Baskets are "in"

Sharon Lior

During the Shavuot holiday, Bamat Etgar hosted a basketry bazaar. Its modest hall in south Tel Aviv filled up, as by magic, with baskets woven by Arab women, graduates of courses in Kufr Qara and Nazareth. Natural scents and colors filled the room. The bazaar drew a large crowd: people involved in environmental issues, co-existence, women's empowerment, and folk art. More than 70% of the baskets were snapped up. The proceeds went to the weavers (some demonstrated their techniques). The visitors also bought Sindyanna of Galilee's olive oil, soap and hyssop, as well as fair-trade coffee from a participating group called "Green Action."

The basket weavers learned their skills in courses organized by Sindyanna, WAC and Hanitzotz Publishing House. The purpose was to help provide work for Arab women. Most of the participants have suffered through long years of forced unemployment.

The women learn traditional techniques, but their main material is the base of the palm frond, which was introduced into basketry only 25 years ago. The result is unique and sturdy. The fronds are found, after the autumn date harvest, in piles of refuse beside the palm groves of the Jordan Valley. The women add olive and mastic branches collected in the groves near their villages.