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Arts & Culture Film on Israeli Arab Pickle-makers, Small but Sweet, to Air on Television

August 24, 2005
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“Pickles, Inc.” is a small, unpretentious documentary about eight Arab widows from a village in northern Israel who break all kinds of traditions by starting a tiny factory producing homemade pickles. As modest as it seems at first, “Pickles,” which airs Aug. 30 at 9 p.m. on many public television stations in the United States, has surprising depth.

It can be seen as part of the recent trend by Israeli filmmakers to sympathetically explore the daily lives of their Arab countrymen, as the struggle of Arab women to stir against generations of submission by testing the boundaries of their independence, as a look into the joys and pitfalls facing novices trying to start their own small business, and, finally, as a bit of lighthearted news from a land of generally shrieking headlines.

When Israeli filmmaker Dalit Kimor first approached the eight women from the village of Tamra in the Galilee, she faced a language barrier and the insistence by the “cast” on an all-female film crew.

Once Kimor gained their confidence, the mostly middle-aged women proved to be high-spirited, salty characters, whose resilience in the face of widowhood, troubled children, lack of education, social taboos and complete ignorance of business is truly bracing.

As the proprietors of the Azka Pickle Cooperative spend long hours slicing, dicing and preparing their product according to old family recipes, they have to teach themselves such arcane skills as marketing, distribution and accounting.

Samara, as the only one with at least a ninth-grade education and a knowledge of Hebrew, is elected as the director of the enterprise.

Almaza, the sole car owner, becomes the sales director and distributor.

After their shifts, Fatma and Marina each take care of eight children.

Like many other first-time entrepreneurs, the pickle-makers ultimately find themselves in over their heads, but each emerges as a stronger, more independent woman.

There isn’t a single scene or complaint about Israeli checkpoints, discrimination or dispossession. The sole interethnic question: Will Israeli Jews like Arab pickles?

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