A beautiful spring day in the village of Jinba, Masaffer Yatta, the heart of the 918 Firing Zone. The local shabab (youth) go on a mission to pick and harvest the wild plant called akub. This thorny plant grows on the hills and mountains and is harvested in spring. Akub is used for for food, soap and natural remedies. Harvesting the plant at first glance seems an ordinary act,  but in the the 918 Firing Zone it has its own challenges and dangers.

Photos and text written by the Living Archive team members David Massey and Ibrahim Nawaja.

The day starts early and the shabab are ready to set out on their journey with trimming shears, pickaxes and plastic woven sacks. Before setting out, there’s just time for a group photo! 

For most of the year the landscape of the South Hebron Hills is dry and yellow. But in spring, for a couple of months everything turns green. For many of the villagers this is the most beautiful season of the year but it is also the busiest one. The entire village is busy and there is little time to rest and play.

To pick an akub plant you need to work fast. There is no time to waste. First using the pickaxes, then with the trimming shears, you pick the akub carefully so as not to touch the thorns. With a snip here and a snip there you cut away the leaves to get to the akub flower.  

The akub flower.

The akub flower.

The journey continues. There is no stopping. From valley to valley, from ditch to ditch, the journey is long and each picker has to fill his bag.  

Damn! The tools are old, but a master akub harvester knows how to fix them. 

Where does the the 1967 green line pass exactly? Between the village of Jinba and the green line there lies the village of Kureitein, from which the residents were expelled in 1948 and whose remaining structures were destroyed by Israel before the 1967 war. But akub has no borders, and grows everywhere in Masaffer Yatta. And sometimes borders need to be crossed. One has to keep eyes open for the military and Teba (the Israeli nature reserve wardens) who may arrest harvesters and confiscate the plants.  

The ruins of village of Kureitein, lost in the memory of occupation, are kept alive by the shabab and the shepherds of the area. 

The sacks are full, and the journey back is long. Each bag weighs about 10-15 kilograms. 

Run, run, run: Teba* are coming….

*the Green Patrol, a state agency that moves Bedouin and their flocks off certain lands

Teba with their 4×4 trucks. Luckily for the shabab they are going somewhere else to visit some unfortunate farmer. 

Time to rest and catch a breath before continuing the journey back home. 

Just a little further….

Finally back home, they meet the trader who will take the akub flower to sell in towns and cities all over the West Bank. The negotiaion starts between the shabab and the trader. Nothing is easy in Massafer Yatta. 

Money money money, must be funny, in a rich man’s world!