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Bedouin Women Weavers Visit NYC

Bedouin Women Weavers Visit NYC

July 28, 2011

Negev Development & Community Programs

A group of female weavers from the Bedouin village of Lakiya, Israel were recently in New York City to participate in an AABGU Greater New York region community event.

They’re part of a company called Lakiya Negev Weaving that enables the community’s women to continue the traditional art and craft of weaving sheep’s wool into carpets and other woven products. They were the guests of honor at a luncheon hosted by Bob Arnow, chairman emeritus of BGU’s board of governors and past president of AABGU.

Bob Arnow and the group of Lakiya Negev Weavers

Bob Arnow and the group of Lakiya Negev Weavers

A longtime advocate for Bedouins in the Negev, Bob Arnow established the Robert H. Arnow Center for Bedouin Studies and Development in 1997. His wife Joan, of blessed memory, encouraged him to support and empower the women of the Negev. Over time, Arnow pioneered a special mission within the Center’s framework: the education of Bedouin women.

“This helps the entire culture and can change the community,” says Arnow. “Most educated Bedouin women go back to their communities. They teach their parents, many of whom are illiterate. They raise smaller families and educate their children.”

A good example of one such educated female Bedouin student is Lakiya Weaving’s Hala Abu Shareb who participated in this event. She received her undergraduate degree from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and is currently working toward her master’s degree at the University.

Khandra El Saneh, the company’s general manager, was happy to accompany the group of women weavers from her village to New York. Not only did they demonstrate how they spin wool into yarn, sell their top-quality homemade products for the first time in the United States, they also shared with members of the AABGU community how the business is impacting their lives.

“By building a business together we’re learning valuable skills that contribute to the well-being of our entire community in areas such as literacy and economic empowerment,” says El Saneh.

You can buy Lakiya Negev Weaving products online or plan to visit their showroom on your next visit to Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Integrating the Bedouin community into Israel society has long been a challenge for the state of Israel. Read an editorial on this topic by Moshe Arens, a former Israeli government minister who was also the founding chair of the advisory board of the Robert H. Arnow Center for Bedouin Studies and Research when it was established.