- Title: WEST BANK: Stone and marble industry is leading in Palestine's economy
- Date: 28th December 2007
- Summary: VARIOUS OF MEN DRILLING HOLES IN STONE CLOSE OF DRILLING MACHINES MEN USING THEIR LEGS TO STABILISE MACHINES WHILE DRILLING THREE WORKERS DRILLING IN STONE
- Embargoed: 12th January 2008 12:00
- Topics: Industry
- Reuters ID: LVAER0BG73USE6DCGUFPWQ6F5A44
- Story Text: The Palestinian stone found along a hill range which passes through the West Bank is a mainstay of the battered Palestinian economy.
A range of hills which passes through the West Bank conceals a natural treasure which has been described by some as 'white gold'.
Palestinian stone, used for building and to make marble, has been used throughout history to build some of the most notable structures in the Middle East, such as the Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
The West Bank hills are home to mile upon mile of high-grade stone and marble, one of the mainstays of the ailing Palestinian economy, with the cities of Hebron and Bethlehem in the southern West Bank serving as the territory's industrial centre.
Nouraldin Jaradat, who is the head of the Stone and Marble Union in Hebron, explains that the industry is so important to the Palestinian territories that it amounts to a national treasure.
"Palestinian stone is found all along the chain of the Palestine mountains, but marble and stone production is in the south of Palestine mainly, specifically in the area of Hebron. In the mountains of Hebron, there is a large amount of it, some is being used now and some has been stored to be used later. This is a national treasure. It is even called the white gold," Jaradat said.
Palestinian West Bank marble and stone is known for its high quality.
It is highly water resistant and keeps it colour well, retaining its creamy white, yellowish white or reddish brown tints over many years.
Palestinians in the West Bank have earned a world-wide reputation in stone making, particularly since the 1950s when technology became more accessible to them.
Annual production of raw stone in the West Bank is estimated at 1.8 million tons.
The production of processed stone and marble has been reduced in recent years because of stringent Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and goods in and out of the Palestinian territories. This has caused some West Bank quarries and stone-processing companies to shut down.
Al-Shyoukh, a village near Hebron, relies on the stone industry as a main source of income for its residents. Yousif Halayka, head of the al-Shyoukh local council, says the stone industry is essential to the region.
"Stone making is an important contributor to the Palestinian economy, it provides a source of income for many families and investors and also helps ease unemployment through providing work in this industry,"
Yousif Halayka explains.
Unemployment in some parts of the Palestinian territories have neared 40 percent, according to the World Bank.
The aid-dependent Palestinian economy received new pledges of international donor aid earlier this month, but is still reeling from a devastating hit it took when the donors decided to boycott a Hamas government formed after the Islamists won an election in January 2006.
Two-thirds of the population now live in poverty, according to the British charity Oxfam.
After the stones are painstakingly taken out of the quarries they are transported to specialised companies for processing.
The raw stone is polished and then sawed. Once it has been sawed, it can be used for marble making or formed into decorative stones for use in buildings and floors.
Jaradat of Hebron's Union of Stone and Marble is proud of the uses to which the stone has been put throughout history.
"This national treasure is known in history. The Aqsa mosque was build with it as well as the Dome of the Rock, the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the Ibrahimi mosque in Hebron," Jaradat said.
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