A group of Italian agronomists have helped start the first West Bank Italian cheese factory at the Golden Sheep cheese factory in Tubas. Three Palestinian farmers have been trained in Italian cheese-making and so far the project has been a success.
The project initially started ten years ago when Stefano Baldinia from Ucodep, an independent Italian group that sponsors small-development projects around the world, trained Palestinian farmers to make mozzarella. Apparently though, Palestinian cows aren’t cut out for making mozzarella. I wonder if a male, milk-producing goat could do the trick. Now, ten years later, the Golden Sheep cheese factory is successful in making pecorino, smoked ricotta and scarmorza cheeses.
The idea for this cheese-making factory was conjured up to help the West Bank economy. So even though a lot of Palestinians aren’t accustomed to the taste of these Italian cheeses and most likely can’t afford to buy them, the cheeses are a hit with wealthy Palestinians who’ve lived abroad and with the various internationals living in the West Bank.
Inevitably, as with many business endeavors in the West Bank and Gaza, Golden Sheep has its setbacks. Power outages make it difficult to keep a steady temperature in the ripening room. They don’t have a refrigerated truck and therefore can’t sell the cheeses all over the West Bank. And the cheese that they can distribute is hampered by long delays at Israeli checkpoints.
Regardless, I think Golden Sheep has a bright future despite the various setbacks. They’ve started making pecorino with za’tar to cater to the Palestinian palate. Sounds good to me.