Prickly pear cacti grow all over Israel and the Middle East in general, where they are used not only to produce the tasty fruit, but also as borders between houses and villages. The cactus is so omnipresent that most people think the prickly pear to be endogenous to the Middle East. Israelies have taken this one step further and have adopted the Hebrew name for the prickly pear (tzabar) (Sabra in English) to describe native born Israelis. Like the fruit, a tzabar is thought to be prickly and dangerous on the outside, but soft and sweet inside.
In reality though, the prickly pear may be an imposter. While it pretends to be native, it is actually a new immigrant (in Hebrew, an oleh). Molecular DNA studies indicated that the prickly pear of the Middle East, Opuntia ficus-indica, is actually an import from Mexico! Many European traders carried the prickly pear on board to prevent scurvy, and then transplanted the cacti around the Mediterranean.
As a new immigrant, I can now proudly declare myself a tzabar !