Imad – Tzippori (interviewed on 22.01.13)
Imad is 36 years old and has three children. He lives in Nazareth in the Tsafafra neighborhood, where most families are originally from the Saffuriya village (now Tzippori). In addition to his work in construction, Imad is growing vegetables. He has the best cucumbers in Israel.
Does this place have a name?
Tzippori, the land of Tzippori. In Arabic we say ‘basateen’ (gardens).
Is everybody here relatives?
Yes. Everybody here is from the same neighborhood in Nazareth, the Tsafafra. Originally everybody is from Saffuriya (Tzippori). There is not much land here, only 180-200 dunam [1 dunam is about ¼ acre]; some have 3-4 dunam, some 10. We have 2 dunam; the land you see here is not ours; my dad rented it from a friend in Nazareth.
What are you growing?
In winter lettuce, parsley, spinach, arugula, cabbage, cauliflower. We have chicory, that’s it. Also fennel. In summer we have cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, black eyed peas; we have ‘baladi’ (local) tomatoes grown without water, they are called ‘baaliyeh’. Also ‘mulukhiyah’ (corchorus), you know? The best food for Arabs in summer, we sell it a lot. Some cook it and freeze for later. It’s really good. We cook it with a bit of spinach. Some dry the leaves of ‘mulukhiyah’ in the sun and then add crushed dry ‘mulukhiyah’ to cooked spinach.
What’s your favorite vegetable?
Here? ‘Mulukhiyah’, it’s the best. I eat it only in season. My wife doesn’t keep it in the freezer. Only ‘dawali’ (grape leaves) she keeps in the fridge. Arabs store a lot of grape leaves in the fridge.
Do you know of other places in the area like the Tzippori gardens?
There are in Ka’abiyye, Kafr Manda, Uzeir, but nobody has spring water, only here. Everybody gets water from Mekorot (the water company). Spring water makes our vegetables taste better. We have the best cucumbers in Israel; people come from Tel Aviv for them, and it’s because of the water. Someone took a sample for analysis and told us that this water is something else. [Mekorot] wants us to pay for the water now, so growing vegetables won’t be worth it. Some say we’ll pay 1NIS for 1 cubic meter, which might still be ok.
When did you start working here?
When I was about 15; I was at school and came here with my dad.
Do you have any memorable experiences from your childhood here?
I drove a tractor and really liked it. I had to plow the field. This is good work; I love the forest and the vegetables. This work is in my heart now.
We’re 12 brothers and sisters; I’m the tenth child. I remember that we used to work here with my mom and dad. My mom made food on the grill; we laughed and worked together – it was fun. We didn’t have a car, so my dad took us in the tractor wagon; we had to lie down so the policemen won’t see us. There was no drip irrigation system so we had to water by hand. Me and my older brother used to fight who’ll water the plants and who’ll pick. We went to the water valve and played and splashed in the cold water. The stream was here; it was moved towards the forest; when it rains the water collects in the lowest part of the field where once flowed the stream.
Is your father still alive?
No, he died 4 years ago from cancer. He used to come and sit under the [mulberry] tree. Everybody knew him, he made Sada coffee. Even though he’s my dad, I’ll tell you, there’s no one like him. He was like a friend to me, not a father and a very good person. We used to laugh and talk like friends. The love for the land I got from my father. His mother died when he was 2 or 3 years old; he worked only in agriculture since he was very young. His name was Ahmad. If you were in need, he’d never say ‘no’, were you family or a friend. Everyone here and in the neighborhood says he was an extraordinary man.
Do you think your children will continue to work here?
No, I don’t want them working here, only for fun. I bring them here a lot. Two days ago we were picking ‘el saineh’ (a plant from the borage family); it’s cooked the same as grape leaves. There is also ‘kochiyah’ (cyclamen) leaves; they are a bit sour, very tasty. They (Israel Nature and Parks Authority) don’t allow picking some of the plants although there is plenty – ‘zaatar’, ‘el ayun’ (wild asparagus). Maybe it’s better this way. Some people pick ‘zaatar’ and take out the whole plant – that’s not good. Each year I go to Tzippori and have some almonds, just to taste. I see trees with broken branches, why? Let the tree grow, but some people do not respect nature. In our (Arabic) society many people are like that. So I explain everything to my kids; I want them to remember that I worked here. They understand this. If I let them pick some plants, they learn how everything grows.
What has changed in the 20 years you’ve been here?
I feel that it was my father’s and grandfather’s land; it used to be in the heart of the people. It’s the place where my father was born. My father talked to us a lot about this land, how they used to live. People used to love each other; they were close. Now there is no love between brothers.
Have you thought of doing something else?
I work in construction. My uncle is a contractor and I work for him. I’ve worked in Tel Aviv and Herzliya. But I come here every day. It’s in my blood. Many people that come here tell me they would like to exchange places with me. I have good water and fresh air. I come to the forest even when there is no work to do. I prefer this place over any other…