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.
Inside the factory, fifteen industrial looms (both working and non-working) fill half of the florescent-lit warehouse. The working machines thump in constant motion, creating an insistent roar inside the building. The factory now runs only half the machines because sales have been in steady decline since the 1990s.
The factory was started over 60 years ago by Yassar Hirbawi, and is now run by his three sons and a family friend. He says Kufiya is more popular than ever in Palestine. During the first Intifada, many avoided wearing it for fear of being arrested. But now, Kufiya is worn as a symbol of Palestinian culture and heritage. He adds: “It’s our past, future…It means everything”.
The traditional Palestinian kufiya is this black-and-white pattern, which makes up over 70 percent of the factory’s sales. The black-and-white kufiya is often referred to as the unofficial Palestinian flag, and carries deep meaning for many who wear it. There are numerous stories about the origin of the kufiya’s pattern. It is said to represent a fishing net, a honeycomb, the joining of hands, or the marks of dirt and sweat wiped off a worker’s brow, among other things.
Our study tour visited Hirbawi Textile in June, 2012.