About nine different species of date palm grow in the Land of Israel. Each species yields fruit with its own special sweetness, sweetness, appearance, texture and size. Their branches differ as well. About 20-30 date stems are connected to each branch, known as a hand because it looks a lot like a human hand.
For basket weaving, we use the stems of the Amari date palm because of their length and convenience. The shorter the stem, the harder it is to use in basketry.
The date harvest takes place in October. Date palms are tall and its fruits are located near the top. They are gathered with a crane, that is driven from tree to tree to remove the hands together with the dates. All fruits are brought to a central location where the dates are separated from their stems. The dates are then sent to the packing plant and the branches are piled up for disposal. Basket weavers are then free to collect the empty date hands.
I select the best hands for my basketry work, as shown in the photo. The date plantation can be seen in the background.
Date branches, like those of all naturally growing plants, are not all the same size and They can be long or short, thick or thin, straight or curved. Some have especially interesting shapes. When I collect hands, I take the longest branches—as well as the unusual ones, of course. The material needs to be stored in a dry place for about half a year, to make sure that it dries thoroughly. Stems fresh from the field cannot be used for basketry.
Once I have a large pile of hands, I separate the stems in the field before placing them in storage, throwing away the empty branches.
The hands look like this:
And here are stems that were removed from the hands.
At the top of each date is a small circular cap that often remains on the hand. I do not need them for most basketry work and remove nearly all of them, saving a few for decorative purposes. This photo shows the stems with caps:
I believe that I am the only artist in Israel who prepares date stems in this manner. Most others simply store the hands with the stems attached, cutting and cleaning only as much as they need for each project. I prefer having my material ready for work in advance. Obviously, this requires a lot of advance work after gathering and before storage. Half a year later, I can wet down the dried stems and start using them in basketry.
She opens my heart to you, too
She wants only to give and to take
To life clinging for its own sake
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