After Decades, Israel Permits Picking of Plant Popular in Arab Kitchens

Nature and Parks Authority allows up to five kilos of gundelia, known as akkoub in Arabic and which had protective status for years, to be collected per day

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
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Gundelia plant.
Gundelia plant.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

The Israel Nature and Parks Authority has announced it will permit limited collection of gundelia, a plant popular in Arab kitchens that has had protected status for decades. They had previously stated it would permit unlimited collection of the plant.

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In response, Adalah, a legal center for Arab and minority rights, said that the authority's inconsistent statements are causing confusion, demanding that it drop enforcement against violators of the directive.

Last year, the authority’s director, Shaul Goldstein, promised to ease the restriction on picking wild spices like sage and hyssop and to permit unlimited picking of gundelia, known in Arabic as akkoub. Meanwhile, authority officials released a review recommending gundelia be allowed to be picked for home consumption, as long as those picking it are careful not to pull out the roots. The authors also recommended permitting the collection of up to 50 kilograms of the plant in open spaces not belonging to nature reserves.

Gundelia being harvested, March 2008.Credit: Gil Eliahu

Last month, the authority officially permitted the picking of gundelia for non-commercial purposes, but limited it to five kilograms per person per day in areas that are not part of nature reserves. They also continued enforcement efforts, focusing on anyone exceeding this daily limit.

Last week, Adalah attorney Rabeea Egbaria demanded that the authority stop its enforcement efforts, citing inconsistent statements. “As long as the authority intends to have a stricter policy than the one initially announced, we ask that you clarify it unequivocally, and explain what the arguments for adopting such strict restrictions, which contradict earlier statements, are,” Egbaria wrote to Shay Peretz, the authority’s legal counsel.

Peretz responded that the restriction still allowed people to pick a significant amount for of the plant for personal use and that it was far more lenient than in the past. He added that the authority intends to monitor the plant’s situation and will revise guidelines accordingly. He added that the guidelines were issued in Arabic and that authority inspectors have distributed informational materials to hikers and in schools in Arab communities.

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