Palestinians alike can agree that wearing the kufiya (keffiyeh) scarf, carefully interwoven with the symbolic pattern of resistance, holds a deep sentimental value. Kufiya have become an emblem of the past, present and future for Palestinian identity. Equally worn by all genders and ages, the original Palestinian pattern of the kufiya scarf is stitched to symbolize the most prominent symbols of resistance, struggle and freedom, for the people of Palestine. Within the middle pattern, lies the design of a wire mesh fence, representing the occupation. Along the outer sides lie elongated shapes signifying the silhouette of olive leaves - a symbol of Palestine and peace.
Yasser Hirbawi established the Hirbawi Textiles kufiya factory 56 years ago, in the Palestinian city of Al-Khalil. Inspired by the attire of renowned leader of the Palestinian liberation movement, Yasser Arafat, Hirbawi himself sought out to empower Palestinian people through the pursuit of his very own kufiya business. In a moment of opportunity, Hirbawi saw where demand was high, and started the very first kufiya factory in Palestine. The factory flourished with 15 machines and began producing 150,000 kufiyas annually by the 80’s. As the early 2000’s approached, so did the popularity of the kufiya. People across the world began wearing the kufiya as a symbol of solidarity with the people of Palestine. Unaffiliated assemblies demonstrating civil activism began wearing the scarf as they demonstrated one particular thing in common with the Palestinian people - resistance to oppression.
Yasser Arafat Wearing his kufiya (keffiyeh)
Unfortunately, with the high demand entailed a lot of competition for Hirbawi’s business. Though being the authentic manufacturer, Hirbawi was pushed out of the market as Chinese imports began impeding on the majority of sales throughout the world. The Chinese market’s use of low-quality materials, and thus a low market price, made competition extremely difficult for Hirbawi’s factory. The existence of Israeli checkpoints and roadblocks create even greater limitations for Hirbawi, as his dependency for quality materials rely entirely on imported materials for production.
With no access to local markets in order to produce kufiya at a lower marginal price, sales went down to as low as 10,000 kufiya annually. In 1995 the Hirbawi factory was then forced to shut down. Yasser Hirbawi and his family spent 5 years working diligently to come up with a new plan in order to tackle the industry. Through the persistent support of foreign consumers, Hirbawi started outsourcing across the globe to revive the growth of the Hirbawi kufiya factory. This not only made it easier for foreigners to purchase an original kufiya but for Palestinians across the world as well. Accordingly, small changes by the Palestinian Authority were made in 2013, in order to respond to the shrinking Palestinian economy. A small tax was placed in order to raise the prices of foreign-made crafts, which directly compete with those of local Palestinians. Thus balancing out the differences in price, and giving the local economy a boost. In roughly four months, Chinese imports into Palestine were knocked down to nearly a third. Nonetheless, the Hirbawi family is determined to keep the factory alive.
Jacquard Loom Machines at Hirbawi Factory
One loyal employee is now left working alongside Hirbawi’s two sons. Now in his eighties, Yasser Hirbawi still distresses over the fact that the Hirbawi kufiya factory is struggling to survive, despite global demand. He asserts that the Hirbawi factory is capable of supplying international demand, despite lower-quality imports. Hirbawi and his family remain unwavering on creating nothing less than a high artisan quality kufiya. Thus, unlike the low quality of Chinese imported kufiya, the symbolic patterns on your Hirbawi kufiya will certainly not fade away in the wash.
Abd, 69 been working at Hirbawi since it started in 1964
Hirbawi carefully crafts these cotton kufiya with real embroidery, as these authentic kufiya are made to last. Hirbawi’s national Palestinian emblem represents the resistance and steadfastness of the Palestinian people. Thus, in wearing the kufiya, it is extremely important that the product has been authentically purchased from the true country of its origin. Don’t forget to spread your own awareness, and encourage others across the world to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine by simply sharing this blog or purchasing your own authentic Hirbawi kufiya!