Battir is a small village just west of Bethlehem and the people of Battir have been growing their own variety of eggplant, infamous in Palestine for nearly 2,500 years. Battir is also one of the few small towns in Palestine that was successfully about to stop construction of the apartheid wall on their land. This May, only a few months ago the occupying authority’s high court ruled to not continue construction for environmental reasons. The village is currently seeking recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its centuries old terraces and unique landscape.
The village held its first eggplant festival in over ten years to celebrate halting of the wall. Akram Mustafa, president of Battir’s Village Council explained that over the years there had been a reluctance of Palestinian farmers to grow this type of eggplant, even though it is in demand on the market, due to present dangers in the area and people being apprehensive about growing their produce near where the occupying authorities want to build separation wall. Mustafa goes on to say that the wall would cut the people of Battir off from the source of their natural history and livelihood.
Battir’s village council requested the aid of the Palestinian Authority in protecting and resuming eggplant production, as agricultural activity helps to reduce unemployment, a significant concern in Palestine and bolster the local economy. Battir also hopes that activities like the eggplant festival will bring tourism to the village, so that both foreigners and Palestinians from all over the West Bank have the opportunity to see Battir’s stunning rural landscape.
Hamdallah Hamdallah of the Ministry of Agriculture said, “We have invested interest in this festival because agriculture is an integral part of the local culture. We talk about dates of Jericho, guava in Qalqilya, the figs of Nablus and of course Battir’s eggplant.” This festival is a joint project between Battir’s village council, Chamber of Commerce and other invaluable organizations. Agriculture is a foundational aspect of Palestinian culture and we as the Ministry of Agriculture want to focus on supporting Palestinian farmers, which will better our society overall and enhance the steadfastness of the people on their land.
Farmers from all over the area are excited about the festival and feeling safe on their land, one farmer, a woman in her sixties said she has been taking care of her own land for over fifty years. “If you abandon your land, you abandon your honor; we feed our children with this land.”