was conceived for the promotion and advancement of agriculture in a region that is richly blessed with raw materials and could benefit hugely if they were effectively harnessed.
The aubergine has long been a symbol of that aspiration, as one of the nation’s favourite and most commonly consumed vegetables. Best farming techniques and making good use of aubergine in the kitchen are always popular subjects, and such techniques feature prominently in the festivities.
Battir Landscape Museum, bleproj.
Central Palestine Grape Festival
Grapes have a very special significance for the people of Hebron. Grapes are part of the cultural fabric and heritage of the population in Hebron and an indispensable food ingredient. In addition, grapes have a special economic and social significance for the Palestinian people, even though the yield of grapes in Hebron faces many difficulties, especially in marketing and promotion. Grapes come second in rank as the most delicious fruit in Palestine, after olives.
There are several types of grapes that are grown in Hebron, including Khudari, Jandali, Dabouki, and Hamadani, in addition to seedless grapes. Grapes are a healthy snack choice, and some of the by-products include molasses, raisins, fruit roll (malban), vinegar, and juice.
August is the harvest month for grapes. Grape markets open and grape festivals are organised. The biggest central grape festival in Hebron took place in 1973 in Hussein Bin Ali Secondary School, and it was tantamount to an economic, cultural, and social parade that included all types of white and black grapes of various sizes. The festival included many different art and folklore activities. Last year’s festival took place in Halhul, and this year the festival will take place on the campus of Hebron University on 3-5 October 2011.
Walid S. Abu Alhalaweh, Hebron Rehabilitation Committee,
Beit Sahour is small town - slightly fewer than 5,000 dunams with just over 13,000 residents - but its delicacies are numerous. One of these is the famous Sahouri fakkous: a delectable vegetable from the cucumber family. Many have testified to its unique taste that results from the geographical and agricultural particularities of the town of Beit Sahour, and an annual festival is held in honour of the renowned vegetable.
The two-day Fakkous Festival is held in Ush Ghurab Peace Park, the result of collaborative efforts of Beit Sahour Municipality, the Palestinian Wildlife Society, and local partners. It showcases the best of Palestinian dabke; the most recent festival featured performances from Kazar Troupe and Baquon, while members of the Elderly Care Center staged an authentic, traditional Palestinian wedding with all the trimmings. A concert from the Edward Said Music Academy and a stellar line-up of talented poets made for a glorious occasion. All this in honour of the Sahouri fakkous, a symbol of pride in the locality of Beit Sahour, and a reminder of how long and how well Palestinian culture has served this land.
Lubna Shomali, Beit Sahour Municipality,
Jifna Days Apricot Fair (Mishmish)
The apricot tree stands apart from even the most cherished fruit trees. The rhythm in the repeated “mish” syllable of the Arabic word mishmish puts your voice somewhere between speaking and whispering. Both young and old love the fruit of the apricot tree, which is made into jam and dried fruit called qamr al-deen. People love apricots, which have a very short harvest season, leading people to refer to “Apricot Week,” a week in which the apricots ripen and must be picked quickly before the season ends.
Setting up a festival centred on one tree and fruit is a popular tradition in many nations. For instance, in Palestine a number of festivals are held for grapes, figs, lettuce, and apricots. These festivals are based on long-standing traditions, the study of which can show you much about the relationship between villagers and farmers, the people and the land, and traditions and the necessities of life.
Jifna Club, which has been leading such festivals, organises an annual festival called “Jifna Days -Apricot Fair,” where many local products are displayed and sold. This exhibition aims to support Palestinian farmers and local small manufacturers in Palestine through promotion of their products. Furthermore, visitors are entertained by folkloric and modern musical performances. This creates a lively platform for Palestinian cultural heritage activities such as the performance of various traditional folkloric dances, various Art Night events, and the presence of local and international artists.
The Jifna Club festival has become a cultural destination for many. Last year, based on media resources, over 40,000 attended the event. This contributes to the development and support of internal and rural tourism in Palestine. The village of Jifna, classified as a first-rate tourist attraction by the Palestinian Tourism Ministry in 2000, has strengthened the foundations of rural and internal tourism since its existence in 1990.
Samer Makhlouf, Jifna Club,
Olive Festival (Jenin)
The Palestine Fair Trade Association and Canaan Fair Trade 6th Annual Olive Harvest Festival will be held in Jenin on 4 November 2011. The festival, or jaru’a, is a traditional agricultural celebration of the harvest, giving gratitude for another year of abundance. Farmers, women producers, fair trade distributors, and international visitors gather together and share a delicious meal of musakhan prepared by the local women’s cooperatives. The traditional Palestinian olive harvest dinner is prepared with taboun, flatbread soaked in freshly pressed olive oil and topped with sautéed onions spiced with sumac and covered with roasted almonds and chicken. This experience will awaken the senses through such activities as olive oil tasting and guided tours as well as musical entertainment. In addition, village elders share their oral histories to the pride of their families and the respect of the listeners. All this and more will be held in the natural settings under the shade of ancient olive trees.
Olive Harvest Festival (Bethlehem)
The Environmental Education Center (EEC) annually organises the Olive Harvest Festival in the period between mid-October and mid-November in cooperation with Bethlehem Peace Center and Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The festival takes place in Manger Square in Bethlehem and in conjunction with Ramallah Municipality in Ramallah District.
It is an exciting and memorable event where visitors can taste traditional food, buy artisanal crafts and goods, and see performances of dabke dancing, theatre, choral groups, and much more. The festival gives local olive farmers and vendors the opportunity to show and sell their various products - olives, olive oil, and other olive-based items.
As the pressures and hardships faced by so many Palestinian farmers continue to increase, this festival provides a crucial interface between agriculturalists and the general public in order to raise awareness about the importance of the olive tree and to promote fair trade and organic traditional farming practices. It also focuses on the importance of protecting the olive tree in our land, which is under serious threat by the Israeli occupation forces and their settlers, both of which jeopardise our natural and cultural heritage. More than one million olive trees have been uprooted since the second Intifada. Our role as Palestinians is to plant more and more olive trees to compensate for our loss and keep Palestine green.
EEC also organises voluntary olive harvest campaigns in various areas as one of the olive harvest festival activities. The aims of these campaigns are to deepen the concepts of voluntary work among Palestinian and international students, and to help farmers in the olive harvest season, especially in areas under Israeli control and next to the apartheid Wall.
Indeed, the festival is always a good opportunity to affirm Palestine’s rich cultural and environmental heritage, as well as to spread awareness by promoting fair trade and organic farming.
Simon Awad, Environmental Education Center,