Battir, a West Bank village, holds annual eggplant festival despite loss of land to Israel’s barrier

BETHLEHEM, Battir, a Palestinian village six kilometers south of the southern West Bank biblical city of Bethlehem and on the UNESCO world heritage list since 2011 due to its terrace farming and 2500 years old Roman spring, bath and irrigation channels, opened today its annual eggplant festival attended by Palestinian officials, farmers and dozens of guests.

This festival that will go on for two days is very important for the eggplant farmers in Battir, said the village’s mayor, Taysir Qattoush, at the opening ceremony. The municipality is doing all it can to help the farmers cultivate their land through the opening of roads to help them with the land reclamation process, he explained.

Qattoush said that the festival came to shed light on the areas where the eggplant is grown, which are considered these days as hazardous areas because of their proximity to Israel’s military separation barrier that devours a large part of Battir land thus destroying the historic stone terraces that are more than 2,500 years old and which are planted with the famous Battir eggplant.

The festival, added the mayor, hopes to attract, in addition to tourists and visitors, the attention of officials to Palestinian agriculture as an important source of income for the villagers and farmers that would also solve the problem of unemployment suffered by many young people.

The Battir eggplant is well known in the West Bank, but more so in occupied Jerusalem, where one of the farmers at the festival, Illian Shami, said they used to market most of their eggplant product during its harvest season. However, with the construction of the barrier in 2004 that separated Jerusalem from its West Bank environs, the eggplant farmers have lost this important and vital market, said Shami.

Source: Palestinian News and Info Agency