After a PRCS (Palestinian Red Crescent Society) shift in Rafah, Anwar stops to show me a friend’s honey shop where the liquid gold flows pure, fresh from the comb, not tarnished by corn syrup mixings like jars of honey often seem to be here.
Ahmed Zohrob has learned bee-keeping and honey processing from his father, and so on through the generations. “I am an electrical engineer,” he tells me, “but I work in the family trade. Honey.”
He has apprenticed well and keenly shares his knowledge, and his honey. Cutting into a frame of bee hive and honey, Zohrob saws off a chunk and hands it to me. “It’s light, with a hint of orange. In the autumn it’s darker because the bees go to flowers not orange blossoms.”
As he cuts away chunks of honey, the frame reveals the thin wires which help support and build the comb. Zohrob pulls out an empty frame and a thin, paper-sized sheet of wax, showing how the wax fits into the wooden frame, lying over the wires. “We run an electrical current through the wires and the wax melts to the frame.” The bees take it from there, building their intricate hives which will house the honey.
He’s astonished at my honey ignorance. I just like it in my tea, but he tells me honey can be used medicinally, to treat over 100 afflictions.
Like nearly everyone I meet in Gaza, he insists I must come for a meal (although we’ve only been chatting for 15 minutes) (the last to invite me was the dentist I’d only just met, and had a brief, anesthesia-garbled, conversation about support and solidarity with Palestinians, the state of Gaza after Israel’s war on Gaza and with Israel 3 year long siege..), as well as to tour his land with bee-hives.
In the meantime, Ahmed Zohrob takes me into the room adjacent to the sales room. Barrels and vats brimming with honey await transfer to smaller containers for sale. Zohrob points out different machines and methods for extracting honey from their hives.
“This machine uses centrifugal force to remove the honey. It’s hand-cranked, so doesn’t need electricity,” he explains.
We discuss other means of extraction, then move to the barrels. The honey is clear and delicious.
I leave later, comb of honey to take with me, and with a promise to don a bee-keepers garb and visit the hives outside.
Honey sales are only within Gaza now, exporting impossible.
Zohrob is fortunate that his bees thrive on land safe from Israeli menace. In the border zone, dubbed by Israeli authorities as the ‘buffer zone‘, bee-keepers as well as farmers and civilians living on the land risk their lives to do their work. Honey, already valuable for its medicinal qualities and taste becomes all the more valuable considering the great efforts exerted for its farming.