Source: Wide Angle: "Pickles, Inc."
Financial independence provides strength and security, two invaluable aids in facing the vulnerability that envelops a woman who has been widowed. In this Wide Angle video meet the widowed Palestinian women of Tamra in the Galilee who have started a pickle business and improved their financial and social status.
Middle East Map (Image)
Palestine/Israel Map (Image)
"If a woman's husband dies, does it mean that she has to die too?" Arab women who have been widowed in Northern Israel must challenge societal expectations in order to enter the workforce. Through the creation of a small female-run business, Fatma Nator and her partners have become unlikely revolutionaries.
Arab women living in Israel face many challenges living under the patriarchal values and social customs of traditional Islam. Though theologians argue that the Qur'an does not establish the superiority of men over women, patriarchal customs often predominate in many Arab societies. There can be a lot of social disapproval towards Arab women who want to enter the workplace. A woman's primary responsibility is usually interpreted as fulfilling her role as a wife and mother, whereas a man's role is to work and be able to financially support his wife and family. Adding to this struggle is the fact that Muslim women often retain their household duties even if they do enter the workforce. Many Arab women find it difficult to balance their home responsibilities with a desire to find work outside the home, and may only be able to find the time for part-time employment.
On top of social and familial obstacles, the tension between Jews and Arabs in Israel has intensified the adversity faced by Arab women. Mobility is severely restricted due to this ongoing conflict. Security concerns persuade many women to stay home. However, high rates of poverty and unemployment have forced Arab men living in Israel to make attitudinal changes. In the last three years, the number of working Arab women has increased. Many uneducated Arab women are turning to self-employment. Educated Arab female professionals are taking jobs even if it requires going out of town.
The Wide Angle film "Pickles, Inc." offers a portrait of a small-scale, all female business in Israel. Eight women, all widows, established a pickling plant using skills they all learned from their mothers. Keeping this costly venture solvent and coping with social opposition to a female-led business proved to be an extremely tough task. Being willing to break taboos, these widows became the most unlikely revolutionaries.
NARRATOR: Fatma Nator lives in northern Israel in the Galilee, in the Arab town of Tamra. Her husband's death six years ago left her coping with grief --- and much more.
FATMA NATOR: When someone is widowed, people watch her. Where she goes. What she does. They follow her. They want to control her. In our environment, it's really difficult.
NARRATOR: In this tight knit community, widows are expected to stay home and raise their families. The monthly social security allowance Israel provides is barely enough to live on.
KAUSSAR TAHA: My late husband's family -- and my brothers -- would rather I stay at home, and not go to work. They wanted me to live just on social security, but I'm not listening to them?
MANIRA ABU-ELHEJA: Sometimes I sit from six to nine at night near the stove and I just have nothing to do. If a woman's husband dies, does it mean that she has to die too? She should look after herself.
FATUM FAHMAWE: Many came to me and asked me to marry them. They spoke with my father. But if I marry, my new husband wouldn't want me to bring my daughter with me. And then I'd have to leave her with the wives of my brothers and they'd treat her like their servant. And that's why I refused.
NARRATOR: This group of widows met at an entrepreneurship training program offered for women in Tamra by the Center for Jewish-Arab Economic Development, a private agency.
None of them had ever worked outside the home and most had never finished grade school. But in February 2003, with several other widows, they made a bold move. The women decided to start up a business based on what they know and do best. But many of the challenges they would face were beyond their experience.
WIDOWS: Good morning! And good morning to you too! Good morning! Good morning!
NARRATOR: Bottling and selling pickled vegetables was Nator's idea. Like the other women of Tamra, she learned the secret recipe from her mother. The pickles, known as 'makabis' in Arabic and 'chamutzim' in Hebrew, are the ketchup and mustard of the middle east, and a daily staple in Israeli kitchens.
But it's not every day that women in the Galilee become shareholders in a factory.
The widows became unlikely revolutionaries almost overnight.
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