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Ancient Palestinian craft still intact amid globalization

April 19, 2010

Earlier this year (2009) while I was reporting from the West Bank, I visited the historic Palestinian city of Hebron where a craft that dates back to the times of the Phoenicians may be headed for extinction.

Pottery, glass and ceramic making are ancient industries in Hebron, Palestine. The city’s leather, stone, glass and ceramic goods are found throughout Palestinian, Israeli and Arab markets — but this is changing with the advent of economic globalization and fierce competition from inexpensive Chinese goods. Additionally, the political instability that has plagued the region for many years scares away tourists.
Emad El Natche and his family own and operate a Hebron glass and ceramics factory. Mr. El Natche spends hours in front of a gas oven melting recycled glass bottles at high temperatures. No two pieces that Mr. El Natche creates are alike; he prides himself on the attention to detail each piece gets. He says all of his creations are unique because of the process that no machine can replicate.

Despite the challenges from globalization and a lack of master craftsmen, El Natche remains hopeful that this ancient craft is not going to disappear without a fight.

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