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A PHOTO REPORTAGE OF THE LAST KUFIYA FACTORY IN PALESTINE
Over the last century the Kufiya has become synonymous with the quest for Palestinian freedom & self-determination. Although Hirbawi founder Yasser Hirbawi passed away in 2018, his three sons carry on the determination, passion, and commitment their father instilled in them, the business, and Palestinian supporters worldwide...
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Hirbawi Textile Factory produces Kufiya, the iconic patterned scarves worn around the Middle East. The factory is “the only and the last” to produce Kufiya in Palestine, says manager Abdul Hirbawi with some pride. Other countries in the Middle East where the Kufiya is popular, like Jordan or Syria, produce their own -slightly different- versions. Hirbawi is the only factory in Palestine producing the original Kufiya, which usually awaits sale in the factory’s small backroom shop.
Hirbawi Textile is located in the city of Hebron, (known in Arabic as Al-Khalil) the biggest city in Palestine’s West Bank. Hebron has been a hot spot in the conflict between Palestine and Israel. Extremist Israelis have settled in the center of Hebron, leading to almost daily violence between settlers, Israeli soldiers, and Palestinian residents. The factory is unassuming, tucked away on a quiet residential street.
Inside the factory, fifteen industrial looms (both working and non-working) fill half of the florescent-lit warehouse. The working machines thump in constant motion, creating an insistent roar inside the building. The factory now runs only half the machines because sales have been in steady decline since the 1990s.
The factory was started over 50 years ago by Yassar Hirbawi, and is now run by his three sons and a family friend. Peering over spools of thread are Abid Keraki (left), the long-time friend of the Hirbawi family, and Izzat Hirbawi.
Poorly produced imported kuffiya hangs outside a shop in Bethlehem. Yassar Hirbawi says that while the popularity of the kufiya is increasing, his factory’s sales are down dramatically, due to cheaper imports, primarily from China.
Yassar Hirbawi ponders the future of the factory he founded in 1961. He describes working in the factory as a “battle,” as he and his family struggle to compete with cheaper kufiya producers across the globe. He concludes: “But what can we do? It’s our work and our life, and, if God will, we will never stop producing original kufiyas made in Palestine.”