Oranges of Jaffa

The Jaffa orange (also known as Shamouti orange) is a popular almost seedless orange variety with a tough skin that makes it particularly suitable for export.

Developed by farmers in the mid-19th century, the variety takes its name from the city of Jaffa where it was first produced for export. A symbol of production and Arab-Jewish cooperation in Palestine, the orange was the primary citrus export for the city. It is, along with the navel and bitter orange, one of three main varieties of the fruit grown in the Mediterranean, Southern Europe, and the Middle East. The Jaffa is also cultivated in Cyprus, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey.


‘Jaffa’ oranges, also known as shamouti, are practically seedless, with a flavour that has been described as “excellent” and “sweet and fine.” The two other main orange varieties cultivated in the region are the navel orange and the bitter orange; the latter is grown in Iran for its peel. The ‘Jaffa’ orange is distinguished by its oval shape and thick peel, which is deep orange in color and normally very easy to remove from the fruit. Its tough skin makes it “especially suitable for export”. As it produces very little juice and has a tendency towards delayed bitterness, it is unsuitable for juice production, although it does store well.

These oranges are very cold-tolerant, allowing them to grow outside of the subtropical regions normally associated with growing oranges. ‘Jaffa’ oranges are susceptible to Alternaria, a type of fungus, and are prone to alternate bearing.


Located at the crossroads between Africa, western Asia, and Europe, Palestine produced a number of commodities for export via imperial and global distribution networks throughout the late Islamic period (1200–1900 CE). Among these were soap, sugar, barley, oranges, and cotton. Though cotton left its mark throughout the region, the only commodity that remains a symbol of production in Palestine is the ‘Jaffa’ orange.

The ‘Jaffa’ orange was a new variety developed by Palestinian farmers after emerging in the mid-19th century as a mutation on a tree of the ‘Baladi’ variety near the city of Jaffa. While the sour orange (C. aurantium) was brought westward from China and India by local traders, who may have introduced it to Sicily and Spain, the ‘Jaffa’ orange was developed from the sweet orange (C. sinensis) which was brought from China to the Mediterranean region by Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498.

After the Crimean War (1853–56), the most important innovation in local agriculture was the rapid expansion of citrus cultivation. Foremost among the varieties cultivated was the Jaffa (Shamouti) orange, and mention of it being exported to Europe first appears in British consular reports in the 1850s. One factor cited in the growth of the export market was the development of steamships in the first half of the 19th century, which enabled the export of oranges to the European markets in days rather than weeks. Another reason cited for the growth of the industry was the relative lack of European control over the cultivation of oranges compared to cotton, formerly a primary commodity crop of Palestine, but outpaced by the Jaffa orange.

Jaffa Orange brand from Sarona

Exports grew from 200,000 oranges in 1845 to 38 million oranges by 1870. The citrus plantations of this time were primarily owned by wealthy Palestinian merchants and notables, rather than small farmers, as the fruits required large capital investments with no yield for several years. Fruits carrying the “Jaffa orange” label were first marketed by Sarona, a German Templer colony established in 1871. An 1872 account of Jaffa by a European traveller notes that, “Surrounding Jaffa are the orange gardens for which it is justly extolled, and which are a considerable source of wealth to the owners. The annual value of fruits grown in Jaffa was said to be 10,000 pounds.” In the 1880s, an American grower, H.S. Sanford, tried to cultivate the ‘Jaffa’ orange in Florida.

Crates of Jaffa oranges being ferried to a waiting freighter for export, circa 1930

The prosperity of the orange industry brought increased European interest and involvement in the development of ‘Jaffa’. In 1902, a study of the growth of the orange industry by Zionist officials outlined the different Palestinian owners and their primary export markets as England, Turkey, Egypt and Austria-Hungary. While the Palestinian cultivation methods were considered “primitive,” an in-depth study of the financial expenditure involved reveals that they were ultimately more cost-efficient than the Zionist-European enterprises that followed them some two decades later.

The Zionists who immigrated to Palestine introduced the advanced cultivation methods that spurred the ‘Jaffa’ orange industry. According to the Hope Simpson Enquiry of 1930,

“The cultivation of the orange, introduced by the Arabs before the commencement of Jewish settlement, has developed to a very great extent in consequence of that settlement. There is no doubt that the pitch of perfection to which the technique of plantation and cultivation of the orange and grapefruit have been brought in Palestine is due to the scientific methods of the Jewish agriculturist.”

Partnerships in growing and exporting these oranges was an example of Palestinian-Jewish cooperation despite rising political tensions.

At the end of 1928, Jews owned 30,000 dunams of the country’s 60,000 dunams of orange orchards. Whereas before World War I, the price of a dunam of land in a fruitful orange grove was 50-75 pounds sterling, by 1929, the same groves were selling for 150-200 pounds sterling.

By 1939, Jewish and Palestinian orange orchards in Palestine covered 75,000 acres (300 km2), employed over 100,000 workers, and their produce was a primary export. During World War II (1939–1945) citrus-growing declined, but recovered after the war with the vigorous assistance of the British Mandate authorities.

Shipping Jaffa oranges for export, 1952

Jaffa oranges are harvested in Israel and the Palestinian territories between November and March, with the marketing season beginning in September and extending through April. More than half the annual crop is exported, and Israel is a main provider of other citrus fruits to the European Union. In the 1950s and 1960s, Jaffa oranges became emblems of the Israeli state. A general decline in the importance of agriculture to the Israeli economy, extreme limits on available water resources, and the reliance on migrant laborers has reduced productivity. Overshadowed by manufacturing industries, such as diamonds and precision instruments, Israel nonetheless continues to export a large number of citrus fruits to Europe.

The ‘Jaffa’ orange is also known for lending the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo the nickname “Big Orange”.

See also

  • Jaffas
  • Jaffa Cakes


  1. ^ a b c Issawi, 2006, p. 127.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Basan, 2007, p. 83.
  3. ^ a b Ladaniya, 2008, pp. 48–49.
  4. ^ a b c d e Krämer, 2008, p. 91.
  5. ^ a b c Page, 2008, p. 99.
  6. ^ a b Gerber, 1982.
  7. ^ LeVine, 2005, p. 272.
  8. ^ a b c LeVine, 2005, p. 34.
  9. ^ Derr, 1989, p. 79.
  10. ^ The Hope Simpson Report Archived 2014-08-10 at the Wayback Machine. at UNISPAL. CHAPTER VIII. Agricultural Produce. (a) CITRUS CULTIVATION
  11. ^ Sheldon Kirshner (2010). “Iconic Jaffa orange as a symbol of nationalism”. The Canadian Jewish News. April 15. 
  12. ^ “Arab versus Jew: Jaffa and its oranges”. The Sydney Morning Herald. Google News Archive Search. 
  13. ^ Marshall Cavendish, 2006, p. 938.
  14. ^ Issawi, 2006, p. 32.
  15. ^ NYT Travel – Introduction to Tel Aviv


  • Baram, Uzi; Carroll, Lynda (2000). Uzi Baram, Lynda Carroll, eds. A historical archaeology of the Ottoman Empire: breaking new ground (Illustrated ed.). Springer. ISBN 0-306-46311-3. ISBN 9780306463112. 
  • Basan, Ghillie (2007). The Middle Eastern Kitchen. Hippocrene Books. ISBN 0-7818-1190-2. ISBN 9780781811903. 
  • Derr, Mark (1989). Some kind of paradise: a chronicle of man and the land in Florida (Illustrated ed.). W. Morrow (Original from the University of California). ISBN 0-688-07359-X. ISBN 9780688073596. 
  • Gerber, Haim (1982). “Modernization in Nineteenth-Century Palestine: The Role of Foreign Trade”. Middle Eastern Studies – Taylor & Francis, Ltd
  • Issawi, Charles (2006). An Economic History of the Middle East and North Africa (Reprint ed.). Taylor & Francis. ISBN 0-415-37998-9. ISBN 9780415379984. 
  • Krämer, Gudrun (2008). A history of Palestine: from the Ottoman conquest to the founding of the state of Israel (Illustrated ed.). Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-11897-3. ISBN 9780691118970. 
  • Ladaniya, Milind S. (2008). Citrus fruit: biology, technology and evaluation (Illustrated ed.). Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-374130-0. ISBN 9780123741301. 
  • LeVine, Mark (2005). Overthrowing geography: Jaffa, Tel Aviv, and the struggle for Palestine, 1880–1948 (Illustrated ed.). University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23994-6. ISBN 9780520239944. 
  • Marshall Cavendish (2006). World and Its Peoples: The Middle East, Western Asia, and Northern Africa (Illustrated ed.). Marshall Cavendish. ISBN 0-7614-7571-0. ISBN 9780761475712. 
  • Page, Martin (2008). Growing Citrus: The Essential Gardener’s Guide (Illustrated ed.). Timber Press. ISBN 0-88192-906-9. ISBN 9780881929065. 

External links

  • Orange Varieties
  • 120 Years of Citrus in Israel
  • An orange Israeli icon turns green

The Jaffa orange, also known as the Shamouti orange, is a very sweet, almost seedless orange exported from Israel. It takes its name from the city of Jaffa.


Jaffa oranges are very similar to Valencia oranges, though they are much sweeter. They are characterized by their oval shape, sweet flavor, and strong aroma. The peel is light orange in color, and is normally very easy to remove from the fruit.

These oranges are very cold-tolerant, allowing them to grow outside of the subtropical regions normally associated with growing oranges. Jaffa oranges ripen in the spring-to-summer months, making it a midseason fruit.

Jaffa oranges are susceptible to Alternaria, a type of fungus, and are prone to alternate bearing.


According to Daniel Rogov, the variety “originated in China and Cochinchina”. No one knows precisely when the sweet orange was introduced into Palestine, but the first orange tree was probably brought to this part of the world in the early 16th century, when Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama brought a root of the tree from China to Portugal. It is from that single tree, still preserved in Lisbon at the home of the Count de Saint-Laurent, that all of the oranges of Portugal, Spain, France and Israel have descended. ]

In the pre-1948 economy of Palestine

The first fruits to carry the “Jaffa orange” brand were from an agricultural colony of the Temple Society in Sarona (commonly pronounced Sharona, est. 1871).

According to the Hope Simpson Royal Commission Report of 1930,

“The cultivation of the orange, introduced by the Arabs before the commencement of Jewish settlement, has developed to a very great extent in consequence of that settlement. There is no doubt that the pitch of perfection to which the technique of plantation and cultivation of the orange and grape-fruit have been brought in Palestine is due to the scientific methods of the Jewish agriculturist.” at UNISPAL. CHAPTER VIII. Agricultural Produce. (a) CITRUS CULTIVATION]

This variety of orange was first brought to the United States by H. S. Stanford during the 1880s. Stanford brought the oranges to Florida, where they are still grown today.

By 1939, the combined Jewish and Arab orange orchards in Palestine totaled 75,000 acres, employing over 100,000 workers, and their produce was a primary export of the economy. During World War II (1939-1945) the local orange agriculture sunk into a depression. Postwar recovery followed, with vigorous assistance by British Mandate authorities. The 1948 Arab Israeli War brought deterioration and neglect to the fields, as well as the settlement of many remaining Arab orchards by Jewish farmers.

In Israel

The years following Israel’s independence in 1948 heralded a revival of the industry, with oranges becoming one of the top exports of Israel, still among the largest producers in the world, and ‘Jaffa’ became a well known trademark of the young country. Towards the end of the 20th century, decline set in again. Orange producers such as Spain and Brazil have taken the lead Fact|date=June 2008, particularly due to their relative abundance of water, inexpensive labor. Moreover, increased Israeli reliance on Palestinian-Arab labor in agriculture has exposed the industry to workforce shortages in times of Arab-Israeli clashes. In later years, Israeli agriculture came to depend on migrant laborers from Thailand and other Asian and East European countries, also intensifying the shift of agricultural exports from crop production towards other sectors where Israel remains competitive, such as high-technology agricultural research and development.


External links


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  1. Jaffa orange(noun)

    sweet almost seedless orange of Israel

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  1. Jaffa orange(Noun)

    A sweet seedless orange exported from Israel

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  1. Jaffa orange

    The Jaffa orange, also Shamouti orange, is a sweet, almost seedless orange variety with a tough skin that makes it particularly suitable for export. Developed by Arab farmers in the mid-19th century, the variety takes its name from the city of Jaffa where it was first produced for export. A symbol of production in Israel, it became a primary citrus export for the State of Israel following its establishment in 1948. One of three main varieties of oranges grown in the Middle East, the Jaffa orange is also cultivated in Cyprus, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey.


  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of JAFFA ORANGE in Chaldean Numerology is:

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of JAFFA ORANGE in Pythagorean Numerology is:

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CJPME Factsheet 176, published July, 2013: While many think of the Jaffa orange as being an Israeli product, the Jaffa orange was a prized output of Palestinian farmers for generations before the state of Israel was founded.  This factsheet examines the history of the Jaffa orange, and the symbolic role it plays today.

Factsheet Series No. 176, created: July 2013, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

What is the story behind the cultivation of Jaffa oranges?

Prior to 1948, the modern city of Jaffa was the cultural and economic heart of Palestine. From the late 19th century until 1970, it was also one of the largest ports of orange export in the world. Oranges and other citrus fruit were brought to Europe from the Middle East. Jaffa oranges, in particular, are a variety developed by Arab Palestinian farmers in the 19th century.1 These oranges were the pride of Palestinians because they are sweet and almost seedless. Their tough skin made them perfect for export. Moreover, the cultivation of oranges developed simultaneously with the rise of the steam engine and the increase of European exports in the mid 19th century. During the early 20th century and until 1939, oranges were the largest Palestinian export, surpassing even cotton. In 1939, a total of 30 000 hectares were cultivated and 15 million crates were exported. 2

Thus, contrary to the myth propagated by Israel of an arid, backward and under populated Palestine3, Palestinians had a dynamic agricultural sector before the arrival of European Jews. Under the British Mandate, the cultivation of products such as olives, melon, tobacco, grapevines and oranges to name a few, mostly belonged to the Arab Palestinians.4 Towards the end of the Mandate, the cultivation of oranges by Jewish Palestinians who were either native or established for several generations had significantly increased. Despite this, the production from Arab Palestinians remained superior both in terms of quantity and quality.5

What were the relationships between the different communities cultivating oranges at the beginning of the 20th century?

A time of social peace: At the beginning of the century, orange groves were common to all natives of Jaffa and the surrounding regions, regardless of their religious affiliation. A certain rivalry existed between the different communities, however the relationships were peaceful. Arab orange groves employed Jews and vice versa. During these years, an intricate network of economic, social and cultural relationships was developed between Arab – Muslim or Christian – and Jewish communities from the city.6 Subsequent conflicts have obscured this degree of interdependence and cooperation.

The outbreak of tensions: In the years prior to 1948, tensions arose between Arab and Jewish Palestinians with the establishment of kibbutz, which recruited exclusively Jewish labour. From the start of the 20th century, it became increasingly frequent for Zionist agencies to acquire land from absent landlords while dismissing sharecropping tenants in favour of Jewish immigrants.7 These sharecroppers8 were particularly at the mercy of such evictions. Furthermore, Jewish immigrants would often put pressure on former Jewish landlords so that they would dismiss their Arab employees.

An agreement on non-aggression and its breach: Despite growing tensions, the orange growers signed an agreement on non-aggression in 1948 concerning the orange groves between Jaffa – a predominantly Arab city – and Tel Aviv – a predominantly Jewish city – in the midst of the war. These plantations were not to be attacked in order for harvest and exports to continue. This delicate balance was broken when members of the Haganah Jewish armed militia started conducting random attacks on the area despite Tel Aviv municipal authorities’ and Jaffa’s efforts to establish a modus Vivendi.9

What happened to the Palestinians’ orange groves after the Nakba?

The forced exodus of Jaffa Palestinians: According to the 1947 UN Partition Plan, the city of Jaffa should have been part of a future Arab state. However in April and May 1948, Jaffa was besieged and pounded by the soon to be Israeli army. To escape the bombardments, thousands of Palestinians had to flee the city by boat. On May 14th, only 4 -5 000 of the 70 000 Palestinians who lived in Jaffa, remained.10 The orange groves that belonged to Palestinians were then illegally confiscated and became the property of the State of Israel. Even if their proprietors had remained in Jaffa, the orange groves were considered “abandoned assets” and were seized by the State of Israel.

After 1948: Following the eviction of the Arab Palestinians, the State of Israel continued to gain profits from the export of oranges. Even today, Israel exports the Jaffa brand of citrus fruit although there are no more orange trees around the city. Most of the orange groves were either destroyed or abandoned when the oranges lost their value on the global market in the 1980s. It was at this time that the export of citrus fruit from Israel dropped from one million tonnes to only 300 000 tonnes because of European competition.11

What do Jaffa oranges symbolize?

A strong symbol of Palestinian national identity: For Palestinians, Jaffa oranges were a very strong symbol of their land. With its internationally renowned quality, the orange represented the Palestinian people’s ingenuity. Palestinian historian Mustafa Khaba recounts that in the late 1920’s, the Palestinian press conducted a survey to determine what flag the Palestinians wanted to adopt following their independence. An attachment to the fruit was clearly highlighted in the survey as the majority of the respondents felt that the green and orange colourings of citrus fruit represented Palestine best. It seems that this opinion prevailed until the 1948 adoption of the Pan-Arabic coloured flag.12 After 1948 however, orange began to represent the lost ancestral homeland.

The appropriation of the orange symbol by the State of Israel: Around the same time, Jewish immigrants appropriated Jaffa oranges as a symbol of the State of Israel. Historian Amnon Raz-Krakotzin explains how the Zionist movement made the modernization and the cultivation of the citrus fruit symbolic even though this predated the arrival of the settlers.13 When examining propaganda from this era through posters and photographs, it is obvious that the orange iconography helped convey the false myth of a backward Palestinian society. Furthermore from the 1950s on, Jaffa oranges represented Israel internationally as the new state’s main export.14 Jaffa became a registered trademark in 1948. Israel’s citrus fruit marketing board, which was created under the British Mandate, then controlled all production and exportation of Israeli citrus fruit under that name. In 1976, among the signs best known to the public, Jaffa was ranked just after Coca-Cola.15 As for the Palestinian city of Jaffa, it was annexed by Tel-Aviv in 1950 and its name gradually fell into oblivion.

Should Canadians boycott Jaffa oranges?

Yes. CJPME encourages the boycott of Israeli products for several reasons. In 2005, over 170 organizations from Palestinian civil society appealed to the world to impose a strategy of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israeli institutions in an attempt to move the Israeli government to respect international law and fundamental Palestinian rights.16 The boycott of Israeli products and companies operating in the OccupiedTerritories aims to denounce the military occupation of PalestinianTerritories by Israel, its colonization policies and the blockade it has imposed on the people of Gaza.

Jaffa oranges should especially be boycotted for the following reasons. Firstly, for a long time theseJaffa brand oranges were partly cultivated on illegally acquired lands. According to international law there is a despoliation of goods when they are confiscated by the state in an arbitrary manner without compensation or for discriminatory purposes. This was the case in 1948 for the Arab landlords of theJaffa orange groves. BoycottingJaffa oranges allows Canadians to express their opposition to this despoliation performed by the State of Israel. Furthermore, buyingJaffa oranges or other Israeli products reinforces the Israeli economy. This facilitates Israel’s ongoing violation of international law and helps normalize these violations.

1 Issawi, Charles Philip. An Economic History of the Middle East and North Africa. Columbia University Press, 1982, p.127.

2 Ibid.

3 For exemples of propaganda see, Réalités d’Israël, Jérusalem : Centre d’information d’Israël, 1998, p.22-26.

4 Khalidi, Walid. Before their Diaspora. A Photographic History of the Palestinians 1876-1948. Boston : The Institute for Palestine Studies, 1984, p.125-131.

5 Ibid. p. 131

6 Levine, Mark. « Globalization, Architecture, and Town Planning in a Colonial City : The Case of Jaffa and Tel Aviv ». Journal of World History. Vol. 18, no 2 (juin 2007), p.171.

7 Khalidi, Rashid. Palestinian identity: the construction of modern national consciousness. Columbia University Press, 1997, p.99.

8 Those farmers had sometimes cultivated the same land for generations but on behalf of landlords and were not the lawful holders.

9 Pappe, Ilan. Le nettoyage ethnique de la Palestine. Paris : Fayard, 2008, p.98

10 LeBor, Adam. « Zion and the Arabs. Jaffa as a Metaphor ». World Policy Journal. Hiver 2007/08, p.71.

11 Dockser Marcus, Amy. “ Israel’s Jaffa Orange Leaves Bitter Taste For Citrus Industry, Hurt by EC Rivals”. The Wall Street Journal. 6 octobre 1992, p. A15.

12 Sivan, Eyal. Jaffa. La mécanique de l’orange. Bruxelles : Luna Blue Film, Paris : The Factory, Israël : Alma Films et Trabelsi production, 2009.

13 Sivan, Eyal. Jaffa. La mécanique de l’orange. Bruxelles : Luna Blue Film, Paris : The Factory, Israël : Alma Films et Trabelsi production, 2009. For further detail on the concealment of Palestinian history by the Israel collective consciousness, see Raz-Krakotkin, Amnon. Exil et souveraineté. Judaïsme, sionisme et pensée binationale. Paris : La Frabrique, 2007.

14 Dockser Marcus, Amy. Ibid.

15 Sivan, Eyal. Jaffa. Ibid.

16 For further information on this subject, see Fact sheet no 96 CJPME’s Boycott Campaign on Israel, September 2010.

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