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HERITAGE
Newsletter of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation  
Volume 11,  No. 1                                 May, 2005  
 

  PHF Commemorates 18th Anniversary of its Founding

On March 30, 2005 the Palestinian Heritage Foundation celebrated its 18th birthday. This date coincides with Land Day celebrated in Palestine in memory of seven Palestinians who died in the village of Sakhnin, Galilee in defense of their land being expropriated by the Israeli government.

Some of the Foundation's activities during the past year included the following:

The Foundation celebrated its 17th Anniversary by holding a Banquet on September 13, 2004 in memory of Dr. Edward Said at the Marriott at Glenpoint Hotel in Teaneck, New Jersey (see October 2004 newsletter).

Hanan presented lectures and exhibits on the history of textile arts at the White Plains Public Library and at the Museum of Natural History in New York. The lecture at the Museum was followed by an embroidery workshop conducted by Narmin Kurzum, an experienced embroiderer and a friend of the Foundation.

On September 19, 2004 Hanan presented another lecture and exhibit at the Ibn Rushd Arab cultural organization in Richmond, Virginia, and on November 20, 2004 the Foundation participated in the WESPAC cultural evening held at the White Plains Community Center with a display of embroidery.

Also last year, the Foundation mounted a special Christmas Theme exhibition "From Bethlehem to Jerusalem: A Glimpse from the Past" at the Heritage Museum of the Learning Center of the Antiochian village in Bolivar, PA. This temporary display included Palestinian costumes from Bethlehem and Jerusalem along with many art and crafts from Palestine.

Last July the Foundation started photography sessions towards the production of the long awaited book about the Munayyer Collection of embroidered traditional Palestinian and Syrian costumes.

It is thanks to your generosity at PHF’s banquets and to your contributions throughout the year, that the Foundation continues to be successful in educating the public about Arab cultural traditions.

As always, we appreciate your generosity and look forward to your future support so that we can continue doing this important work.

Last November, PHF was instrumental in helping to set up the "Bethlehem Event" display at the English Lutheran Church in LaCrosse, Wisconsin (see article below).

The Foundation participated in Layalee Falasteeniyyeh in celebration of Palestinian culture. The event was sponsored by Students for Palestinian Rights held at the University of Waterloo in Canada. As part of the Film Festival held on Wednesday and Thursday, March 16 and 17, 2005 the organizers showed PHF video "Palestinian Costumes and Embroidery: A Precious Legacy" along with the films of Jenin Jenin, Gaza Strip, Tragedy in the Holy Land and Peace, Propaganda and the Promised land.

 

Farah Munayyer, PHF co-founder and Vice President, was instrumental in raising about $10,000.00 to help in setting up the ALL Palestine exhibit at the Heritage Museum of the Learning Center at the Antiochian Village for a period of twelve months. This exhibit will be followed by a display of The Munayyer Syrian collection and eventually a display of PHF all Arab collection. The money raised served to buy new  mannequins and to build a platforms and pedestals to accommodate the mannequins in a professional and artistic display.

 

Palestinian Costumes at Lutheran Church in Wisconsin

By Ruth Monson, LaCrosse, Wisconsin     

Every four years since 1980, members of the English Lutheran Church in LaCrosse, Wisconsin have presented to members of their community and neighboring areas what has become to be known as the "Bethlehem Event". This past December, 6000 visitors, many traveling long distances, came to experience this outstanding production. There they gained an in-depth view of what it might have been like in the village of Bethlehem during the time of Christ's birth 2,000 years ago.

As they journeyed through the village they witnessed the daily activity of its people, culminating their visit at the manger setting where Mary and Joseph were found with the new-born Christ Child. All participants were dressed in clothing of the time. Even live animals were part of the scene.

In 1996, the Event was expanded to include the addition of a Middle East "museum". It endeavored to provide an educational experience for the visitor to learn about the region of the world into which Christ was born - not only at the time and place in history but also in the broader Middle East then and in the years which have followed.

This year's "museum" highlighted eight pictorial panels with a focus on the following areas of Middle East interest: Jerusalem, Bethlehem, The Olive Tree, Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, Mount Sinai, Palestinian costumes, The Spread of Early Christianity in the Middle East and Islamic Arts in the Middle East. In addition, numerous items and artifacts identified with and typically found in Middle Eastern countries were on display. The "Crown Jewels" were two priceless, authentic Palestinian wedding dresses from the early twentieth century, one from Bethlehem, the other from Ramallah, beautifully displayed on mannequins. We felt privileged to receive these proud examples of Palestinian heritage, culture, beauty and identity.

We made an earnest effort to share the human side of the Palestinian people in this way, the dresses serving as a beautiful non-political aesthetic statement. In addition to the City and the Museum, the 2004 Event included for the first time a "souk" or as it was called, the "King's Bazaar", where we offered for sale beautiful Palestinian crafts from the Bethlehem region. Our two-fold goal was to purchase items from artisans and retailers from Bethlehem to assist in marketing such work during this difficult period of their economy and also to send all profits, following the event, to a specific project or need in Bethlehem. Both goals were realized. The "souk" was very well received by the guests and proved to be an outstanding success.

We at the English Lutheran Church are indebted to you, Hanan and Farah Munayyer, and to the Palestinian Heritage Foundation for sharing these wonderful treasures with us and extend to you our grateful appreciation and thanks.

 

Embroidering the Fabric of Life

By David Hurst, Pittsburg, PA

You’ve probably never seen a Nativity like this one. Baby Jesus is capped and swaddled within a soft, off-white linen bag with a maroon-embroidered wrap. Mary is wearing an A-line dress with vertical stripes of red and purple and blue. On her sleeves and chest are intricately embroidered panels, bearing symbols of the Tree of Life, the Cross of  Christ and the four, Gospel writing apostles: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Joseph is there, too, in his black-and-white-checked headwear, camelhair robe and long, linen shirt.

This Nativity is part of a special exhibition at the Antiochian Heritage Museum near Ligonier. But don’t worry about missing it because the Christmas season is coming to a close. For “From Bethlehem to Jerusalem: A Glimpse from the Past” is really about Bethlehem’s prominence within the rich textile tradition of Palestine – and this exhibition will remain open at least through March, 2005.

By the time of Christ, 2000 years ago, Palestine already was known as a textile center. Villages spun and wove their own linen and wool and were renowned for their purple fabric, the dye for which came from a special mollusk. Basic, A-line style of dresses and tunics and the flowing headdresses that clothed Mary, Joseph and Jesus and their contemporaries were worn by Palestinians right into the mid-20th century.

But it was in the centuries following biblical times that Palestine’s textile traditions blossomed. Clothes grew more colorful and distinctive by region. And by the 7th century, women were adding elaborate embroidery to their dresses. Young women would start on their bridal trousseau as they approached marriageable age, embroidering panels for the chest, front, back and sides of the dresses. Embroiderers would use symbols, colors and patterns from their home area. So by the Second Millennium, Palestinians could look at the back panel of a woman’s dress and know whether she was from Jerusalem or Jaffa, Ramallah or Galilee.

These textiles traditions evolved but never changed until the mid-20th century, when much of Palestine became the Jewish state of Israel. Many displaced Palestinians had to sell their embroidered clothing for income and began wearing Western styles. Today, more than folk art, this clothing is considered a vital remnant of a disappearing Palestinian culture. Which is why New Jersey-based, Palestinian-Americans Farah and Hanan Munayyer have assembled what may be the world’s largest collection of Palestinian-embroidered clothing, and why a portion of their collection is on display at the Antiochian Heritage Museum.

This clothing transcends contemporary politics. Arabs, Christians and Moslems alike, living in the Holy Land over the centuries, wore these garments. Crusaders came, saw Christian symbols embroidered into dress panels, and took those patterns back to Europe.

In a world so violently divided these days by cultural and theological differences, a serene unity can be sensed in these skillfully stitched dresses and tunics and headdresses.

Why would such garments be on display at a conference center tucked into a niche of Laurel Hill near Ligonier? The center is owned and operated by the Antiochian Orthodox Church, which traces its roots to one of the oldest churches in Christendom, Antioch in Syria. Many of our region’s residents are Orthodox and – thanks to Orthodoxy’s traditional emphasis on ethnicity and heritage – provide colorful cultural threads within our own region’s tapestry.

A visit to the Antiochian Heritage Museum to experience this Palestinian clothing exhibit just might give you a sense of connection with the Middle East. In the intricate patterns of Palestinian embroidery, you may see symbols of your life. 

Dave Hurst is a former TV reporter, newspaper writer and magazine editor, who is now a freelance writer and producer. To respond to this column or to contact the columnist, write in care of the Daily American or e-mail dhurst50@atlanticbb.net.

 

PHF Participates in WESPAC Fundraising Event

To help bring the exhibition "Made in Palestine" to the City of New York, the Palestinian Heritage Foundation participated in the Westchester, WESPAC activities held on November 20, 2004 at the White Plains Community Center. The exhibit was recently on display in Houston, Texas. PHF set up an exquisite display of embroidery made by the Palestinians in Lebanon. Also, the Foundation raffled on behalf of Al Badia Association of Lebanon, a beautiful hand made embroidered veil. Income from the raffle that was over the cost of the scarf was donated by PHF towards the "Made in Palestine" exhibit.

 

VISIONS AND VOICES OF PALESTINE

By Nada Khader, WESPAC Foundation Director

WESPAC Foundation, in collaboration with Al-Jisser, presented an evening of art, music and poetry to support the "Made in Palestine" art exhibition on Saturday, November 20th, 2004, at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York. It was the first such event of its kind for Westchester County and was enormously successful, with over 600 people attending to support Palestinian art and culture.

WESPAC Foundation is a peace and justice educational organization with a very diverse membership based in White Plains and has served the Westchester Community since 1974. The organization includes Jews and Arabs and has been actively educating the local community on the human rights aspect of the Palestine/Israel conflict, strongly advocating for a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict. The evening was part of an effort to bring the MADE IN PALESTINE art exhibition, a traveling show of contemporary art of 22 Palestinians, curated by the Houston Station Museum Director James Harithas, to the New York area.

Several Palestinian artists and organizations benefited from the evening, including UNWRA (United Nations Works and Relief Agency for Palestinian Refugees), the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees, Palestinian women in Lebanon who hand-embroidered many items that were sold that evening, and several local Palestinian artists who exhibited some of their artwork at the County Center. 

The Palestinian Heritage Foundation was also part of the evening and exhibited some exquisite traditional Palestinian embroidery. Haifa Bint-Kadi, a Westchester-based Palestinian mosaics artist and a WESPAC Foundation Board member, was instrumental in organizing the evening, displaying the art and was very effective in dealing with the media.  

All in all, it was a wonderful introduction to Palestinian culture for the local community. It was also the beginning of a very crucial dialogue that needs to happen between the Jewish Community and the Palestinian Community in Westchester County. Despite some initial misunderstandings that lead to widespread media coverage of this event, people who actually attended the evening were left with a very positive impression of Palestinian culture. Many thanks to all who made the evening so successful!

 

Letters to PHF..................

Dear Mr. Munayyer,

Finally I am happy to tell you that the money transfer has arrived. We would like to thank you again for your donation and hope that you would agree that it will be used to buy a new piano for our Conservatory in Jerusalem. A plaque could be attached to the piano stating that it is a donation from the Palestinian Heritage Foundation. I think this is a nice idea that shows that Palestine and culture in Palestine is being supported by Palestinians in the world. I hope you agree. Greetings to you and to Mrs. Munayyer, hoping that the next year will bring freedom to our people.

Suhail Khoury

 

Dear Sir /Madam First of all I would like to thank you for the great work you have done regarding this web site that opens the eyes of people that don't know much about our great and rich culture by trying to change the way some think about Arabs and our culture.     

Manal Hayek

 

I am a Palestinian Jordanian living in the United Arab Emirates. I am interested to know all about the history, customs and tradition and more about your work. I am one of the women who wears traditional Palestinian dresses in all occasions to show this art that comes from our lovely country. God bless us all and thank you all again.

Soumud Noubani

 

Greetings from Nazareth! I am writing to you on behalf of the Arab Cultural Association (ACA) located in Nazareth. The ACA is an impartial, independent, non profit secular organization. The association was founded in 1998 in order to foster Arab Palestinian heritage, and change the cultural atmosphere by encouraging cultural understanding as well as creation.

We are striving to achieve change through community based educational projects in the fields of history, language, art, music and cultural self definition. All of our activities are planned in a way to encourage and promote pluralism, tolerance and democracy.   Palestinians in Israel have to find their place within Israel, and within the Arab world as well. Constant exchange of art and culture should take place to teach the Arab world about our community, and to let people here feel they are a part of this world. We believe that only if we know who we are, we can build healthy relations with others.   

The ACA is vital to maintaining an Arab Palestinian cultural identity and preserving a collective memory. With your help, we can continue to provide this kind of support to our community. It is our hope, the  Palestinian Arabs in Israel will find a way for an honest and equal dialogue with the Jewish community and thus create a more equal and just society in Israel.  

We are currently planning our activities for next year, especially a month of activities for the remembrance of the "Nakba". We found your very interesting web site on a search in Google, and now we are wondering if you would consider cooperating with us. We thought about an exhibition of Palestinian dresses and accessories, in combination with lectures and field trips to destroyed villages.

As it is written on your site, these dresses are not just dresses, but part of the identity, and every village had its own style and patterns. All of these, are things very little known among the Palestinian community here, mostly due to the constant effort of the government to exclude the Palestinian culture from the official agenda. So, if you see any possibility to support us in our efforts, please let us know.

We are looking forward to the opportunity to work with you and would be happy to send you further information. Thank you for your time and consideration.  

Sincerely  

Melanie Atrash

Development Director

 

Dear Hanan and Farah

Greetings from Al-Awda in Toronto, Canada.

Please allow me to introduce myself - my name is Ayeda Ayed and I work and live in Canada (as a biochemist at the university of Toronto) and also for AL-Awda in Toronto (check our website www.al-awda.ca). We have noted with great interest your heritage project and have included the link to your website on our al-awda site. We have also been thinking about starting a similar project here in Canada and would appreciate any pointers  for starting and maintaining such an endeavor. We would love to hear and learn about your experience in this regard.

On another note, I have noticed that you have made a film on Palestinian embroidery (Palestinian Costumes and Embroidery: A Precious Legacy). We are very interested in obtaining a copy for educational, non-profit screenings. Please do let us know details for obtaining this film (cost if any, who to contact) then we will give you our physical mailing address. What year was the film made and how long is it?

Great site and work, hope to hear from you soon.

Warmest Regards,

Ayeda Ayed Al-Awda Canada

 

Farah, Thank you for sending me the newsletter and the images of the exhibition. The pieces in the display are spectacular - one more amazing than the next. I'm so glad you and Hanan began your collection. I would love to see the new doll collection sometime too.

Miriam Lobel, NJ

 

Dear Farah,

Many thanks for compiling this beautiful aspect of Palestinian Heritage. I've watched the video 3 times already, with friends. Yes, I did see your web site first, then when I read Shira's review, it helped "seal the deal".

Salaam, Jinaan 

I believe the dresses have a life of their own ! You can feel the spirit of the old Palestinian people. Your family is privileged to care for & display them. I wish I was there to see them !

Take care,

Jinaan Sherberry

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