Jabalia (Palestinian Territories) – The beekeeper, Maysara Khudair, inspects the hives on her farm in a field near the troubled borders of the Gaza Strip, to make sure that they survived the effects of the shelling exchanged by Israel and the Palestinian factions for five bloody days last week.
“The bees die from gases, missiles and dust caused by wars,” says the 29-year-old, who wore special white clothes to protect herself from bee stings.
Beehives are spread on farms near the border and between trees, and accessing and caring for them is an adventure for the Palestinian farmer, in light of the occupation’s intention to evacuate the border areas to turn them into empty areas.
350 beekeepers in Gaza, with 18,000 hives, face the danger of urban sprawl, which forced them to exploit the available agricultural areas near the borders of the Strip, and they resist with the bees the living conditions imposed by the occupation. Ahead of World Bee Day on Saturday, which aims to highlight the importance of pollinators, Khudair went to her bee farm, located a few hundred meters from the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel.
The bee farms were not spared from the wave of violence, which resulted in the destruction of four apiaries, according to Khudair.
She recounts that she was unable to reach the farm for days because of the Israeli air raids and rockets fired by the Palestinian factions on the towns of southern Israel.
Despite the frequent dangers on the eastern border of the densely populated coastal strip, the frontier agricultural lands provide an ideal environment for beekeeping.
“We always put bees in the border areas, as there are more flowers and agricultural areas away from buildings and overcrowding,” Khudair explains.
The activity of beekeepers across the border ceased until the announcement of the cease-fire agreement on Saturday night, after the fighting damaged about 600 dunams of agricultural crops, according to the Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza.
The loss of beehives, poultry farms and livestock amounted to $225,000, according to a statement issued by the media office of the Gaza government.
The activity of beekeepers across the border stopped until the announcement of the ceasefire agreement, after the fighting caused severe damage to agricultural crops.
Khudair incurred financial losses as daily life in the Strip came to a halt during the conflict, which forced her to close her shop selling honey, like the rest of the shops in a shopping center that is usually crowded with people in the center of Gaza City.
Khudair studied herbal medicine and honey therapy in Saudi Arabia. She recounts, “I obtained a professional diploma in treatment with honey and herbs while I was in Saudi Arabia, and I participated in other online courses with doctors of alternative medicine and herbs.”--
Khudair points out that she started her project months ago, and that she has treated many of the problems of difficulty concentrating and fertility. And she explains, “If the honey is of high quality, it treats several problems. There are mixtures added to honey to treat reproductive problems in women and men.”
However, she complains of her concern about Israel spraying “insecticides that could affect the life of bees, and even poison honey or contaminate it with chemicals that affect its quality.”
With widespread unemployment in the poor sector and exceeding 45 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund, the beekeeping project provides an opportunity for an acceptable financial income for Khudair, who says, “The project is useful and healthy and gives me an opportunity to rely on myself as a woman.”
She points to the bee hives, despite being stung by several of them on her hands, and says, “I encourage all people to pay attention to the bee product, which is honey mentioned in the Qur’an. “It’s good for us and for health, and we should support and encourage natural products,” she adds.
Climate changes affected honey production in Gaza last year, because rain and wind kept the bees inside the hives last spring, when they were supposed to be active in search of nectar.
The beekeeper, Nayef Suleiman, said that the bee is affected by several factors in the environment of Gaza, the most important of which are environmental factors represented by urban sprawl, climate changes in the winter and summer seasons, and violations of the Israeli occupation, stressing that the season this year and last year was the worst for the bee production sector in the Gaza Strip.
Since last year, beekeepers have started using hives that isolate the hive from external temperatures and maintain appropriate temperatures, so that they are not affected by high temperatures in summer or cold in winter.
The beekeeper, Mayada Youssef, said, “This time, we changed our beekeeping plan after heavy losses in previous seasons. We replaced traditional beehives with cells from boxes that are resistant to climate change.”
According to Mayada, bees usually set out during the spring to collect nectar and store honey, but due to changing climatic conditions and low temperatures, bees do not leave, relying on consuming their stocks inside the hive, which led to a sharp decline in honey production.
The beekeepers are calling for the intensification of the cultivation of eucalyptus and cypress trees in different areas of the Gaza Strip, especially in the border areas, to fill the acute shortage of citrus trees, which are the best pastures for bees. from bees.
The beekeeper Khaled Awaja, who has been working in the profession for three and a half decades, called on the Ministry of Agriculture to intensify the cultivation of cinchona and Sidr trees in the border areas and liberated areas. Awaja, who owns 40 hives, pointed out in his interview with “Palestine” newspaper that the lack of pastures pushes farmers to use sugar in the hives, which reduces the quality of production and pushes the consumer to purchase imported honey.