Photo: Embroidering at the Palestine Red Crescent Society’s Amal Rehabilitation Centre embroidery project for deaf women, in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip





Update on current restrictions

Projects and project promotion organizations now online



Hebron Poor Women's Embroidery Project


Arts and Crafts Village Weaving Project, Gaza City

New projects:

Tarabina bedouin women's beading project, Nuweiba, Egypt

Refugee camp and handicraft project products in stock at the Archive

Palestinian refugee camp and bedouin handicraft projects news

Update on current restrictions:

The archive works with over thirty Palestinian refugee camp embroidery and weaving projects, and women’s self help handicraft projects throughout the Middle East. You can find details of the history and development of Palestinian refugee camp embroidery projects, together with further information about their products and contact details, etc, on the Archive’s webpage here.

While projects located in areas surrounding the Palestinian region (including Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt) are doing well, many of the projects situated in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are now in dire straits due to various Israeli restrictions and resulting product sourcing, provision and shipping problems. Even the Palestine Red Crescent Society's handicraft outlet has now closed its online order facility as it can no longer guarantee supply.

As Carol Morton from the UK based Palcrafts has recently written, buying Palestinian goods now is particularly important. The economy has collapsed because of the severe restrictions imposed upon the West Bank and Gaza. The entire population is prevented from travelling outside any one particular area. Homes and crops are routinely destroyed. Normal life is impossible, whether it involves one’s health, education, work or worship. International development agencies have long since ceased any development work and are desperately trying to deliver emergency aid.

The ones to suffer most are the vulnerable and marginalised, usually women, the disabled and children. Purchasing Palestinian products creates work, dignity, a sense of value and desperately needed income. It also helps preserve a culture under threat.

The Archive is most grateful to Palcrafts for supplying most of the information (as of early 2002) on the following projects, many of whom the Archive also works with (you can find further details of these, and many other projects, from the Archive’s main page on refugee projects here.

Bethlehem Arab Women's Union:

Formed in 1948 to cope with medical emergencies, the BAWU has a wide range of activities, amongst which is the income generating embroidery project. Lack of tourists means severe drop in sales. Work can now be given to only one-third of the 300 poor village and camp women who used to embroider the pieces at home. The centre near Manger Square also houses a Folklore Museum containing both costume and household items. In Oct. 2001 Israeli tanks and helicopter gunships devastated the area and many local residents were killed.

Gloria Cooperative and Holy Lands Cooperative Society, Beit Sahour:

Only 3 of the 7 small family groups now have work with GC; HLCS’ shop in Shepherds' Fields is mainly closed. They, along with Sunbula, are the only 2 members in the Middle East of the International Federation of Alternative Trade. With the military closures it is now much more difficult and expensive to obtain the wood which comes from the north of the country, and prices for finished work are very low. The dearth of tourists means that there are virtually no sales now in Bethlehem. Some Israeli firms force producers to put ‘made in Israel’ labels on products, which if being sent to the EU is illegal under the preferential trade arrangements.

Surif Women's Cooperative, near Hebron:

This is one of the most isolated groups. There were 400 women embroidering for the cooperative before the present crisis. There are now virtually no sales. All roads to the area are blocked by concrete and rubble. Electricity, telephones and water are frequently cut off. The project, started by Mennonite Central Committee in 1950, became a co-op in 1983. The work is incredibly precise, done on cotton material woven in Jerusalem. Marketing the products is now almost impossible, although occasionally they can reach Bethlehem to deliver products to purchasers.

The Archive still holds stock by the Sirif Women's Co-operative and you can also buy their products through Palcrafts in the UK and Sunbula online.

Women's Child Care Society, Beit Jala:

Opened as a clinic in 1944, WCCS now have small projects and give loans to needy local people. Their centre includes a craft display and sales outlet. This is the sole group preserving the very special Tahriri work (done with couching stitch using silk Syrian thread), traditional in the Bethlehem/Beit Jala area. Their housing for low income families was one of the many bombed out buildings in Beit Jala, shelled by tanks now situated in the village itself, as well as in the settlement of Gilo across the valley (on confiscated Beit Jala land). Severe emigration, especially Christian, is only one result of the recent violence in the area, which was invaded by Israeli troops again in October 2001.

Products can be purchased through Palcrafts and Sunbula.

Oasis Workshop for People with Special Needs, Beit Sahour:

Oasis, founded in 1998, provides an opportunity for adults with mental disabilities to engage in meaningful work and contribute positively to the Palestinian society. The first and only Palestinian institution working in this field, it helps the participants to be more independent and develop self-confidence. They produce recycled paper products - also a first for Palestine.

Palcrafts has given donations and advance payment for future products, and established a supportive relationship between them and a small Scottish group.

Jalazon Refugee Camp - YWCA Project:

The YW have a nursery school in this refugee camp under constant Israeli surveillance, between Bir Zeit and Ramallah. People in this area suffer constant harassment when travelling. The income generating project makes dolls in traditional costumes, dresses to fit Barbie dolls, creche scenes, lavender bags and new puppets.

Melkite Palestinian Embroidery Workshop, Ramallah:

Begun in 1988 as a response to the desperate need of families at the outbreak of the (first) Intifada, the project was soon serving 400 women (now 150), providing materials and designs to women in villages in the Ramallah area. Women needed suddenly to become the breadwinners with men imprisoned, disabled, and deported. The need is now desperate, as many villages are completely cut off with tanks surrounding them and all roads blocked. Palcrafts reports that their products - including purses, bags, hangings, and cushion covers - are among the most popular sold in Scotland.

Sulafa, UNRWA Embroidery Project, Gaza:

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees is responsible for health, education and emergency needs of Palestinian refugees. About 750,000 refugees live in Gaza, over half in camps. This project encourages self-support, provides income for refugee women in 8 refugee camps and also keeps alive a traditional art form that is an important part of the Palestinian cultural identity.

Gaza has suffered horrendously recently, with dozens killed, houses demolished, fruit trees destroyed, the people living in a virtual prison 5 by 25 miles, with road blocks dividing areas. Opportunity for other work is non-existent. The Archive has been unable to order products from Sulafa for nearly a year, as it is now almost impossible to get orders out of the Gaza Strip, even if it is possible to actually complete an order.

Some products can still be order through Sunbula online and Palcrafts ( the UK.

Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children, Gaza:

The first institution in Gaza devoted to the deaf, Atfaluna was founded in 1992 and now has a modern school with audiology unit with community outreach program. The Women's Group embroider various items and the Vocational Training Carpentry Program employs deaf teenage boys, teaching them cabinet making skills while producing wooden products. New workshops produce weaving and pottery. Normally 35% of their running costs comes from the sale of handcrafts. This was reduced to nothing in December 2000.

The Archive is still able at this time to order from Atfaluna - and in fact, our best selling products (including a tiny velvet change purse with a bright strip of Palestinian embroidery) come from Atfaluna. You can now view and order products direct online from Atfaluna's website, Sunbula and Palcrafts at email:

Other traditional embroidery outlets in Gaza include:

Jerusalem Organization for Social Services, Northern Gaza (Al Mashtal) (tel 2824732)

Women's Qualification Program (Mental Health), Gaza, El Rimal (tel: 2827245)

El Beit El Samed Association, Gaza, Abdul Kader El Husseiney St (2864116)

Social Work Women Committees Union, Gaza, El Shuhada St (tel: 2822727)

Handicapped Association, Gaza, Ansaar

The Palestinian Women's Union, Gaza, El Rimal (tel: 2862586)

Islamic Young Women's Organization, Gaza (tel: 2822206)

Ebna Association for Artistic Work, Gaza

The Heritage Association, Gaza (tel: 2857676)

You cannot imagine the joy a simple email, fax or telephone call regarding a purchase, or including a message of support, will bring to any of these embroidery or weaving projects:


Refugee projects on line:

Very few projects have access to website facilities, although other ways to contact them are listed under each project on the Archive's page dedicated to Palestinian refugee camp embroidery projects at You can also buy products through some of the non profit project promotion organisations listed below (including the Archive).

Sunbula, a wonderful hard working non profit organisation working to promote self help craft groups in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, is now on line at Sunbula also has a shop in St. Andrew’s Church and Hospice, Jerusalem.

Formally known as Craftaid, Sunbula was set up by Carol Morton, the wife of a former pastor of St Andrew's Scots Memorial Church in Jerusalem. It now promotes over thirty projects ranging from women's groups to centres for the handicapped and refugee camps, including Kalandia Camp Cooperative, Sulafa UNRWA Embroidery Project, Lakiya, The Women's Child Care Society (Beit Jala), The Pastoral Society (Ramallah), Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children (Gaza), and the Bethlehem Arab Women's Union. Further information about these and many other projects can be found on the page of the Archive's website dealing with refugee camp projects (

The Archive congratulates Sunbula on its website, and encourages all our readers to go shopping! Remember, in buying such gifts you are really giving twice.

Carol Morton has now returned to her native Scotland but is still working there to promote Palestinian handicrafts and refugee projects. She established Palcrafts in Edinburgh in 1998. A non-profit organisation which markets handcrafts from Palestinian self-help groups (again mainly from women’s organisations in the West Bank and Gaza), Palcrafts acts as a supplier for shops who are members of the British Association of Fair Trade Shops (BAFTS) and is represented on the Fair Trade Forum, Scotland (FTFS).

Palcrafts is staffed by volunteers and imports directly from many Palestinian producer groups as well as sometimes via Sunbula. The handcrafts include a wide range of exquisitely embroidered products – cushion covers, runners, purses and bags, shawls – and olive wood and mother of pearl items. Palcrafts also distribute olive oil soap from a fair trade project in the Galilee.

Over the next few months Palcrafts has many activities and public projects planned, including an exhibition at Selby Abbey Church, educational meetings, craft fairs (including one near Aberdeen in a stately home, and one at the Scottish Christian Resources Exhibition at the beginning of October) and what Carol calls "the biggest gamble of all" - starting a shop in Edinburgh.

For further information about Palcrafts products and activities, and if you would like to help, please contact Palcrafts at Tel. 0131 449 7359 and email:

The lovely wooden and embroidered products made by the Atfaluna Society of Deaf Children in Gaza can now also be ordered on line at For further information about Atfaluna see the Archive's Further product images can be supplied by the Archive upon request, as we hold their entire catalogue on file.

There is now also a small website for The Hebron Poor Women's Embroidery Project, a relief project of the non profit Friendship and Peace Society established in 1995, which illustrates some of the very reasonably priced products that can be purchased from Ellen Rosser in the USA at

The project consists of women who are the sole support of their families: widows, divorcees, women married to ill or unemployed men. The women come from the Palestinian villages around Hebron, including Beit Kahel, Sumua, Yatta, Idna and Beni Naim.

Most of the patterns the women use in the products produced by the project - mainly cushions and wall hangings - are derived from the traditional dresses once worn in the local villages, each village of course having its own distinctive dress style and preferred motifs. The Hebron region is particularly noted for its flower, bird and animal designs and these all appear on the project's products.

The project also makes a couple of unusual products that are well worth acquiring, as you will find them nowhere else. Their copies of pre 1948 rectangular bridal trousseau cushions, originally found in southern Palestine, are just lovely, with embroidery worked in vivid colours, and with traditional appliqued sections. You can find these at Numbers #80 and #81 in their catalogue.

The other lovely item the project makes are copies and contemporary versions of the hand crocheted and beaded caps or headdresses that were popular in some parts of Palestine early in the 20th century. These beret like forms (and in fact if you order one they are called berets by the project. You can find them at Numbers #160, #161 and #162 in their catalogue) were originally designed by young women attending early missionary schools for girls during the British Mandate, who did not want to wear the more restrictive, traditional smadeh headdress which they saw as old fashioned. Known as shabakat al-kharaz, the "bead net" caps were inspired by European hair nets that the girls probably saw being worn by their European teachers or nuns. The girls crocheted the caps (another skill taught by the missionaries and educationalists) and added the beads for modesty.

The project makes several styles of beret. We particularly recommend the black one with red beads for its stylishness!

See either or the Archive's web page on Palestinian refugee camp embroidery projects for further details.

Another American outlet for Palestinian products is the United Palestinian Appeal, based in Washington DC. The UPA is a non profit, non political, tax exempt American charity that was established in 1978. UPA is dedicated to alleviating the suffering of Palestinian people, wherever they may be. Through purchasing their products your contribution is used to fund projects that support health care and medical services, education, community development, student scholarship and child sponsorship.

You can find the UPA website at and can request a copy of their product catalogue by telephoning (toll free) 1-800-982-6183 or emailing

The Archive has also been working with The Arts and Crafts Village in Gaza City to promote the Village's Weaving House project. This is run by Abu Khalil Samiha, a member of one of Gaza's oldest weaving families, who employs one of the few remaining weavers in Gaza, Rafik Zakout to work at the Village. The Weaving House project is the last place producing traditional Palestinian fabrics, woven on a 70 year old loom brought from Al Majdal in 1948 (the other few remaining weavers do not produce cloth). A plain weave is used for most of the formally popular dress fabrics, each having its own particular name. Most popular of these is Jinna u Naar "Heaven and Hell", with a red and a green stripe on the edges of the cloth. Biltajji has small white details with the red and green, Djelijli has only red stripes, and Abu Mitteen ("Father of Two Hundred") has red and red with green. All of these come on black or indigo dyed cloth, with similar styles on white cloth. A dress length for a traditional thob measures about 8 1/2 metres of the standard 40com wide fabric. The cloth is also used for tablecloths, cushion covers etc, and special colours, weaves and patterns can be made to order.

The Archive can provide scanned images of each of the fabrics. Cloth can be purchased either directly from The Arts and Crafts Village (Director Samar Baker c/- or tel/fax: +970 8 2846405) or through the Archive.

The Arts and Crafts Village is a beautiful arts centre, architecturally designed in the traditional Palestinian manner from earth (adobe) using local materials. As well as the Weaving House the Village also features an Embroidery House, Copper House, Rug House, Pottery House, Gallery and Coffee Shop. Further information on these projects can be obtained from director Samar Baker, and from the Village's website at

Tarabina bedouin women's beading project, Nuweiba

Over the last year the Archive has been honoured to work with the new Tarabina Arts and Crafts Centre in Nuweiba, Egypt, assisting the project by promoting its beautiful beadwork products in our travelling exhibitions, displays and shop outlets. Every Archive staff member owns at least two pieces of jewellery from this innovative project! We are also most indebted to many of the women in the project who kindly lent extraordinary costumes and accessories to the Archive's Secret Splendours: women's costume in the Arab world exhibition, then allowed us to purchase many items for the Archive's permanent costume collection.

In the words of project director Emilie Faudem, "the Tarabina Arts & Crafts Centre is a new project centre for the women of the Tarabin bedouin tribe, based at their village in Nuweiba, along the Aqaba Gulf coast of the South Sinai Desert of Egypt. The centre produces and markets traditional and contemporary handicrafts.

"Traditional bedouin crafts include beadwork, embroidery, camel regalia, shawls, jewellery, clothing, woven rugs, and bags, which can also be adapted to meet wider consumer tastes such as beaded evening necklaces and woven purses. The centre already markets merchandise in a number of bazaars and hotels in the Sinai Peninsula.

"Over the last decade, the coastline of South Sinai has been heavily developed for tourism. Most of the indigenous Tarabin bedouins, who had been semi-nomadic herders, were settled into a village in advance. The women had a much more limited societal role than previously and increasingly turned to producing and selling handicrafts. The crafts are popular with visitors, but due to the changing circumstances the women needed to cooperate as an organised centre to survive as an industry. Local tourism is also an unreliable industry, especially nowadays. The majority of the bedouins on this section of coastline, which is near the Israeli border, became dependent upon Israeli tourism. But since September 2000, the hostilities between Israel and Palestine have caused the industry to diminish to such an extent that many bedouins have been left without income. Plus, the aftermath of the September 11th attacks on the United States and the following war in Afghanistan has resulted in a dramatic drop of European tourists.

"The centre is being developed to be managed by the women themselves in order to preserve and expand their cultural traditions and for them to become self-sufficient. A comfortable and accessible working environment is being established where the women can either stay to work, taking advantage of planned childcare facilities, or they can collect materials to take home to work. The centre combines a business office, a showroom, and a workshop and now has over sixty women involved".

You can buy the project's beaded jewellery through the Archive by emailing For information on other products, further details about the project (including ways to assist with funding or help with marketing) please contact Emilie Faudem at email: and tel: 0020 1057 98332 or Tel: 0097252872251.


We have now heard that the Tarabina project may be in some trouble, as Emilie is presently unable to return to Egypt.  Now more than ever this project needs support!!  Please contact Emilie or the Archive if you can help in any way, or would like to purchase products.

beaded jewellery from the Tarabina Arts and Crafts Centre, available through the Archive (photo: Jeni Allenby)

Archive Palestinian refugee camp embroidery project stock:

The Archive stock currently includes:

Dolls in traditional Palestinian and Jordanian costume (in several different styles from different projects)

Contemporary embroidered dresses (both adult and child) made by Palestinian refugees in Jordan

Embroidered purses, wallets, cosmetic bags, towels, coasters, etc, from over thirty projects

Exquisite one-off larger embroidered items, such as large tablecloths, wall hangings and quilts which make wonderful wedding presents

Please email us at if you would like a detailed list of products.

Images of all stock can be emailed on request. Images can also be seen at the Archive's website page devoted to Palestinian refugee camp projects at

We sincerely thank you for your interest in these projects.

Return to Newsletter, Winter 2002

Palestinian Refugee camp embroidery projects – main page

Return to Index