Gaza camp is a refugee camp near Jerash, where almost 40,000 Palestinian refugees are living. They, their parents or grandparents, fled from Gaza in 1967, when Israel invaded the Gaza strip, which was at that time under Egyptian rule. These Palestinian refugees never received Jordanian citizenship. Until today they don’t have a national number and are therefore stateless. As such, they aren’t allowed to work, don’t have access to regular healthcare, and they can’t afford to further their education outside the camp. If they would like to get a job, they need to buy a working permit of 500 JOD (± € 600), which is only valid for 6 months. So for most people this doesn’t make any sense at all. One cannot understand how these people aren’t offered any way out, no right to return, no status, no opportunities, no future. These Palestinian refugees have lived under inhumane conditions for 50 years now.
Although we were aware that we were visiting one of the poorest camps in Jordan, nobody expected that the refugees struggle this much. We were silenced, speechless, saddened, angry, but above all we felt powerless and were struggling how to relate to this uncomfortable truth. Some felt really depressed, others were fighting with feelings of guilt for not taking enough action, and at the same time we felt unease in being part of a van with international visitors, being dropped at places in the camp to visit, watch and leave. It underlined our privileged position and the bubble we live in.
The tradition of glassblowing continues today in three factories just north of the city, a short distance between the town of Halhul and Hebron. Two of the factories are owned by the Natsheh family. They produce primarily souvenirs, most of which are also used as household items. A large hall close to each of the factories displays wine glasses, dishes, bowls, flower pots, and other products. Although most objects are not decorated, some have artistically applied glass strings. Metallic decoration is a recent innovation of the industry.
Glass beads for jewellery have traditionally been made in Hebron. Blue beads and glass beads with 'eyes' (owayneh) were made and used as amulets since they were considered particularly effective against the evil-eye.
In the old city’s Al-Kazazin quarter (Kazazin meaning ‘people who make glass’), three families operated 14 glass factories. Today, there are only two of them left, run by the Natsheh family. The first Intifada, combined with the affluence of cheap goods from China and the rise in oil prices forced the majority of glass shop owners out of business. Both remaining factories have relocated to the entrance of the city, because tourists are sometimes fearful to go too deep into the old city.
Mr. Hamdi - who runs the Hebron Glass & Ceramics Factory together with his brother -started working when he was 17, in 1967. Nowadays, he exclusively deals with administrative aspects, but he is still capable to tell which one of his workers did which piece just by looking at it. The savoir-faire is passed down from father to son, but some are more talented than others and each glass-blower insufflates his own personal touch into his work. The job is hard, sitting seven hours a day next to an over 1000°C hot oven. Workers learn from early childhood and continuously refine the skill.
Hebron Glass is the leading product of those companies. The name originally applied to the national hand-crafted, mouth-blown glass named in Arabic Zujaj Nafakh. Because the color blue is a cultural favorite in the Arab world, Hebron Glass came to describe the blue glass products, both the light turqoise blue (copper blue) and the deep royal blue (cobalt blue). The factories also specialize in a Middle Eastern favorite, Imzakhraf, which is a dot-painted, Arabesque design technique on traditional blown glass.
Abu Ameed is a shoemaker and the owner of Rahala Shoes in the center Ramallah. The shop is crammed with samples and one-offs that Abu Ameed dreamed up. He wants customers to come and see their shoes being made, feel the leather, drink coffee and get creative with their footwear.