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Gaza’s Christmas gifts – Veiled women make Santa dolls

A Palestinian artisan puts the final touches on a Christmas toy at Zeina Association and Cooperative for Handicraft in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip on December 24, 2019. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

The scene on Tuesday morning in the northern Gaza Strip could at first look incongruous — a group of women in black niqab veils sewing Santa Claus dolls for Christmas.

They work at a small factory in the Palestinian enclave that is providing employment to women, many of whom are forbidden from leaving their village, due to conservative values.

Around 20 young women are employed at the factory, which is a project of the Zeina Cooperative in the village of Umm al-Nasser, close to Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza.

Palestinian artisans make Christmas toys at Zeina Association and Cooperative for Handicraft in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip on December 24, 2019. (Photo by MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

They have been given three years of vocational training, learning to make gifts for a series of holidays — including the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and Christmas, supervisor Asma Abu Qaida said.

This festive season they produced a range of goods, including Santa models and wooden Christmas trees.

Seven of the women have been taught carpentry.

The gifts are wrapped and put in gift boxes marked “Merry Christmas” in Arabic and English.

“We make Christmas gifts with love and precision,” Abu Qaida said.