Intisar Akras warmly greets you as you enter the gates of the Women’s Center in the Aqbat Jaber Refugee Camp. She is the coordinator and is soon closely followed by other women from the Center. Outside in the courtyard you will see the impressive “Mud House”, a guest house built in the traditional manner of houses built from local materials in a time-honored fashion and style. The “Mud House” is a guest house operated by the Center; hikers on the The Palestinian Heritage Trail are frequent guests, as well as others who travel to Jericho to experience the reknown moderate climate of the Dead Sea region, its history, and abundant fruit production (bananas are a specialty!).
Not far from the Cooperative is the home of Jameela Nababteh. Behind the house she keeps her beehive under a large “shading” tree which shelters the bees from the intense summer sun. Jameela and her daughter are an example of many families in Aqbat Jaber who keep bees and produce honey as a source of income. Jameela learned the art of beekeeping as a child from her father, and she and her daughter continued this family tradition when they began this particular project as a means of raising some of the money need for the daughter to study at the university.
The honey is rich, amber-colored, and flows slowly from the ladle as Jameela fills jars for visitors to buy and take home. The honey is made from the nectar of the Ziziphus spina-christi tree, which is an ancient and very special tree which only grows in the Jericho region. The honey made from the nectar of this tree has special healing properties which is used for many ailments, and can be mixed with some of the beeswax to make an ointment which is beneficial for the healing of burns. You can see the pride in the smile on her face as she hands you the filled jar, and also the hope in her daughter’s eyes.
Every farmer and producer is dependent on good weather and favorable conditions; a small, independent producer can be more affected by sudden changes in weather patterns and storms. The high winds of a recent rain storm broke large branches from the “shading tree” which fell and destroyed some of the hives. The small producer with limited resources is certainly more vulnerable to changes in the weather.
The American writer Henry David Thoreau said, “The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams”. Jameela will direct the sunshine and will rely on the strength of her bee colony, her own determination, hard work and the sale of the honey to hikers of The Palestinian Heritage Trail and visitors to Aqbat Jaber to make her, and her daughter’s, dreams come true.
Aqbat Jaber Refugee Camp, Jericho Region
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