Galilee Silks, a multimillion shekel business, hand-makes painted silk tallit and kippot as well as a variety of women's fashion in an atelier in Northern Israel.
 The Company
Galilee Silks is based on Kibbutz Beit HaEmek in the Western Galilee, in Northern Israel. It was founded by kibbutz member Shlomit Azati in 1992 as a small one-woman enterprise. Now a thriving business with an annual turnover of over 2 million shekels, it offers a wide variety of hand-painted and handmade traditional silk Judaica as well as women's fashion items. These individual fabrics range from tablecloths, Shabbat and Festival items including tallitim for both men and women, to floating silk jackets and scarves.
Shlomit Azati originally worked in the kibbutz clinic as a nurse. Her background as treasurer in the Noar HaOved youth movement together with various business courses, gave her the foundation to run a successful business. Her desire to do something artistic came from her needing to travel regularly to Tel Aviv to visit her mother during her last illness. Partly as a relief from being surrounded by sickness, Shlomit took the opportunity to take handicraft classes with Batya Uziel. Uziel is one of Israel’s premier arts and crafts teachers, and many well-known Israeli artists studied with her including David Gerstein.
After her mother passed away, Shlomit Azati decided that she wanted to do something more creative. She then persuaded the kibbutz committee to let her take a small workshop on the kibbutz and turn it into a studio. Shlomit began to work with silk, designing and painting scarves, and very soon the business took off. Today she runs it together with Hadara Zaks, a designer who graduated from Oranim Academic College.
 The Process
The Galilee Silks factory, which is more like a traditional atelier than a conventional factory, employs around 20 trained creative women artists who hand paint raw silk before turning the colored silk into beautiful products.
First raw silk is dyed white, before being stretched on a frame. The silk is then hand painted, processed and fixed before being left to dry for about two days. It is then cut and made into a wide variety of items. Since everything is hand-painted and handmade, no two products are exactly alike.
 Tallit & Tefillin Bags
Along with their beautiful silk tallits, Galilee Silks produce excellent pouch sets to match. Like the rest of their products, these tefilin and tallit bags are exquisitely hand-made.
Galilee Silks artisans are a mix of women members of the kibbutz, some of whom are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and Arab women from the neighboring villages.
 The Kibbutz
Around 400 people live on Kibbutz Beit HaEmek which was founded in 1949. Like many other kibbutzim it is diversifying away from the traditional kibbutz format. Apart from the Galilee Silks company, it has another claim to fame. Sacha Baron Cohen, the comedian, known for his various TV and film roles such as Ali G and Borat, was a volunteer on the kibbutz in the late 80’s.
Galilee Silks has support from The Fund for the Promotion of Overseas Marketing, the Israel Export Institute and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor. A few years ago Shlomit Azati was awarded a certificate of merit by the Kibbutz Movement Department for the Advancement of Women.
Group tours of the kibbutz and the Galilee Silks factory are available by appointment. Galilee Silks products are also available in a wide range of international stores and online.