The herb dispute, in this case about ’Akkoub (gundelia) and Za’atar (wild thyme) is one of the more bizarre aspects of the Middle East conflict. These plants are much sought-after ingredients of Palestinian cuisine and have been collected for generations; for reasons of nature conservation, however, this is forbidden in the West Bank. Israeli park rangers thus find themselves in hot pursuit of their collectors for a fistful of greens. Jumana Manna humorously presents the poaching as civil disobedience.
The Berlin-based Palestinian artist combines documentary and scripted material with pop references. Once, when archival footage illustrates the hype surrounding the illegal herbs, we hear Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” and Morricone’s harmonica melody from “For a Few Dollars More”. The ban also has an economic side, since Israeli companies are selling Za’atar as a spice mix. Drone and panoramic shots suggest the absurd manhunt for elderly people picking for their own needs. One of them says: “I’ll also be caught in 2050 with my children and grandchildren.” Manna wrote the court hearings based on real cases with lawyer Rabea Eghbarieh. Not mentioned in the film is the political success the attorney of the Adalah NGO contributed to in 2019: According to the new directive of the Ministry of the Environment five kilogrammes of the plants may be picked.