More than 100 women work in the production and marketing of local products
The name Sindyanna is well known to lovers of ethnic articles from fair trade stores, but the reality here is much more: dozens of energetic people collect olives and wood in the grounds of Arab families, and more than a hundred women work at home or together in craft workshops making products from oil, textiles, wood and baskets. The products are sold in such a way that the proceeds go directly to the craftswomen and manufacturers.
It was Israeli women, Jewish and Arab, who founded Sindyanna, to fight against social inequalities. Today they number over one hundred, and, supported by the development and backing of the Italian NGO Cospe, they meet every week, for an exchange of culture and knowledge, to discuss new ideas, hold courses in languages, marketing, management, rights, legislation and production techniques. These meetings are very well attended and have helped improve conditions.
They started off in the fields around Nazareth, by helping farmers with olive trees, spices, carobs, sesame, almonds, and they now produce award-winning olive oil, spice sachets, za'atar [hyssop] for cooking, honey, syrups, soaps, fine baskets and utensils made with branches of date palm, olive and willow. Everything is sold on site or shipped to 35 fair trade companies.
Latest Update: the new Visitor Center has moved to a bigger venue at Cana.
Here tourists are welcomed in the Great Hall, accompanied to where oil, honey and za'atar [hyssop] herbal sachets are made, between looms and large bales of straw. They can participate in basket-weaving or cookery courses and buy delicious hampers filled with olive oil soap, syrups, almond oil, honey.
And enjoy a great lunch of couscous, salads, humus, za'atar, labaneh [strained yoghurt], falafel, chicken and rice.
But Sindyanna and Cospe have also launched other projects, such as "Fair Trade Fair Peace": state-of-the-art fair trade craft products made by Palestinians and Israelis for fair trade organizations, with the collaboration in Palestine of Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans.
It's a perfect idea, because now you can find articles created by craftsmen from different areas: soap dishes holding olive oil soap, baskets containing glass jewelry, olive wood, ceramics, boiled wool fabric products and embroidery – all in the showroom of the BFTA, in the Al-Anatreh district, a few steps from the Church of the Nativity.
Travelers arriving in the evening can also be hosted in families.
"We combine the resources" – explains Roni Ben Efrat, one of the founders of Sindyanna – "of progressive Jews and Arabs, because the Arab community is discriminated against, with 43% below the poverty line, often suffering from lack of access to credit and land, education and training, due to ethnic discrimination, and it's even harder for women, constrained by patriarchal customs inherent in the Palestinian tradition. The Center is the place where we meet and empower women. Here the profits go directly to the community; every woman who makes a basket determines the price, and when it's sold she gets the full amount."
Photo: Sindyanna, Yoram Ron, Valeria Giarletta, Dotan G Ayre.