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Wild plant feeds another thorny conflict between Israel, Palestinians

Palestinian foragers are resisting an Israeli law that bans the picking of aqub, a delicacy whose harvest has long sustained local women.

As the spring rains taper off and wildflowers coat the hills, Jamila gets up well before dawn. Quietly, furtively, carrying pails, burly jute sacks and scythe-like knives, she and a few friends climb into a rented minivan and the driver takes them out to the fields surrounding Arrabe, her village in the central Galilee.

By sunrise, Jamila, 66, is scrambling across the hills and climbing down into the deep wadis foraging for aqub, a small, artichoke-like local delicacy. Deftly, she cuts the head off from the thorny purplish stem. By mid-morning on a good day, she will have picked as much as 10 kilograms (22 pounds). Back at home, neighbors will come to her door paying as much as 50 shekels ($14) a kilo if she has invested the intense work necessary to strip off the thorns and clean them and 15 shekels a kilo ($4) if she sells it as is.

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