Traditional soap makers in West Bank struggle to survive against vanishing

GAZA (Xinhua) – The traditional soap making factories that once flourished in West Bank’s Nablus over a hundred years ago are now fighting for surviving against vanishing.

In 1980, the handcraft of soap making was active with 40 factories, but now in 2018, only two are operational.

Owner of an ancient soap factory in Nablus Maher Shak’aa told Xinhua he refuses to change his profession, which he inherited from his grandparents over 120 years ago.

Shak’aa uses his traditional tools to produce the soap, in spite of the retract in this profession due to the usage of modern tools and chemicals in production to replace organic olive oil.

He explained that this profession “is no longer feasible as a business, but we maintain it because of its history and heritage that was passed down to us from our grandparents, and we won’t change the original way it is made.”

Shak’aa and his team still use every component in the historic way of soap production, except for the gasoline that is replaced with diesel due to its scarcity.

Soap making professionals say that the main reason behind the retraction of the business is the Israeli imposed closures and movement restrictions in the West Bank, besides the Palestinian Authority (PA) adoption of free trade that allowed foreign products to compete with local products in the market, and the high cost of olive oil.

Local handmade soap is relatively expensive compared to imported soap, reaching a cost of US$1.5, while five pieces of imported soaps are sold for two dollars.

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