(photo credit: Dotan Goor Arye)
The Sindyanna of Galilee non-profit organization’s visitors’ center in
Kufr Manda serves as a store, is where workshops are held, groups from
Israel and abroad stay, and the town’s women go to work to weave
beautiful baskets. The women sit in a circle, with small cups of coffee
in the center, and talk while weaving. These women from the town, aged
26-50, go to the center to earn a living and be part of a cooperative.
Weaving is an age-old handicraft that has gradually disappeared, and the
center is bringing it back to life.
What began about 20 years
ago as an idea to help Arab farmers market olive oil is realized today
at Sindyanna, with the further goal of employing and empowering Arab
The organization is based on the concept of fair trade for
a fair society, and action is taken accordingly to market agricultural
products and promote cooperation between Jews and Arabs.
is in contact with the World Fair Trade Organization and is known as an
outstanding exporter and marketer of organic olive oil, soap, za’atar,
carob syrup, honey, almonds and its crowning glory, baskets woven out of
palm fronds. The palm fronds -- thin palm tree branches on which dates
grow – are collected from the fields during the date harvest, so the
products are also ecologically based.
On my visit to the center, I
met Wahiba Hujirat, a mother of four who learned the craft at the
center and now works there full time teaching weaving, managing the
supplies and sales, hosting groups and leading workshops. Like the other
women at the center, she has undergone a meaningful process.
years ago I didn’t know how to weave,” says Hujirat as she deftly works
on a basket. “I started coming here to learn, and eventually people
started buying my baskets. My husband is happy that I work. I wanted to
study to become an English teacher, but it didn’t work out because I was
raising my children.”
Last July, she went with Osnat Shperling,
the manager of the visitors’ center, to a festival in England, where she
gave a weaving workshop. That was a major breakthrough for her.
is not what brings the women here but the possibility of going
somewhere near their home and doing something for themselves,” says
Shperling. “They learn how to weave and how to teach others. They travel
to fairs, cook meals for groups, move around and meet people. Their
husbands encourage what they do; otherwise, it wouldn’t have been
possible. They also study English and Hebrew here.
Wahiba, for instance, is already very proficient in English.
Two weeks ago, four women from the center went to Nablus for a week and taught women there how to weave.”
is the principle of fair trade? As Shperling explains, “Being a fair
trade organization means staying in contact with the manufacturers we
work with and supporting them.
For example, by producing baskets,
we are introducing new opportunities for Arab women. The town is very
religious, with high unemployment rates, and not every woman allows
herself to come here. We want to continue to recruit women, who will
also teach other women, open the weaving field to all sectors and
promote orders of baskets.”
Another woman at the center, Awataf,
coordinated the course in Nablus. She is 50 and had only been employed
for one year in her life in a kindergarten until discovering Sindyanna
six years ago. Now she goes to the center every day, weaves at home as
well and is in charge of fairs.
“What I like about the center,”
says Awataf, “is the group. I also meet new people and get out of the
house. My husband is happy that I am also contributing to our income.
Until I got here, I didn’t know how to weave baskets, and today I
actually teach weaving. It gives me confidence. I believe that the women
I taught in Nablus can already weave on their own.”
secret of success, as it seems, is the fact that the women who are
empowered at Sindyanna travel across the country to empower other women.
For further details: www.sindyanna.co.il
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