Aishah was 30 years old when her husband took a younger second wife and abandoned her and her three young children. She was unable to find a way to support herself, and as a member of a polygamous Negev Beduin tribe where divorce is unthinkable, she couldn’t even claim single mother status in order to get welfare assistance.

That was five years ago. Today, Aishah (not her real name) is one of about 20 members of the Al Sanabel cooperative that operates a catering business in the Negev township of Hura. Every day of the school year, the Al Sanabel food production plant turns out 7,000 hot meals. During the past year, the venture earned a handsome profit, with Aishah and her fellow members even receiving dividends amounting to the equivalent of an additional two months’ salary.

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