Newsletter of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation
Volume 9, No.
PHF Meet with Secretary General Amre Mousa
On Friday, September 6, 2002, the Palestinian Heritage Foundation
participated in a meeting of Arab American representatives from New Jersey and
New York called by Arab League Secretary General Mr. Amre Mousa at the Palace
Hotel in Manhattan. About 30 people representing different organizations in the
Arab American sector attended the meeting.
After welcoming the guests, Mr. Amre Mousa opened the evening with a short
statement about the Arab League efforts in avoiding war against Arab Iraq, the
fall-out of the September 11 terrorist acts in New York and Washington, and Arab
League efforts in organizing the Arab American community in the United States.
Mr. Mousa spoke of a future convention planned for May 2003 to be held in
Detroit, Michigan, that will serve as an umbrella organization for the Arab
American organizations and the Arab American community.
Immediately after concluding his remarks Mr. Mousa opened the floor for
questions and suggestions. Hanan and Farah Munayyer representing the Palestine
Heritage Foundation presented Mr. Mousa with information about the activities of
the Foundation during the last 15 years.
130 Years of Embroidery and Lace in New
By Meriam Lobel
Throughout history, embroidery and lace have been used to embellish fabric
and to identify people according to their social roles. In traditional
communities, the people of each village or region embroidered clothing with
particular local patterns handed down through generations. In contemporary
communities, people like to wear clothing embroidered with the logo of their
favorite designer or hero. People in prominent roles, like priests, athletes,
brides, and movie stars, wear embroidered and lace fabrics that signify
their special status.
The North Hudson area of New Jersey, just outside the Lincoln Tunnel, has
been a major center of the creation of commercial embroidery and lace for 130
years. In 1870s, Swiss immigrants who came from the region around St. Gallen
imported embroidery machines from Europe and set them up in the towns now known
as Union City, West New York, Weehawken, Guttenberg and North Bergen. The firm
bedrock of the Palisades was perfect as an anchor for the 20,000-40,000 pound
cast iron Schiffli machines, and the regions proximity to New York gave the
stitchers access to the fashion market. German immigrants from the Plauen
embroidery region soon joined the growing embroidery community. Successive waves
of immigrants from Eastern Europe, the Near East and Latin America contributed
hard work and talent to the industry in subsequent years.
Embroidery started out as a cottage industry run by families who passed down
their knowledge and skills from one generation to the next. Each family anchored
a machine or two on the ground floor of the house or in the backyard, and they
divided up the tasks involved in production. Women kept the books and did piece
work upstairs, while children played with the discarded damaged goods, the empty
spools, and the silver schiffli ("little boat") shaped shuttles.
Although over the decades some shops grew in size to 30 machines, for the
most part shops
here remained small. Working side by side with the stitchers,
related companies such as thread manufacturers, thread cutters, bleachers and
dyers made it possible for the industry to flourish. A number of embroidery
companies active in North Hudson today are still run by the families of
immigrants who established these businesses almost a century ago.
In addition to the prolific embroidery produced in the factories of North
Hudson, New jersey has a history of outstanding individual embroiderers and lace makers. They have brought the aesthetic taste of their homelands to this
gateway state where they have stitched exquisite clothing, decorated their homes
and added to the glorious look of altars in religious institutions of many
different denominations. This exhibit features the work of some of New Jersey's
finest hand embroidery artists from a variety of cultural communities, alongside
the work of the commercial embroider factories.
Palestine Costume Archive Director Jeni Alenby Visits PHF
Jeni Alenby, Director of the Palestine Costume Archive in Canberra,
Australia, visited the Palestinian Heritage Foundation for three days late
September 2002. Ms. Alenby had the chance to see selections from the Munayyer
Collection and that of the Foundation collection. For the past two years Ms.
Alenby has written for PHF Newsletter describing Palestinian Costume collections
around the world.
The Foundation has donated $200 to support Ms.
Alenby's efforts in promoting
Palestinian art and embroidery through the Palestine Costume Archive in
PHF Donates $500 to Help Establish Palestinian Film Archive
On Wednesday, February 5, 2003, Hanan and Farah Munayyer, representing the
Palestinian Heritage Foundation, attended a benefit dinner graciously hosted by
Ms. Huda Khouri at her residence in New York. Present for this occasion were
distinguished Professors Edward Said, Richard Pena, and Lila Abu Lughod.
This evening was to benefit the establishment of the most comprehensive
archive of Palestinian films following a spectacular success of the Palestinian
film festival, Dreams of a Nation hosted by the Department of Middle East and
Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University in New York. This success is
a clear indication that our community is in critical need of exposure to
contemporary Arab culture in its varied aspects.
Featuring over 34 films by established and emerging Palestinian filmmakers,
the Palestinian film festival consistently drew out a diverse crowd and sold out
many of its screenings between January 24-27, 2003 to packed auditoriums of 400
viewers. Words of the festival has now reached other major American and European
cities with requests that the festival travel to those venues.
DREAMS OF A NATION: A PALESTINIAN FILM FESTIVAL
By Inea bushnaq
Fulfilling what had been a wish of many years, Hamid Dabashi of Columbia
University was pleased to bring about Dreams of a Nation, a celebration of
Palestinian film presented this January through the Department of Middle East
and Asian Languages and Cultures. Anne Marie Jacir who directed and curated the
festival and is herself a young film maker, creatively arranged the screening of
more than thirty films in a marathon of well balanced programs running through
one long weekend.
Usually, in a national film festival, artists from one country offer a
variety of films on any number of topics. In the case of Palestine the opposite
is true: film makers, living in Gaza, the West bank, inside the borders of
Israel or scattered over Europe and North America, and working in a range of
styles, all focus on the one subject - Palestine. In his remarks on opening
night of Dreams of a Nation, Edward Said stressed that it was for precisely this
reason, for the fact that they "make visible the invisible" that the
role of Palestinian film makers is significant. Indeed, they lay out in black
and white and color what much of the world prefers to forget.
Of the dozen or so films shown here for the first time in the U.S. two very
different works stand out as 'must sees'. JENIN JENIN directed by the
Palestinian actor Muhammad Bakri (best known in the lead role of Rashid
Masharawi's HAIFA, 1995) is a well edited documentary, a powerful tribute to a
people's resilience. FORD TRANSIT by Hany Abu-Assad, who claims his films are
"100% documentary and 100% fiction," had the audience laughing out
loud at the tribulations of a 'service' driver shuttling passengers between
checkpoints. Those who missed Hany Abu-Assad's humorous NAZARETH 2000, not shown
at the festival, were able to see his new full length feature, RANA'S WEDDING:
JERUSALEM, ANOTHER DAY, a painful comment on what has come to pass for 'normal'
under Israeli occupation.
From the better known Palestinian film makers, there was Mai Masri's 1995
documentary, HANAN ASHRAWI: A WOMAN OF HER TIME and Michel Khleifi's TALE OF
THREE JEWELS, 1995, a fairy story set in the midst of IDF violence in Gaza.
There was a special screening of Elia Suleiman's new film, DIVINE INTERVENTION
as well as his 1996 film CHRONICLE OF A DISAPPEARANCE. These four films, and
altogether well over one third of the works at Dreams of a Nation, have won
awards or were official selections at a number of international film festivals
including Venice and Cannes.
Among the shorter films there was a gem of an oral history, NAIM &
WADEE'A, (20mins)1999, by Najwa Najjar, evocatively using family photos and
voices to document happy pre-1948 days in Jaffa; Anne Marie Jacir's THE SATELLITE
SHOOTERS, (16 mins) 2001, a quietly witty take on the cowboy myth in a clear
Palestinian American voice; FOUR SONGS FOR PALESTINE, by Nada El-Yassir, (13
mins) 2001, a visual ballad without words made in Palestine; and THE MOUNTAIN,
also from Palestine, by Hanna Elias, (35 mins) 2002, a story of elopement and,
not incidentally, of woman power.
The titles mentioned above are just a few that caught one viewer's eye from
the impressive collection of works presented by Dreams of a Nation. For more
information about the films and the festival visit: www.dreamsofanation.org.
"The Last Virgin" by Tuvia Tenenbom and Maria
By Inea Bushnaq
A play about Islamic virgins produced by The Jewish Theater of New York with
an Israeli cast.
Triad Theater, 130 West 72nd St.
This play about Islamic thinking and suicide bombers is advertised as based
on interviews with Arab men and women in Amman, Ramallah and Hamburg which were
conducted "under borrowed identities" by the playwrights, both of whom
are Jewish. The element of deception made this reviewer curious about the why
and the how of such an exercise. In the printed program, Tenenbom, whose
nationality is Israeli, thanks "all the loving people he met in the Arab
world recently … for opening their hearts to him - when he did not."
Maria Lowy is described as a former belly dancer in Iraq and also as a German
journalist who specializes in the Middle East.
The program notes "assume that most New Yorkers might not be familiar
with Islamic theology and culture" and therefore offer three pages of
"Islamic sources". In addition to the oral interviews already
mentioned, sixteen newspapers from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, London
and the Palestine Authority are cited as secondary sources. Half a dozen
Qur'anic verses describing Paradise are quoted.( In a style more slangy than the
printed translations of the Qur'an available in English, the unnamed translator
lists: "comfortable sofas in Paradise," "eye-catching
virgins," "expensive carpets," "special drinks, choice
chicken plates." etc.) There are six quotes from the Hadith, the longest of
which discusses the digestive system of the dwellers in paradise. Finally, there
is an explanation of Arabic names e.g. Fatima the daughter of the Prophet
"is also known in mystical Islam as 'Al Batul' or 'The Virgin'" (The
Arabic title of the play is Al Batul al Akheerah and the only female character
in the play is called Fatima.)
So what is this weightily researched play about? It ends with a speech by
Fatima urging the Israelis to take their modern selves and their technology out
of Palestine and leave its beautiful nights to the Arabs who contemplate virgins
rather than satellites inhabiting the heavens. Fatima is going on a suicide
mission and eagerly looks forward to her reward of 70 ideally built male
companions in a feminist version of a Muslim paradise. The theme of the play is
that it is the 70 virgins awaiting them in the afterlife, as promised by their
sex obsessed religion, that motivate suicide bombers.
A review in Back Stage by Irene Backalenick says, "Tenenbom has
obviously done his homework, and one gets a picture of Muslim thinking on the
afterlife. This business of amiable virgins in paradise is no joke, it would
seem." Certainly the script is under strain to squeeze some hilarity out of
its subject, and lets cheery obscenity and childish lavatory humor pass for wit.
(At one point there is a plan to photograph Fatima being raped on an open Qur'an
by an Israeli secret service chief with a Star of David tattooed on his
buttocks.) The play's main offence, however, is that it is a bore, and the
acting like a high school production. Of the six people who made up the audience
at the matinee attended by this reviewer, three disappeared during intermission.
Beside Fatima there are three male characters in the play which is set in an
Irish pub in Jerusalem. They manage to create an incomprehensible muddle by
assuming strange accents and double and triple disguises: Jews turning out to be
Palestinians who are really Israelis etc. It does not really matter since they
are simply the vehicle for the playwrights' antics such as every one on stage
spitting profusely every time the name George Bush is mentioned and quips like
the suggestion that "this could be the land of milk and honey again"
if someone dropped a nuclear bomb on Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia etc. (In case
anyone is wondering, the play which was written in Amman in the summer of 2002
has not been produced in any Arab country.)
"Effectively satiric, provocative and expertly acted," is how The
New York Times describes the play. If the intent was to ridicule those who
prefer to blame religion for the suicide bombings rather than examine 35 years
of Israeli military occupation and all the misery and humiliation it has
engendered, that is a message that does not come through. Rather, by their
elaborate claims to expertise and firsthand knowledge of Islamic thought, the
writers seem to seek a semblance of authority for their own rendering of a
stereotype that is already widely accepted here - the one equating Islam with