I've addressed this in a previous post, but one of the (many) tragedies of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the loss of traditional Palestinian culture in the discourse of the Middle East. In my experience, when people hear "Palestine," the first thing that comes to mind is usually war-related. I get it. This is what the news covers out of that region- this is what people hear.
Which is why I am always so excited to find a great article about an aspect of Palestinian life that is not related to the conflict, even if it is, like everything else in Palestine, touched by it. This is one I am particularly partial to as a native of Nablus- the traditional olive oil soap production. Olive oil soap is one of the most significant manifestations of the strong Palestinian tie to the land and the olive trees that grow on it, and I was thrilled to find this article on Al Jazeera with some amazing pictures of the process.
Never in my life have I traveled to Palestine and not returned with one suitcase at least half filled with plastic bags packed with these neat little square soaps, usually coated in newspaper on one side, with a smell that's a little more musty that most soaps you'd buy in the West. But Palestinians swear by them for any skin ailment imaginable, and they are a standard by any Palestinian bathroom or kitchen sink. Unfortunately, like most Palestinian industry, factories that produce this traditional item are disappearing. The Tuqan factory in Nablus is the oldest surviving olive oil soap producing business in the West Bank, and the ability of this family to keep their factory running despite all the obstacles is yet another display of the Palestinian resilience that is so fundamental to the survival of our deep-rooted but threatened culture.