A sweet made of grape juice is how one West Bank farmer is hoping to make a splash at the United Nations, a day before it is expected to vote on whether to grant Palestinians non-member status.
The status would be an important boost in Palestinian efforts to secure greater international recognition and the vote is expected on either Thursday or Friday.
To make their voices heard, farmer Zuheir Ibragheith and his family have crushed some of their grape harvest in Hebron to turn it into a traditional sweet called in “malban” in the form of a Palestinian flag and a U.N. flag.
Ibragheith’s wife, Asmahan, says it was the one way they had to send a message in support of the U.N. bid.
“Every Palestinian sends his message to the president, each in his own way. We wanted to send our message by making the flag of the United Nations from grapes, to tell him that we support him and we will achieve statehood, God willing,” Asmahan Ibragheith said.
After preparing the moulds, the malban mixture - with added semolina, sugar and food coloring - is poured piping hot onto the table and into the moulds.
Ibragheith says there was a particular reason for using grapes.
Once a mainstay of the local economy, Palestinian agriculture in the rocky West Bank is in decline as farmers struggle to protect their livelihoods and their lands.
Deprived of water and cut off from key markets, farmers across the occupied territory can only look on with a mix of anger and envy as Israeli settlers copiously irrigate their own plantations and export at will.
The pressure to keep farming is strong, not least because Palestinian farmers believe that Israel and Jewish settlers will expropriate their farmland if they leave it uncultivated.
But with restrictions on water use and land, what farmers produce often fails to match the lower cost or higher quality of what Israel supplies to the Palestinian stores.
“The idea is that the farmers, not only me, we all suffer from (restrictions to) marketing, and from faulty pesticides which we take from the other (Israeli) side. We appeal to the Palestinian Authority as our only father and supporter to help us so that if we want to export to, say, Jordan, we will find the path open to us,” Zuheir Ibragheith said.
Israel says it is already giving Palestinians more water than was agreed in the 1994 interim Oslo peace accords.
They say a definitive division of resources can only be decided in a final peace deal - something that has proved elusive in years of mutual recrimination and missed chances.
Israeli agriculture experts also say the Palestinians could do much more with their land if they adopted modern farming methods including using “drip technology” and modern fertilizers, but again Palestinians counter that it comes down to ample water supplies and unrestricted access to imports.
Vineyards are common in the area and Hebron's grape crop is the second largest produce in the West Bank after olives.
Ibragheith says his family has lived off their vineyards for generations, and he has been cultivating grapes all his life to make raisins, jams, molasses, and the ubiquitous malban.
“Through this product, we want to tell the whole world that grapes are not only for eating, but also for making a number of products,” he said.
The malban takes two days to set and this batch will be ready just in time for what is sure to be a celebration in the West Bank.
While Israel has lobbied against them, the Palestinians are set for a sure victory in the 193-member world body made up mostly of developing countries long sympathetic to their cause.
The final touches in the piece were an olive branch for peace and the number 194, which would be the total number of members in the United Nations if the vote falls in the Palestinian people’s favor.