Voices from the Holy Land: Part three
In 2016, the United Reformed Church agreed to further its work in connection with Israel/Palestine, promoting awareness, prayer and solidarity. As part of this commitment, a team of URC representatives visited Israel and Palestine in autumn 2019. In this series, Charissa King shares stories from some of the people they met
We are a country in conflict. Mostly we live in a separation. But we are investing our energy to make this place better. Sindyanna is a fair trade organisation for Arab and Jewish women. We create an opportunity – a safe place for meeting as human beings. They learn basket weaving once a week, and they learn together, without paying. After they finish, they are not obliged but they can start working with us, with a paid salary and all the legal conditions, and they can work from home. The weaving materials come from land that belongs to everyone. The women collaborate, they visit each other and share their stories. Their children get to know each other. I’m a witness for the wonderful relationships developing.
About 30 people work for us. Mainly we produce olive oil, but also honey, soap and za’atar. Our olive oil has won international gold medals and is sold in Oxfam and by Zaytoun in the UK. The cosmetics company Lush, in the UK, stocks soaps made with our oil.
We empower women and support farmers by buying their olive oil and taking on the packaging and marketing. Most of our economic support comes from selling our products. The income goes into community projects.
The women here weave using date branches that are supposed to go to the garbage. They clean them, cut them, put them in water for 24 hours, and after that, they can work. When our women first start practising, they start with industrial bamboo, imported from outside the country. The rest of the material is collected in the area, or we get it from farmers. Weaving is important to all the cultures in our area, and we have rich natural materials: dates, willows, banana leaves, pomegranates, olives… Leaves from olive and pomegranate trees have a long history of being used for traditional weaving. Unfortunately, very few people know the old techniques…
This is an extract from an article that was published in the April 2020 edition of Reform