Environmental Education Center

Since it was founded in 1986, the Center for Environmental Education / Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, promotes organic and safe alternatives. It also warns against overconsumption, and calls for avoiding chemicals and wasting food. Moreover, ever since, it urges people for returning to traditional dishes and adopting sustainable consumption and production, as one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals 2030.


Purslane

Palestine: The Richness of Nature

Historical Palestine is distinguished by its international geographical location among three continents: Asia, Africa, and Europe. Despite its small area, it has a great diverse climate, and four vegetation regions: the Mediterranean, the Sahara, the Iranian-Turanian, and the Sudanese incursion, which is reflected in its biodiversity and plants.
Published data of the Environmental Quality Authority indicate that about 2,750 species of wild plants have been identified and described in historical Palestine within 138 families. The number of endemic plant species in Palestine is about 261, of which 53 are confind to Palestine.
In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, there are about 2,076 plant species, of which 90 are threatened with extinction, while 636 are registered as very rare. Rare plant varieties are 391, amounting to 20% of the total plant varieties, while 68 are very rare, amounting to 3.5% of the total plant varieties in Palestine. In the Gaza Strip, the number of rare plant varieties are 155, amounting to 12% of the total plant varieties, and 22 very rare varieties, amounting to 1.8% of the total plant varieties.

Legacy

Our ancestors always resorted to nature as a sanctuary, an outlet, and a tributary of their kitchen. They were in constant contact with nature. They inherited food and medicine from it. The Earth’s cycle begins with the first rainfall. A Palestinian is happy with the growth of pleasant vegetation. and for an extended family this meant food and enjoyment. This was not limited to preparing the table food, but rather meant preparation of drinks, making of sweets, and many popular medical recipes. Vegetation also provided them with fodder for their livestock and poultry. There are dozens of plants that make their way to the food table. Their exact enumeration, definition of methods of harvesting, preparing, and preserving these plants, could not be included in this short leaflet.


Zamatoot

Wild Schumer

Family members collects khubeizeh from valleys, plains, and orchards. They calso collect al-'awina, al-silk, thyme, Elet, warak el-lisan (Lisanat al-Quds), sorrel, loofah, Zamatoot, 'aqoub, al-sami'a, al-sinaria and other plants in winter to decorate the table. Family also collects chamomile, sagebrush, zaaitman, hasa el-ban, shumar, Persian thyme, and others in making hot drinks and therapeutic recipes.
Moving from winter to spring and summer, mothers and grandmothers pick purslane for making a delicious dish and look for al-sami’a and al-sai’a. In summer and autumn, they collect sumac, durum, hawthorn, maple, oak, carob, almond, olive - the master of trees - among others. The family's consumption of food was not limited to what the earth sprouted out quickly, rather it was preserved for winter days by drying, salting and pickling, or by making sweets and jams. While the uses of carob juice expanded, either drinking it cold, by adding milk to it, or making sweets from it with other materials.
Tomatoes were dried with salt or cooked over fire to make paste out of it, while okra and chilies were dried in necklaces and kept for the winter. Thyme was also dried, and sesame was added to it to make it delicate. Wheat would be boiled and grinded to make bulgur, or it is picked while it was still green to make freekeh that dominates the food tables. Moreover, chickpeas, lentils, beans and other legumes were stored as well.
Olives was a wealth for the family. Families would invest every part of this blessed tree. Its fruits would be squeezed for oil or pickled green and black, while its branches are used for heating and bread making. Its old oil would be used for making soap, and residues (peat) are used for heating.

Families were self-sufficient. They were the masters of their food. They would produce their own food, and have their own livestock, eggs, milk, cheese, butter, and honey, albeit on a small scale. As an example of food security, Mujadara was self-prepared from start to finish, with onions from the garden of the house, lentils from the fields, bulgur from self-prepared wheat, and later rice became a secondary ingredient. The nutritional heritage was similar in most regions, such as grape leaves (varicose veins), lingusia, and za’amot with rice and meat added to it. Khubeizeh would be cooked with onions and lemon added to it, akoub with yugort or eggs, while el- silk, al-'awina, spinach and thyme would be prepared as pies after adding onions and sumac to them.
Names of certain plants differ from one region to another. Also preparation of certain dishes differs; for example the common local Arabic names for zaamtoot varies multiple (qarn al-ghazal, saboon al-rahi, ghalioun al-qadi, ka’b al-ghazal, rakf, hanoun zozo, bakhour maryam, zaamtoot, taj suleiman, manum al-hout (fish) , sheep's tail, zaqouqia, skoko and zaqogo, green el-hamam, qarat sidi, ghalyoun el-wawi, qiraa, jouz el-hamam, burj al-hamam, abu ali's sheep, khayzran).


Green Efforts

The Environmental Education Center encourages field research, discovery and introduction of biodiversity. It has developed the Botanical Garden, which extends over more than 40 dunums, and includes dozens of indigenous and endangered trees, flowers, and plants. It explains to visitors their importance and methods of use, and calls for avoiding harvesting, grazing, and unjust cutting of them.
The Center devotes itself to the concept of a natural pharmacy, conveys it to its visitors, and supports it with aromatic herbs and other plants, and contributes to protecting, preserving and multiplying species.
It also teaches the children of its green kindergarten in Tubas and Bethlehem, and school students who are involved in environmental clubs, national identity, women’s and youth forums, through environmental paths, activities, and festivals, to ensure biodiversity and encourage a return to traditional dishes and implement healthy and traditional dishes.
The Center issued its green agenda over the course of 8 years, which recounted the whole story of 96 Palestinian flowers, their scientific names, places of growth, and their therapeutic uses. It narrated, for example, the story of sawsan faqqu’a, the national flower, and moved to el-vision, and mentioned nettles, and introduced khuff el-jamal, and referred to watercress, and recounted the story of seedlings and wild carrots. It recounted the story of t al-andah, sorrel, rutama, mustard, and murrar. It provided information and facts related to the rich biodiversity in Palestine, through dozens of images.
Our biodiversity is the basis of our food heritage, so let's preserve it.