The keffiyeh or Arab head-dress has been a must-wear symbol of chic. Originally a sartorial compromise against the desert sand and winds, it was popularized by being worn by the tea-leaf in chief, Yasser Arafat; and commericial production started by Palestinian Arab entrepeneur, Yasser Hirbawi in 1961.
As that link shows, demand amongst the politically conscious Western activists grew so much that Hirbawi and other producers in the dilapidated Middle Eastern economy could not rise to the challenge; and sales slowly passed to Chinese factories. Shortly after this article was written, Hirbawi’s factory closed and domestic production ceased.
All has not been lost, however, for traditional Palestinian Arab weavers seeking to export their wares. Haaretz reports on the village of Deir Abu Meshal in which women have, for 40 years, been producing yarmulkes or Jewish skullcaps.
Almost every house in the village of 3,000 west of Ramallah makes the little caps. It’s a social event as well as a helpful cash-earner. Women bring their wool and needles to each other’s home to crochet and chat.
“We make qors (the Arab name for kippah translates as ‘disc’) while having a gossip,” said Umm Ali. “We meet each other and we make money at the same time,” added the mother of three, whose husband is unemployed.
The women make around five caps a day, worth about 12 shekels each.
“Women here can’t sit down without knitting. We’ve gotten used to it,” jokes Ruqaya Barghouthi.
Six Palestinian skullcap dealers distribute the wool, needles and the models to women in this village and 10 neighboring villages.
Although I understand yarmulkes in Israel are more likely to be either weaved by family friends or imported from Romania, the womenfolk of Deir Abu Meshal have a supplemented their income generously with exports to the Israel, the USA and elsewhere.