Weaving for a Brighter Future

Sindyanna of Galilee is the leading group in Israel that pushes forward fair trade business opportunities for Arab women. One of our model programs is the Basket Weaving Project that takes place in the village of Kufr Manda in the Lower Galilee. In the framework of this project, which is a joint venture between Sindyanna of Galilee and the organization Maan (a not-for-profit worker support organization), women from the area are learning the art of basket weaving and supporting themselves from the handiwork.

The art of basket weaving is based on a centuries-old tradition that was widespread among Galilean and West Bank villages. The women in the Kfar Manda workshop weave baskets from date tree fronds (the branches that carry the fruit), also weaving in for decoration olive, willow and other local tree branches. Learning to weave with date branches is a long and arduous process, and creating the baskets requires artistry and a large set of highly developed techniques and skills.

About the Workshop

As of today there are about ten women participating in the basket weaving project, which meets regularly twice a week and more often when there are visiting groups. For the women, this is an opportunity to work outside of the home, meet other women, participate in lessons in empowerment, host visiting groups from both inside and outside of Israel, and contribute to the finances of the family at the same time that they are expressing themselves artistically. At the Visitor Center in Kfar Manda, Sindyanna also runs joint Arab-Jewish classes in basket weaving and invites the local Arab women to take part in these classes.

Selling the Baskets

It is not simple to market these baskets outside of Israel due to the competition of very inexpensive baskets that are woven in the Far East and Africa. Therefore, rather than sell the baskets in large chains and stores, the Kfar Manda women’s baskets are sold in boutiques, galleries, fairs, and exhibits in Israel and other parts of the world. In addition, the baskets are marketed as part of made-to-order gift packages and wrapped together in packages filled with other Sindyanna fair trade products, such as organic olive oil and soaps. In the Visitor Center the baskets are displayed in all of their glory and sold at warehouse prices.

The Giant Basket Weaving Project for the “Kne Kash” Store

The giant baskets displayed in the photographs are part of a project the women participated in during the months of August and September 2010. The basket weaving supply store “Kne Kash,” which means “Buy Straw,” ordered especially large baskets for their grand opening. This is the first time such large baskets have been woven out of palm fronds. The especially high abilities and professionalism of the women shows in their work. We are delighted and congratulate them on their progress–the result of persistence and hard work.

This project is being run with unique devotion and patience by Ronit Pan, who teaches the women and who has taken them and this project a long way. Samia Nasser, director of women’s labor for “Maan” and one of the founders of Sindyanna of Galilee, also works with the group and facilitates workshops in empowerment. In these sessions, the women raise issues related to the basket weaving project and their work at the Center, as well as personal issues. Thus the group has developed into a cohesive unit and the women have grown individually as well.

The Basket Weaving Project is five years old, and we invite the general public to our Visitor Center, where they will meet the group of women weavers, watch a film on the topic of “fair trade” and the organization’s activities, and be hosted graciously.

December 2010 / Osnat Shperling / Translation: Haviva Ner-David