World Bee Day: In besieged Gaza, Palestinian beekeeper tends hives

World Bee Day: In besieged Gaza, Palestinian beekeeper tends hives
Meet the Palestinian beekeeper Miassar Khoudair, who sells honey from her apiary near the Gazan border.
3 min read
Palestinian beekeeper Miassar Khoudair, 35, checks beehives at her apiary (Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In a field close to the Gaza Strip's restive frontier, apiarist Miassar Khoudair checks that her queen bee has survived five days of deadly cross-border fire between Palestinian militants and the Israeli army.

"The bees die from the gases, the rockets and dust as a result of the war," said the 29-year-old, dressed in a protective white bee suit.

On World Bee Day, which was marked on Saturday and aims to raise the profile of these vital pollinators - Khoudair returned to her colony just a few hundred metres from the border.

During the latest violence that saw Israel bomb the enclave, Khoudair was unable to access the hives and found that three or four of the apiaries were destroyed by the strikes. The violence saw 33 Palestinians killed in Gaza, including children.

Despite the dangers, the frontier's farmland offers some of the only areas in Gaza's densely-populated urban environment suitable for beekeeping.

"We always put them in border areas, because there are lots of trees and wild plants, and there aren't many buildings or overcrowding," she said.

Palestinian beekeeper Miassar Khoudair, 35, checks beehives at her apiary, in Jabalia camp in the northern Gaza strip (Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The besieged enclave is home to some 2.3 million people, who have endured an Israeli-led blockade since 2007.

Cross-border trade was halted until a ceasefire on Saturday took hold and the strikes also damaged an estimated 600 dunams (0.6 square kilometres or 0.2 square miles) of crops.

The value of losses to beehives, poultry farms and livestock reached $225,000, according to the Hamas-run government's media office.

The conflict halted daily life and prevented Khoudair from selling honey at her store in a usually buzzing mall in downtown Gaza City.

Khoudair studied herbal medicine and as well as selling traditional eating honey, she also sells honey-based infusions to treat everything from problems of concentration to fertility issues.

"If the honey's of high quality, it's very treatable. There are some mixtures added to the honey, and here it treats childbearing," she said, without elaborating.

Khoudair started her business a few months ago after studying honey and herbal medicine in Saudi Arabia, she said.

"While I was in Saudi, I found they have the idea of honey, their love for honey, their interest in honey, as a remedy and a supplement on the table to my lunch," she said.

With 45 percent unemployment in Gaza, according to the International Monetary Fund, Khoudair's bees provide her with a job.

"It's a very beneficial project, and I rely on myself as a woman," she said.

Standing beside her colony after inspecting her hives - resulting in a few stings to her hands - Khoudair urged people beyond Gaza's borders to "care about the bees' produce".

"Honey was mentioned in the Quran, we take it therapeutically, not just in a nutritional way, and it's healthy and strengthened with vitamins," she said, above the drone of her bees.