Friday, April 15, 2016

Trip North, Sindyanna Fair Trade Visitors' Center in Kfar Kanna

When I traveled to Guatemala, the director of Fair Trade Judaica, Ilana Schatz, suggested that I visit the only Fair Trade Shop she knew of in Israel, Sindyanna.

  So I drove to Kfar Kana on Wednesday, March 30, on the way to visit friends in Menahemia, just south of the Kinneret.  After getting lost at the edge of the small Arab town, I called the shop and meandered through the town streets until I saw Dani outside.

Sindyanna of Galilee is a unique association led by women seeking social change.  Its aim is to enhance Arab-Jewish cooperation, promote Fair Trade and economic opportunities for Arab women and assist growers and producers from the Galilee.

Wednesday afternoon I met Dani (marketing) and Hanan (store management and working with the women) and got an explanation of how the Shop and the program work.   Hanan has a B. A. in History of the Middle East.  She left teaching in 2001 and started volunteering with Sindyanna and now works for them.  Her husband is quite proud of her.
Dani on left and Hanan on right
The main goals of Sindyanna are:
1.  To help Arab women advance and empower them--to get out of the house and work together
2.  To encourage connections with Jewish and Arab women
3.  To modernize Arab agriculture

The day before 40 people from the Jewish Federation of Atlanta came to the Visitors' Center and participated in three workshops:
1.  olive oil tasting training
2.  Weaving
3.  Making zatar spice mix

88 percent of Arab women in Israel are out-of-work.  Many local textile factories closed with globalization, so many in the Arab population lost jobs.  Also, Thai and Chinese hav come to work in building and agriculture at very low salaries, so many Arab men are making minimum wage.   Most women have finished high school but did not finished the exit exams (bagruyot).  They often married at 16 or 17 and stay at home to take care of the children and the home.  The ones that get more education, because of traditional roles, became teachers or nurses.

I met Hadil also.

 She had finished high school, and she was looking for work to help pay for university.  She worked in Sindyanna's olive oil bottling plant together with other women.  As she participated, she learned how to taste the oil and taught others how to taste the oil.  She has gone to high schools to teach students how to differentiate tastes in olive oil.  She is now 21 and has worked part time at Sindyanna.  The job was not just a path to earning money but also one for empowerment.
On Thursday mornings, a group of women come in to work together  making baskets out of palm fronds or bamboo.  Up to 15 participate, mostly Arab women but also some Jewish women, including several from Kfar Saba.   This gets some of them out of the house and gives them a chance to socialize.  They talk about their families, food, and see how much they have in common and become friends.  The women also have prepared meals for different groups and share the profits.

Kfar Kana  is the site where Jesus performed the miracle of the wine, and many Christians come to this town to see the church on the site where this miracle was performed.  The leaders of Sindyanna hope that such visitors will also come to their new site, learn about the projects and goals, and shop.

Hanan suggested that I come back the next morning to visit with them, so I drove back the 45 minutes to do so.  I met a small group of Arab women, a man who did not want his picture taken, and the Jewish teacher.

Teacher, Noga, on the right
The women work with palm fronds which have been soaked in water for up to 8 hours or bamboo to make baskets.   The palm fronds are really stiff and the women hands often hurt after the work.

The women have all learned to make the baskets at this workshop and are at different levels of learning, from beginner to advanced.  The younger woman below was working with the top (or bottom) of the palm frond.

The woman below was the oldest one there.  I think she has a son who has a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and travels to the states often for five weeks. I think her daughter studied medicine and is working toward an M. A. in Biochemistry at Tel Aviv University..  Three sons and one daughter live in Tel Aviv.  (I may have confused her with one of the other women.)
Faiza (below) has 5 sons and one daughter.  The sons are high tech engineers and the daughter also studied in university.  She herself has 7 brothers and 3 sisters.

The women were a delight to talk to and were happy to see pictures of my children and grandchildren.  I was very happy that I had come back so that I could see and interact with them.

Team work
Maryam (below) married young and was very quiet and insecure when she started coming.  Now she assists Noga.  I think she has 5 children, and her daughter is studying art at an academic college.
I wantd to buy something small that the women made so I bought a bamboo basket that Maryam made and paid her the 40 shekels directly.

Below are some of the baskets for sale at the Visitors' Center:

Other women also make embroidery and sell it in the store:

Isn't this purse stunning?
Sindyanna also works with local farmers to improve their agriculture systems and  help them market their products.  Sindyanna women bottle olive oil.  They also sell olive oil soaps.

They get olive oil from several different producers and help the farmers to improve their production.  Olive oil is sold as far a way as the US where they supply Whole Foods.

     They also help sell carob products including delicious carob syrup that tasted fantastic when mixed with tehini.  I bought some carob halva and they had several different kinds of halvah, made by local producers.

All the groups that they work with follow Fair Trade principles.
A retail store in Tel Aviv Ahoti carries a number of Sindyanna products. 

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