Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Palestinian youth tell the human stories behind the numbers in the news

Gaza—so lovely in winter

Noha Zaneen | 02-02-2021

blue sky

Olives…family gatherings…preparing tasty dishes…sitting around the fire to brew tea. This is life in Palestine in winter!

We insist on living in the moment and enjoying our blessings. Taking simplicity as our motto always brings our souls back to life. How simple are these details, yet how lovely they really are!

From the Palestinian perspective, winter is a source of hope. Despite the challenges we Palestinians face during winter, such as the continuous electricity outages and  the floods that destroy some homes, our sense of hope will never vanish, becaue we believe that everything will be fine someday. Palestinians prefer winter as it is the season of blessings. Agriculture is the main sector that the Palestinians depend on for their livelihood, and in winter we are able to plant many crops that are unavailable in other seasons. Even the rainwater is considered a great fortune, in the absence of modern irrigation and with the groundwater shortage—the Israeli occupation has spared no effort in stealing it. Over time, the Palestinians have proven to be powerful enough to deal with abnormal circumstances that people from other countries are not able to do. Hope is irreplaceable in the Palestinian dictionary.

Olives and olive oil

After September 27th of each year—the festival of Eid Al-Saleeb—Palestinians start preparing themselves for the olive oil harvest. It begins in autumn and lasts until the beginning of winter. The whole family gathers and collaborates on the harvest—children, youth, old men and women. They sing their favorite folklore songs, such as Ya zarif attul and Ya Tair Ettayer. While picking the olives, they have their favorite drink, tea or shai, as they call it. In fact, olive picking is a hard work, but their community spirit, with children playing around and the older ones telling stories, make it an enjoyable time. It is typical to keep some of the olives to make pickles, and the rest to be pressed to produce olive oil. The family may specify a certain amount to sell or to deliver as a present to their relatives or friends.

For the Palestinians, the olive tree has its own long-standing significance. A strong-rooted tree, it reflects our strong willpower to remain steadfast over our land.

The Palestinian winter dishes

In Palestine, each season has its own rituals. It is known for its tasty dishes, especially those that are prepared in winter.

You will find maklouba sitting on the throne. It is a made-with-love Palestinian dish in which rice mingles with eggplants, potato and tomato slices, and onion rings. Its name came from the way it is prepared: when it is ready to be served, it is turned up-side- down in a circle.

Malfouf—cabbage stuffed with rice—is another Palestinian main dish prepared in winter. Its irresistible, strong aroma mixes with the smell of the rain. It is usually served with lemon slices.

Winter comes to put all people in the same boat; you will find the lentil soup on the table of both poor and rich Palestinians.

Maftoul—hand-rolled—is our next delicious plate. Who can taste it and not fall in love with it? It consists of flour, olive oil, onion, tomato, pepper and butter, with chickpeas and pumpkin scattered throughout. Nuggets of chicken or other meat are added, as desired. You should try it if you haven’t yet!


Fire creates lovely memories

Winter in Palestine, especially in Gaza, differs from winter in other spots. The electricity cut-off deprives the Gazans of lighting except for a few hours each day. Also, Gazans are not rich enough to have central heating in their houses. However, they can adapt to any problem they encounter. Being a Gazan shape their characters and enables them to turn the impossible into the possible.

In an enjoyable and lovely atmosphere, they light a fire and gather around it. They share their stories, plans, hopes, desires, fortunes and misfortune while drinking the fermented tea prepared over the fire. Its taste is irresistible! Its smell invades your nose and the surroundings, and the scene cannot be complete without its gentle presence.

If you ask Gazans who have left Gaza about the memories they yearn for most, sitting around the fire with family or friends would be a very likely answer.

The Palestine sky in winter

The Palestinian sky in winter becomes rife with colorful, beautiful birds that flock together and, mingling with the view of the blue sky, create a masterpiece. There are many pretty birds that visit Palestine in winter, including the goldfinch, the starling and the seagull. Their sounds are like a piece of music that never bores you. In the sunset, when the sky turns from blue to pink as the sun nears the horizon and the birds fly away, the view is very charming!

The sight of rain falling over the old places is also remarkable. Children running to their schools holding their umbrellas makes the scene more fascinating!

These are just a few of the features to describe. Palestine is forever a beaming-with-life spot in every season under any circumstances, including winter. Everything here nudges you to be inspired, to imagine, and to live.

Posted: February 1, 2021

Mentor: Jaylyn Olivo

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