Despite its thorny outside, the cactus is much loved in Palestine. The plant can flourish in dry, harsh conditions, and is renowned for its ability to survive droughts.
For Palestinians, the cactus symbolises patience and resilience. The word “sabar” in Arabic means “patience”, and during the aftermath of the Nakba, or catastrophe, of 1948, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forcibly displaced and exiled from their homes, people encouraged each other to remain patient, resilient and steadfast.
The fruit that comes from the cactus is also highly valued among Palestinians for its sweet taste. Prickly pears, which grow in bunches, are sold in markets and from street vendors across the country, with many saying their ripeness and sweet taste are worth the time spent plucking away the sharp thorns and peeling away the thick skin.
Many believe the fruit is highly political, as it grows in areas that have now been occupied, coming to symbolise Palestinian dispossession.