Featured customer: Linda Cohen

Linda Cohen, shares why she opened Olive Branch Fair Trade, a non-profit store featuring products she learned about through Palbox. Palbox is a nonprofit subscription box I founded that contained products from Palestine and my jewelry.

What is Olive Branch Fair Trade and what kinds of products are sold?

Olive Branch Fair Trade is a small non-profit business, located on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. My recently opened shop is in Vineyard Haven. I am a semi-retired architect and do not take a paycheck from OBFT. All profits go to the following organizations: The Land of Canaan Foundation, We Are Not Numbers, Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy, Electronic Intifada, and Visualizing Palestine.

I sell all of the Canaan Fair Trade products that are available in the U.S., specifically: various organic olive oils, tapenades (sensational), za’atar, maftoul, and freekeh.

In addition, I am honored to present a wide variety of fair trade, and direct artist and artisan crafts including embroidery from Forty8 and Women in Hebron; hand painted pottery, olive wood kitchenware and gifts, and kuffiyehs from Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans; the sweetest wool felt items from Ma’an lil Hayat felt workshop (also sourced from BFTA); Hebron Glass, olive oil soap from the Nablus Soap Factory, and Syria (sourced from Haithem El-Zabri’s Palestine Online Store). Recently I visited the Palestine Museum US in Connecticut to meet Faisal Saleh and Malak Mattar and attend her presentation. I bought two stunning paintings from her series “When peace dies…embrace it….it will live again.” They are the crowning glory of the shop. From dear Grace Abdo of El Bustan in London, I found ravishing calligraphy by Ahmad Zoabi.

The shop has a book corner featuring authors Joudie Kalla, Wafa Ghnaim, Widad Kamel Kawar, Ali Abunimah, Nur Masalha, and Susan Abulhawa.

And the shop is also carrying Katie Miranda’s lovely sterling silver Arabic calligraphy jewelry.

What was the inspiration for Olive Branch Fair Trade and how did Palbox play a part in that ?

A few years ago, while recovering from an advanced cancer, I wanted to take a positive, respectful, concrete step - beyond signing petitions and calling Senators – in direct support of the Palestinian people. But what ? But how ?? As soon as I learned about Palbox, I subscribed, and as soon as I held the bottle of Hurriyeh olive oil, I experienced the great AHA! and realized that perhaps I could support traditional agriculture in Palestine.

I learned that Hurriyeh was olive oil from Canaan Fair Trade and applied to CFT to become an Interfaith Partner. I progressed from offering Canaan Fair Trade products to family and friends, to joining a weekly summer craft fair. When I joined the craft fair, I thought I should present some beautiful examples of Palestinian crafts along with the food products. Once again, Palbox inspired me with the inclusion of small craft items from Women in Hebron, Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans, and Ma’an lil-Hayat.

What is your goal with the business ?

My philosophical goal with the business is to awaken my community and our visitors to the long, rich, living history and culture of Palestine, in the hope that people in the U.S. will stop accepting our government’s support for the Occupation. My practical goal is to support Palestinian families by buying and selling their products. My personal goal is to keep from being paralyzed by despair. My business is just a tiny drop.

I am heartened by this quote from Howard Zinn’s “A Power Governments Cannot Suppress”:

“..to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.”

You only just recently opened, but can you tell us how it has been received so far ?

Most people are surprised to learn that the first Fair Trade Organic olive oil in the world is from Palestine. Most people are startled and amazed by the beauty of the craftwork. Some people just glance and walk away. Some people are very grateful and we have wonderful conversations.

Visit Olive Branch Fair Trade at:
455 State Rd #21 Woodland Center Vineyard Haven, MA 02568
Instagram at @olivebranchfairtrade


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