I truly believe we will achieve justice and be free to live in dignity and peace. However, while the genocide in Gaza and the 75 years of dispossession and oppression continue, I find it so difficult to think of work. That said, I am constantly reminded that we are supporting dozens of artisans at this moment in their efforts to generate income in Palestine under incredibly challenging circumstances.
I want to share with you all what to expect moving forward. You all, who have really just been so incredible in supporting our work and sending love and encouragement and solidarity. I started talking to my husband about my Handmade Palestine family. Really you all are more encouraging than you can ever know — to me, to our artisans, to Palestine.
Today I opened a new notebook and as I did last year, I wrote on the inside cover:
Throughout the year, I always return to that page and remind myself why I do this work, even when it feels grief-ridden, exhausting, or hopeless. I also remember Dalal who makes the brass jewelry and embroidered keffiyehs. Dalal oversees up to 10 women embroidering and so we have become a source of income for 10 families who have no other options. Twice over the holidays I called artisans with last-second surprise orders and listened to joyful, unbelieving laughter as people rejoiced at getting more work through us.
We celebrate together the impact you all are having on the Palestinian creative economy.
What we are working on in 2024:
Massive restructuring to more effectively handle support and solidarity
We are so grateful for your support, truly. Your patience and understanding have been much appreciated. We've reorganized our crafts and artisans so we can respond to your needs better. Artisans are also really excited to have clear lists from us so they can be prepared and keep up.
Updating fulfillment space
Our volunteer has been such a rockstar. As you all know we ship in bulk to Portland, Oregon, where our 2023 volunteer who is officially hired in 2024 as a part-time fulfillment manager, processes orders. This enables us to overcome restrictions and closures from Israeli occupation and folks in the US to get more affordable shipping. It also means we sometimes don't realize our inventory is off until he gets to the order. He spent days reorganizing the warehouse so we can work efficiently and that means slower fulfillment times (if you remember, pre-October we fulfilled orders same day, but you have blessed us with your support and we're still catching up).
Full restocking end of January
We've reorganized our site and have been working with our artisans since the end of December to make new crafts. The artisans are blown away by your continued support and thrilled to bring you new designs as well as your favorites from this last year. We are grateful also for your patience as we struggle to work through the very unique challenges as creatives under occupation. It looks like we won't be getting keffiyehs from Hirbawi for this restocking but we'll keep calling until they have some for you all!
As many of you already understand, we ship in bulk to a fulfillment space we've built in Portland, Oregon, because shipping direct to you from Palestine is outrageously expensive and unreliable, as we are forced to depend on Israel's national post. We consider US and Canada domestic shipping, and the rest of the world requires an international carrier to deliver. UPS was losing packages and extorting fees from customers while claiming it was customs. Even after customers paid, UPS would return packages. We've been working to set up a DHL account and shipping system and we're so close! By the end of January, we'll be able to bring beautiful Palestinian crafts to you, wherever you are.
4 New Artisans
In addition to these two groups, we have been working for the last month to bring 4 new artisan groups to the Handmade family, so you'll see their collections and learn more about their craft-making and designs in the coming month. We are sure you'll love these gorgeous crafts and makers as much as we do! Stay tuned for more on them. We also have formed two women's groups for tatreez in addition to the 4 new artisans. In the coming months, we'll launch the embroidery designs of Manjel ma Qoud, which is our original work to support 10 women artisans in the West Bank in generating income.
Tatreez Projects, including Gaza women!
We also have the most amazing opportunity to support women generate income who fled Gaza to Cairo. We've arranged food, clothes, and blankets for them via our friend Manal Olama at the Egyptian Clothing Bank, AND are now working with her sustainable fashion brand, Almah, to give these women materials, machines, and the work space to create embroidery to sustain themselves in Cairo. We literally were able to make this happen in a matter of days so that the women in need could find hope and support their families in dignity.
If we do not exist for such moments as this, when someone whatsapps me saying "how can you help my sister in Cairo?" then let's just close shop now! Seriously, I feel that 8 years of this labor of love is worth it just to be able to arrive at this moment.
THANK YOU FOR BEING ON THIS JOURNEY WITH US!