Lakiya Negev Weaving, “Sidreh”: This project, in the Negev area of Israel, was established in 1991 as an income generating project for Bedouin women. Working in homesteads near the village of Lakiya more than 38 (formerly 150) craftswomen continue centuries of tradition, passed from mother to daughter, by herding, spinning, dyeing and weaving pure Awassi sheep wool.
Using drop spindles and ground looms they produce quality items which are durable, dye fast and mothproof. Lakiya is now a part of the work done by Al Sidreh, which has adult literacy and other programmes empowering women in the Bedouin community, particularly those in unrecognized villages.
We last visited Lakiya in 2016 and had lunch at the desert home of a woman participating in the income generating program. Hadeel normally stocks small rugs and cushions, but can order larger items for customers.
Sindyanna of Galilee, run entirely by Arab and Jewish women, joined the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO) in 2003. Established in 1996, it aims to advance the Arab economy in Israel and to help preserve the land.
Olives have been the mainstay of Arab farmers for centuries. Israeli authorities discourage sales of Arab-grown olive oil and since 1948 have confiscated over 70% of Arab-owned land. Oil which cannot be used for food is made into soap which is made by traditional methods in Nablus, then cleaned, packed and exported by Sindyanna.
As well as the original soap, other varieties are now stocked – honey, pomegranate, lemon, sage, Dead Sea mud. Za’atar is sourced from Palestinian farmers in the Jericho area. Traditional baskets are made in a women’s project with a new centre with modern shop in Cana. Recently they began a cookery project for Arab women, hoping new skills will enable them to find work in catering.
In 2012 our study tour visited the centre and the Scots Olive Grove being developed in partnership with the Church of Scotland. www.sindyanna.com
Melkite Palestinian Embroidery Workshop, Ramallah: This organisation began in 1988 as a response to the desperate need of families at the outbreak of the first Intifada. It soon was serving 400 (now 270) women, providing materials and designs to women in surrounding villages. Women suddenly became breadwinners as men were imprisoned, disabled or deported.
Due to low sales, women occasionally have been sent home with no work. There are “. . . continuing hard economic conditions and travel restrictions. The wall affects areas where some workers live; we have very limited access to Jerusalem where there are foreign tourists.”
The Workshop’s products are among Hadeel’s most popular – purses, bags, hangings and cushion covers. In 2008 Palcrafts gave them a grant to travel to Dubai to secure orders, and in 2012 gave a grant to help them publish a new catalogue. A grant from Palcrafts in 2015 enabled them to purchase a printer/fax/scanner so they can improve their promotion of products.
Haneen Project, Nablus – this project, developed in 2007 with the help of Sunbula, empowers women through the making of traditional handcrafts. Haneen -”longing” in Arabic, is located in Balata Refugee Camp, which has 22,000 inhabitants and is the largest of the 19 in the West Bank. Conditions are very difficult with overcrowding, poverty and violence.
Experimenting with ancient designs and techniques, Haneen is producing items not made in other groups. Hadeel stocks a few, mainly cushion covers. Because of their isolated position, Haneen is quite dependent on Sunbula; it is difficult for others to buy directly and send the money
Canaan Fair Trade: Canaan sells Fair Trade and organic olive oil, almonds, za’atar, freekeh and maftoul produced by over 2,000 small farmers organized in informal cooperatives.
Their partner is Palestinian Fair Trade Organisation, founded in 2004, the largest FT producer group in the Middle East! Zaytoun exists “for the rural communities to sustain their livelihoods, farming traditions, ancient trees and millennia-old permaculture and ecosystem.”
Their projects include empowering women, Clean Palestine, micro-loans, and Trees for Life. Hadeel stocks many sizes and qualities of oil; including the first olive oil ever to be granted a Fair Trade certification, facilitated by our long-term partner in the UK, Zaytoun, www.zaytoun.org. www.canaanpalestine.com.
Hirbawi Textile factory in Hebron has become famous as the last Palestinian factory making kufiyas, as cheap ones from China have flooded the market decimating local businesses. Ten people are employed in the factory which through Hadeel supplies The New Internationalist and Amnesty catalogue. Our study tour visited Hirbawi Textile in June, 2012.
Idna Ladies’ Association: Started in 1998, this group is located in the village of Idna, southwest of Hebron. The village is quite isolated and suffers not only from frequent Israeli blockades of major roads, but also from the construction of the Separation Wall.
Embroidery is done by 50 women, 4 do the sewing and there are 4 paid staff at the centre. The Association has a savings scheme allowing any member to borrow money for a particularly pressing need. Benefiting from the help of a Japanese designer and sewing instructor, the products evince highest quality in design, embroidery and sewing. Shoulder bags and backpacks are very popular, and their unique thistle design coasters were designed by Joan Musgrave for the Scottish market.
A Palcrafts grant in 2007 enabled 3 women to study English and acquire computer skills but this is a very proud, independent group of women who have not asked for other grants.
Ma’an lil-Hayat (Together for Life), Bethlehem, with a new branch in the village of Dar Salah near Bethlehem, is the first and only wool-felting project in Palestine.
Founded in August 2009, people with and without intellectual disabilities make felted-wool ornaments, nativity sets, and other gift items. Raw wool is purchased from local shepherds (benefiting the local economy) and the whole process of cleaning, carding, dyeing, felting and drying is done by members.
A project of the International Federation of L’Arche Communities, Ma’an lil-Hayat, with 23 producers, “is a place where we discover and share our gifts through relationships of friendship and trust.” Workers are given a weekly stipend, experiencing the joy of earning money through working. Maha Ghareeb, director, and Suha, a speech therapist, came to Scotland in 2011. Hadeel has funded 2 electric carding machines for Ma’an, who are now in new premises. They have succeeded in getting donations for a new more industrial size electric carding machine so that the carded wool now is better quality and the work much quicker.
Lifegate Rehabilitation Centre, Beit Jala: Lifegate is an organisation with Palestinian and German staff, whose goal is to help the Gate of Life stay open for people with impairments, whether physical or mental. Lifegate conducts a thorough assessment of each child’s needs with examinations by both Israeli and Palestinian doctors. A well-equipped new building opened in 2013 enables many staff to do diagnostics, medical care, physiotherapy, occupational and speech therapy and special education for 30 disabled people.
There are sheltered workshops and the first special school on the West Bank for children with special needs. Workers receive payments for products they make but this is not a large part of Lifegate’s mission. Carpentry, blacksmith, shoe repair, tailoring, knitting and traditional crafts are taught and sometimes lead to the person returning with skills to his/her home.
Lifegate have received several grants from Palcrafts, the latest in 2016 for the purchase of a computer to use with disabled children in their kindergarten and school. www.lifegate-reha.de
Oasis Workshop for People with Special Needs, Beit Sahour was founded in 1998 under the Health Work Committees, was the first Palestinian workshop providing an opportunity for adults with special needs to be given vocational training, engage in meaningful work and retain dignity. A social worker visits families to support them.
Three employees help 15-20 workers, aged from 18 to 45 years, to produce attractive recycled paper items – also a first for Palestine. Candles and other products, such as babies’ screen printed body warmers, have been developed.
There is no funding from the Palestinian Authority. Our grants have enabled the purchase of a paper mixing and heavy card cutting machine in 2010 and in 2016 a computer. A guest of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum and Palcrafts, Mrs. Lousi AlBadawi, an employee, came to Scotland in 2017 for the 2-week Fair Trade Fortnight. She addressed several schools and fair trade groups, gaining confidence and gave illustrated talks about the situation in Occupied Palestine for people with disabilities. As a result of these personal contacts, extra donations to Oasis have been granted
Women’s Child Care Society, Beit Jala was established in 1944, WCCS aims to provide activities to empower women, children and youth in all aspects of life. Their projects including a nursery, housing and income generating kitchen. The embroidery centre, established to preserve their heritage, now supports about 50 women who specialise in the unique tahriri work, done with couching stitch using Syrian silk thread – ever more difficult to obtain.
Unique to the Bethlehem/Beit Jala cultural heritage, tahriri embroidery takes six months to master because it is so difficult. The huge settlement of Gilo is built on confiscated Beit Jala land. The worsening political situation has caused 60% unemployment in the area, resulting in heavy emigration. The group lacks structures like code numbers and product development which would enable more sales.
Surif Women’s Cooperative in Surif, a village near Hebron, is one of the most isolated groups. Started in 1950 by the Mennonite Central Committee, the project became a co-op in 1983. Due to lack of sales, the co-op currently gives little work to only about 150 of the 400 women members. Five staff work part-time at the centre but are paid only if there are sales.
The embroidered work is incredibly precise, done on 100% cotton material woven in Jerusalem’s Old City. Clerical stoles with the iconic Jerusalem cross design are a best seller on Hadeel’s website. Marketing finished items from Surif is now impossible without outside help.
Communication is difficult: the group has no email and roadblocks add to the costs of both materials and transport. Electricity, telephones, and water are frequently cut off, and the Separation Wall runs very close to Surif village. These dire circumstances have left the co-op in debt and struggling to survive
Al Zaytouna is a business which originated in creative workshops at the International Centre, Bethlehem. Every piece in the beautifully handcrafted sterling silver jewellery collection, “Peace Next to your Heart”, is unique as it originates from a cast of a single Bethlehem olive leaf. Designer Nadira Al Araj and the Kattan family silversmiths have developed a collection where you will find that gift for a special occasion
Bethlehem Committee for Rehabilitation and Development: BAWU helped to start this family-run workshop with small business funding assistance. BCRD produces sterling silver items, which are mostly religious.
The workshop has suffered severe damage from IDF operations. Additionally, the family was out of their home for 40 days and everything was stolen. At one point, they had no work for 42 months. They received a 2012 grant from Palcrafts for new machinery which has alleviated health and safety risks in the workshop.
Like other local businesses and artisans, the lack of tourism severely affects their sales.
Bethlehem Arab Women’s Union: Most of our beautiful runners and mats are made by 100 women working at home, bringing the work to be washed and finished at BAWU by 2 staff working there. Formed in 1947 to cope with medical emergencies during the war, it now promotes Palestinian food, arts and crafts, marketing items with strict quality control ensuring sustainable development.
They aim to provide work opportunities for poor people in the Bethlehem area. Lack of tourism has resulted in a severe drop in sales and marketing is severely limited as travel permits to Jerusalem are rarely given. BAWU maintains a Folklore Museum. Their charitable work is very diminished through lack of donations; however, like other Palestinians, the women involved prefer work to charity: “When you give work to people you give them life and courage and produce peace.”
A Palcrafts grant in 2006 was used for a fax machine, sewing machine and product labels. In 2016 our grant gave them a computer and professional printer.
Sulafa Embroidery Project of UNRWA, (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) provides meaningful and sustainable income for women, giving them access to the local and international market. 1.8 million Palestinians live in Gaza; about 70% are refugees with 80% dependent on international aid. With the current high local poverty level and blockade of Gaza, sales have declined, but they still provide income for 300 women’s households. Sulafa ensures that a traditional art form is kept alive as part of Palestinian cultural identity.
Palcrafts hosted Hind El-Arabi, then UNRWA Women’s Programme Officer in Gaza, during Fair Trade Fortnight 2010. In Nov. 2015 UNRWA’s Commissioner General said about Palestinian refugees, There is a deep sense of despair and insecurity . . . their vulnerability and isolation is . . . reaching levels not seen in generations. In the same year Palcrafts donated £2000 for table lamps with rechargeable batteries so women can work at home, and children can study after dark. Sulafa are now trying to concentrate on social media and the export market; they were finalists in the “Excellence in Community Impact” category at a Folk Art Market in the States. www.unrwa.org
Gloria Enterprise, Beit Sahour coordinates the sales of olive wood and mother of pearl for 60 carvers working in small workshops.
All of the Bethlehem area is isolated by the Separation Wall and nearly surrounded by settlements. Gloria’s shop showcases work of artisans and encourages cooperation, maintaining the highest quality. Many artisans are in serious debt; although they receive what is considered locally a fair price for their work, like other Palestinian artisans, they have no health insurance or pensions.
The olive wood products are carved from wood that must be dried for at least a year before using. Traditionally the wood comes from the pruning the trees, ensuring environmental sustainability. Hadeel commissions new designs and is one of the few customers who pay for orders right away, enabling this group’s work to continue.
We also support “Keep Hope Alive”, an olive tree planting project coordinated in the area by the YMCA.
A small jewellery-making project at this Society began in 2010 with help from Sunbula who engaged a designer, trained the women and purchased machinery and tables. Beit Doqu is close to Jerusalem but since 2004 has been totally cut off by the Israeli separation road system, with severe economic results.
Ten women work in the jewellery making project. BDDS provides many services in the community and has a food processing section where they sun-dry tomatoes and process other vegetables and herbs, helping local farmers.
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Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children, Gaza was founded in 1992; its aim is empowering deaf youth in the Gaza strip and improving their quality of life through vocational training and job creation.
Thousands of deaf children and their families are served by Atfaluna (Arabic, our children) through deaf education, audiology, special therapy, income generating programmes and vocational training. Atfaluna Crafts, established in 1998 has 5 departments. It employs 51 mainly deaf people and provides essential income to more than 350 very needy people and their families through their work from home programme. Exporting goods remains a serious problem, as it can take months for Israel to allow a box of handcrafts to leave Gaza.
Our grants to Atfaluna include: 2009 for some repair work after the bombing during “Operation Cast Lead” when almost all windows and frames were destroyed; 2014 contributing £2000 to a programme which enabled some of the artisans to obtain glasses much needed especially when working on black material; and in 2016, $3000 for materials for home workers. www.atfaluna.net
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Ahdaf, (Arabic “goals”) based in Bethlehem, opened in 2010 by Mervat Jackaman who needed to find income after her husband became too ill to work. From a small workshop this family run business produces stained glass items.
Their recycled glass production also promotes women’s role in society and promotes Palestinian handcrafts. They give 20% of their profits to St. Martha’s House, a day centre for elderly women whose message is “life is to be cherished at all stages, and it is possible to care for those who need it most even under the most adverse of conditions!”. They hope with donations to find a permanent home for St. Martha’s House.