Gaza City - Siham Abu Shaaban, 40, never has to think about what she will cook for iftar on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan.
Molokhia is the obvious choice: the thick, earthy stew made with the leaves of the jute mallow plant, is always the “opener” Ramadan meal in Gaza.
It's a custom that the Abu Shaaban family, like many families in Gaza, treasure. Mothers and grandmothers say molokhia's green colour inspires optimism and believe it will bring good fortune in the holy month, Siham recounts.
Palestinians in Gaza still hope for a better, greener year every year, in spite of the repeated assaults by Israel they have suffered during recent Ramadans. There have been so many, in fact, that the preparation of molokhia can be at turns ironic and hopeful as Palestinians wonder if it will ward off attacks, this time.
"My husband, my children and I adore molokhia. I used to hear my grandmother saying molokhia is one of the dishes that [brings] blessings," Siham tells Al Jazeera as she picks molokhia leaves off the stalks.
The mother of four makes molokhia throughout the month, not just for her children and husband but also for her mother, father and two sisters.
"It's part of the custom to have family gatherings in Ramadan, so when I invite my family over and propose a menu, my father insists that molokhia has to be on the table, along with the main meal," she says.