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Pickle Business (1:33) Excerpt from film "Pickles, Inc." August 2005
Israeli widows starting out in business take care of all aspects of the enterprise themselves.

Country: Israel
Related Lesson Plan:
  • Women Wanting to Work

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    Guiding Questions
    1. How does Fatma describe her early education? What entrepreneurial skills does she possess?

    2. Does the assignment of roles by tradition lessen an individual's potential benefit to society? How might social roles impact the growth potential of an individual?

    Background Essay
    Fatma Nator is the marketing director of a small female-run pickle factory in Israel. Every aspect of this business - from recruiting customers to filling pickle jars - is carried out by women. In their first months in business, the women sold up to 100 jars a day to local stores.

    Arab women living in Israel face many challenges living under the patriarchal values and social customs of traditional Islam. Though theologians argue that the Qur'an does not establish the superiority of men over women, patriarchal customs often predominate in many Arab societies. There can be a lot of social disapproval towards Arab women who want to enter the workplace. A woman's primary responsibility is usually interpreted as fulfilling her role as a wife and mother, whereas a man's role is to work and be able to financially support his wife and family. In many families, even the simple decision to allow a married woman to leave her house must be approved by her husband. Adding to this struggle is the fact that Muslim women often retain their household duties even if they do enter the workforce. Many Arab women find it difficult to balance their home responsibilities with a desire to find work outside the home, and may only be able to find the time for part-time employment.

    On top of social and familial obstacles, the tension between Jews and Arabs in Israel has intensified the adversity faced by Arab women. Mobility is severely restricted due to this ongoing conflict. Security concerns persuade many women to stay home. However, high rates of poverty and unemployment have forced Arab men living in Israel to make attitudinal changes. In the last three years, the number of working Arab women has increased. Many uneducated Arab women are turning to self-employment. Educated Arab female professionals are taking jobs even if it requires going out of town.

    The Wide Angle film PICKLES, INC. offers a portrait of a small-scale, all female business in Israel. Eight women, all widows, established a pickling plant using skills they all learned from their mothers. Keeping this costly venture solvent and coping with social opposition to a female-led business proved to be an extremely tough task. Being willing to break taboos, these widows became the most unlikely revolutionaries.

    I went to school for seven-and-a-half years. I never finished eighth grade. My mother took me out of school because she had to have an operation. I got engaged and she taught me everything before I married. When I married, at 16 and1/2, and even before then, I knew how to do everything -- to bake, to clean, to cook, and to make the pickles.

    Fatma Nator is marketing director of the pickle factory and -- as owner of a 1997 Mazda -- the delivery driver too. In their first months in business, the women are selling up to 100 jars a day to local Arab stores. Nator herself has found many of the customers.

    God bless you, hi.

    Every one has a different way of dealing with the customers and selling. I think you have to go in with an optimistic approach and with a smile on your face in order for them to buy the merchandise.

    Enjoy the money!

    The women adapt their work to the rhythms of the abundant harvest. Winter's cauliflower, carrots, and cabbage give way to summer's eggplant, tomato, cucumber, and more. The women run the factory on a six-hour workday so they can keep up with their responsibilities at home. Each shift is a marathon of cooking, stuffing, boiling, draining, and filling the jars with the spicy vinegar that marinates the vegetables into pickles in four hours.

    Related Links
    Pickles, Inc. on PBS.org

    CIA World Factbook: Israel

    WomenWatch: Information and Resources on Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women

    Johns Hopkins University Center for Communication Programs: Arab Women Speak Out [PDF]

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