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. www.lakiya.org
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