Palestinian Heritage Foundation 

Newsletter of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation
  Volume 12,  No. 4                        December 2006

نشرة مؤسسة التراث الفلسطيني

Palestinian Heritage Foundation
20th Anniversary Gala
Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Palestinian Heritage Foundation will celebrate its 20th Anniversary
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Marriott Hotel at Glenpointe
Teaneck, New Jersey

Kindly mark your calendar and reserve your Banquet tickets early.
Seating will be assigned on a first purchase basis.

Tickets are $100.00.  Checks should be made payable to “PHF” and mailed to:

P. O. Box 531
West Caldwell, NJ  07007-0531

Supporters of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation who are unable to attend and would like to send a tax-deductible 20th Anniversary Gift to the Foundation can mail their checks to the above address. As always, your contributions are most appreciated.

Dear Friends, Curators, Donors and Supporters

As the exhibit comes to a close and the boxes are packed, I wanted to share our tremendous success with you all. The idea for this exhibit grew from having tea with my dear friend Huguette Calande and learning about the Association for the Development of Palestinian Camps, INAASH. Through the incredible support of so many people and organizations, together we created a truly rare experience for the Los Angeles community.

Attendance during the exhibit was high and represented a 40% increase from the previous year. Nearly 5,000 people visited the museum from LA, San Diego, Irvine, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and many more cities in California. We also hosted several school tours, children’s workshops, lectures and a musical concert on sacred music from the Middle East. Guests were deeply touched and inspired by the visit and filled the pages of the comment book with thoughtful and compassionate remarks. To date, we have raised $30,000 for INAASH and are still selling work.

My two most memorable encounters were with a 20-year old American university student who has never met a Palestinian nor seen the embroidery in person yet spent two years embroidering a dress based on her internet research, which she proudly wore to the museum. She studied the work in the exhibit for nearly 3 hours and left transfixed. On another afternoon I met two Palestinian-American grandmothers that came to the museum with their wedding albums and stopped everyone in the gallery to show off their bridal dress and “handsome” husbands. Old friends reunited in the galleries and children were able to get a glimpse of their own heritage. The goodwill the exhibit created can only be described as magical.

Developing this momentous exhibit has been an absolutely amazing experience from beginning to end. I sincerely hope that these striking symbols of art and national identity travel more often around our shared world.

A huge thank you to all of you for making this happen.

Many blessings for the future.

Maryna Hrushetska
Executive Director
Craft and Folk Art Museum


Sovereign Threads

By Pat McDonnell Twair

Reprint from the
The Middle East

London, UK, October 2006

FOR MORE THAN half a century, Israel has denied the narrative of the Palestinian people, their millennial attachment to the land of Canaan/Palestine, the cultural depth of their society and even their humanity. Now, an exhibition in Los Angeles, Sovereign Threads: A History of Palestinian Embroidery, validates the unique Palestinian identity through the needlework patterns produced by its women over countless generations.

More than 150 pieces from the most extensive collection of Palestinian embroidery in the US will be on view until 8 October at the city’s Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM). Exquisite examples of regional Palestinian ceremonial dresses, jackets, scarves and embroidered pieces are on loan from Hanan and Farah Munayyer, founders of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation.

The Munayyers, both born in Palestine in the 1940s, have a mission to educate westerners about Palestinian culture, through its millennium-old tradition of needlework which thrives to this day.

The couple live in New Jersey where they have assembled more than 1,500 museum-class works of Palestinian embroidery. Professionally, the Munayyers are pharmaceutical research scientists who, over the years, when they vacationed in Palestine, purchased traditional dresses of the Jerusalem area. However, they did not become serious collectors until 1987, when they learned of a collection of about 100 embroidered works – including 67 dresses – was about to go on the market. Rather than see the pieces sold separately, the Munayyers mortgaged their home in order to buy the entire assemblage.

Three years later, they acquired the collection of Rolla Foley, who traveled to Palestine in 1938 to teach at the Friends’ School in Ramallah. During his stay in the area he collected more than 500 pieces of embroidery, which he systematically catalogued according to village and date of origin.

Hanan Munayyer began researching archaeological and historical tombs to document the origins of Palestinian garments and embroidery. After founding the Palestinian Heritage Foundation in 1992, she and her husband went on to produce a video on Palestinian regional costumes and embroidery.

Circumstances leading to the inauguration of the Los Angeles exhibition began in February 2005 when Craft and Folk Art Museum director, Maryna Hrushestska, visited the Venice Beach home of Lebanese-American artist Huguette Caland. Hrushestska, whose ancestral roots lie in Ukraine, noticed the beautifully embroidered pillows in Caland’s studio and remarked on how much they resembled her grandmother’s needlework.

She was surprised to learn they were not Ukranian needlework but embroidery produced by Palestinian women in refugee camps. Caland, whose father, Bishara Al Khouri, was the first president of Lebanon from 1943 to 1952, explained she co-founded INAASH (Association for the Development of Palestinian Camps) which creates jobs for refugee women and sells their embroidery.

Hrushetska‘s imagination was captured by the image of refugee women sustaining their cultural traditions as well as supporting their families through embroidery so Caland put her in touch with museum curator Salwa Mikdadi Nashashibi in Berkeley, CA, which led to an introduction to the Munayyers.

Months of preparation went into the exhibition which has been largely funded by the Arab American community. Nonetheless, it took courage on Hrushetska’s part to present a Palestinian show on Wilshire Boulevard’s Museum Row, an area that also is home to the highest concentration of Jews in Los Angeles.

Since the exhibition opened July, Hrushetska says attendance has increased by 25 percent “and many guests sign up as members which is the highest compliment we can receive.” she added. The title, “Sovereign Threads,” is a comment on the displacement of Palestinians throughout the world. Hrushetska states in the exhibition brochure: “The term ‘sovereign’ describes self-rule, autonomy and independence – all still painfully absent for Palestinians in the political sphere.”

She explains how the threads of Palestinian tradition are passed through generations, weaving a fabric of cultural cohesiveness that testify to the fact that neither war, conflict nor displacement can erase national identity.

“As they revive a culture in peril, the Palestinian women who create embroidery in refugee camps are preserving their own imperiled dignity,” she concludes. “War afflicts the deepest scars upon women, so it is truly remarkable that it is women who seek to beautify their world even in the most dire conditions.”

Hanan Munayyer, explains the origins of proto-Palestinian attire from the Canaanite period circa 1500 B.C. when Egyptian paintings depicted Canaanites wearing A-shaped garments. The distinctive silhouette is observed in a 1200 B.C. ivory engraving from Megiddo, Palestine, identified as a “Syrian tunic.”

When Damascus artisans perfected steel blades from the 8th century onward, fine needles also were manufactured which made it possible to embroider geometric designs rather than to weave them into fabric. Munayyer noted that the square chest piece and decorated back panel so ubiquitous in Palestinian dresses are documented in 13th century Andalusia.

Each hamlet and village created motifs that were an identity badge for its female inhabitants. The eight-pointed star, the moon, birds, a diamond-shaped icon to ward off the Evil Eye, palm leaves and stair steps were common patterns.

Her research led Munayyer to many revelations including the fact that the tall cone-shaped hats, often associated with women of King Arthur’s court, were not imported into Lebanon, but rather, the Crusaders saw these hats on Levantine women and exported them back to Europe.

Similarly, Hanan Munayyer was able to tell Hrushetska that she had been entirely incorrect when she assumed Palestinian pillow covers were from Ukraine. From the 15th century onwards, Orthodox Christians made pilgrimages to the Holy Land and returned with embroidery techniques learned there.

Munayyer says that for centuries, girls learned to embroider from the age of six or seven years of age. Women relatives would assist each teenager in sewing three to eight embroidered dresses for her trousseau, which would last for the rest of her life. An elaborate garment for weddings and holidays could take as long as one year to embroider. However, this may be the final generation to produce Palestinian embroidery which is a tedious, painstaking job that women will gladly trade for work outside of the refugee camps.

Distinctive regional motifs capture the viewer’s attention in the Los Angeles exhibition. Luscious eye-candy is the only way to describe the Ghabani dress from the Jerusalem region of the 1940s. It features a couching stitch in the Bethlehem style on yellow Syrian silk fabric. Contrasting with this is a multi-colored tafsileh dress from the Jaffa and Lydda area of the 1940s. The dress does not have any embroidery on it which leads Hanan to refer to it as a “I need to get married fast dress.”

In the Bedouin region to the south in Khan Yunis is a 1940’s cotton dress with cross stitch embroidery and long tapered sleeves. This contrasts with a costume from the El- Khalil region of the 1940s replete with a wikayet el darahem headdress and a miklab vest of Ottoman coins worn over a dress embroidered in silk thread.

While Ramallah is recognized for its white linen dresses with red or rust-hued embroidery, one of the most beautiful examples of its needlework is a taqsireh jacket from 1950s Ein Karem embroidered on black velvet.

Also on view are ceramics by Najat El-Taji El-Khairy who has replicated Palestinian embroidery designs on porcelain and ceramic tiles. The Quebec-based artist says this is her way to preserve traditional Palestinian motifs on a non-perishable medium.

Sales of the embroidery by women in Lebanese refugee camps are robust at the museum gift shop. The latest word received by Hrushetska was recently informed, mercifully all the women in the camps survived the Israeli blitz of Lebanon.


Foundation Acquires Two Antique Palestinian Dresses

Immediately after the “Sovereign Threads” exhibit at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles California closed on October 8, 2006 , the Munayyers received many letters from visitors to the exhibit informing us about Palestinian dresses in their possession.

Two weeks after visiting the “Sovereign Threads” exhibit, Jinaan told us that she had two Palestinian dresses and agreed to sell them to the Munayyers.  One dress is from the village of Beit Dajan in the Jaffa area and the other from the El Khalil region.

Jinaan had for the past 30 years been interested in Middle Eastern culture, including Arabic language, music, arts and crafts, cooking, storytelling and philosophy. Jinaan has her own small business, Caravans East, that is really a hobby for collecting exotic textiles, books and DVDs for enjoyment and study, then reselling them.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
The Munayyers would like to thank Jinaan for her generosity and for her willingness to allow the Munayyers to be the new home for her dresses.


Mrs. Ramona Gibbs Donates A Palestinian Dress To PHF

Mrs. Ramona Gibbs of Tustin, California has donated an antique black Ramallah dress to the Palestinian Heritage Foundation.  Mrs. Gibbs wrote to the Foundation expressing her desire to donate a Palestinian dress that she owns.  The donated dress is  embroidered with red silk thread on black hand woven fabric and dates back to the 1920s. The  sleeves are covered with  taffeta silk fabric embroidered with typical Bethlehem couching stitch. 

In her letter, Mrs. Gibbs wrote:  “I feel very good to donate the dress. I know I have found the right home for it and it will be appreciated for what it is.”  The Foundation would like to thank Mrs. Ramona Gibbs for donating the dress to the Foundation.

Mrs. Margaret Carr Donates to PHF

Mrs. Margaret Carr of Los Angeles, California, who previously donated three Palestinian dresses, has recently written to the Munayyers saying: “You may remember me from a few years back when I donated  a number of Palestinian dresses and other artifacts. I recently visited the Sovereign Threads exhibit at the Craft and Folk Art Museum. It was a lovely exhibition and very well attended. I was amazed at the extent of your collection and the historical background of so many of the pieces. I have a number of Palestinian embroidered pieces (apparently taken from dresses) which are framed. I wonder if you would be interested in same for your collection. I visited your website and was so pleased that you included me in your list of donors. Thank you.”

On December 6, 2006, the Munayyers received Mrs. Carr’s five framed pieces of embroidery. We would like to thank Mrs. Carr for her generosity in donating these items.

 Aramco Services Company Generously Donates Printing Services to PHF

The Palestinian Heritage Foundation offers its utmost thanks to Aramco Services Company for its generosity in providing its professional resources to print for the Foundation over 200 high resolution images of antique Palestinian dresses and accessories, which were photographed in a New York studio.

Special thanks go to Directors of Public Affairs Jamil Dandany and Deya Elyas, Saudi Aramco World editors Rob Arndt and Dick Doughty and printer Jan Patton for making this possible.


Hanan Lectures at the College of New Jersey

On Wednesday, October 18, 2006 Hanan Munayyer was a guest speaker at the College of New Jersey in Trenton as part of the college curriculum on Middle East studies. In her presentation, Hanan used slides and a selection of antique embroidered dresses, veils, pillows, jewelry and headpieces from the Munayyer Collection. This lecture was attended by about fifty students of the Middle East Department and other faculties.

PHF Mail…….

Dear Hanan and Farah

Congratulations on all your achievements. I wish I could have seen your exhibition. I have a new booklet out here called Embroidery from Palestine, which will be published in the US by University of Washington Press in March. With all good wishes for all your efforts, more needed than ever before.

Shelagh Weir, London

Dear Farah and Team,

Many thanks for the video Palestinian Costumes and Embroidery: A Precious legacy. It arrived Tuesday-I have already watched it three times. Thank you so much for preserving and displaying these garments, Keep up the good work. Best wishes from Australia,


Dear Mr. and Mrs. Munayyer

On Saturday, Oct. 7th I was fortunate to see the exhibit of Palestinian embroidered dresses at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. I only found out about the exhibit at the last minute or I would have gone in July when you were present, but as it was, I had surgery in August, so it was touch and go that I would get there at all. However, as I have owned one of these wonderful dresses since I bought it in Jerusalem in 1966 and have always wanted to know something about it, I felt I just had to go.

I am enclosing photos and I would be so grateful if you could tell me something about this dress that would satisfy my curiosity. Thank you so very much for mounting this wonderful exhibit and allowing me to learn about Palestinian embroidery.

Yours truly,
Lauraine Effress, CA


Sadly, I found out too late about the exhibit at the CAFAM in L.A. This work just thrills me. However, I did see your collection at the Mingei exhibit in San Diego. I have 5 dresses purchased between 1968 and 1985. I knew they were special, and I have always treasured them, but through your highlighting of this work, I am reminded and gratified. Through your excellent website I have a start at identifying them. If I sent you photos could you identify them for me? Also, any idea how to appraise their dollar value?

I thank you for your efforts to collect and use your collection in educating the public about this rich heritage. Thank you again, you are to be highly commended.

Heidi Farkas, CA

Dear Hanan:

Apologize for delay in writing to congratulate you on the success of the exhibition you curated for the LA Craft Museum. I always knew you would be the most qualified and deserving person to assemble such a great exhibition. I read the reviews and they were very positive. Thank you for all your work on behalf of the Palestinians.

I have been very busy with several projects in Palestine and attending conferences. I am currently curating another exhibition at al Hoash for the artist Ibrahim Noubani. I am now based in Amman for this year working on projects in the region.

Salwa Mikdadi, CA


Just wish to tell you, I loved the exhibit at the Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum. Even more so since I own one similar dress, a silk embroidery on black cotton, embroidered by women in the Negev, which I purchased about twenty years ago in a small store in old Jerusalem. Also, although I don’t expect to leave this world too soon, I’ll be glad to will my special dress to the foundation. Thank you so much for bringing so much beauty to our world.

Anne Pauline Warman, CA


Dear Hanan and Farah,

Thank you for sending all the articles, letters and beautiful comments on this very successful exhibition held this summer in Los Angeles. Your work and dedication are unequal. You make every Palestinian proud. Words cannot express my pride for being one. I want to thank you both again for displaying my artwork in this historic exhibition, which was created out of pride and love for our beloved homeland.

Regards to all

Najat El Khairy, Canada

To Whom It May Concern:

I am a senior Graphic Design Student in the American University of Beirut doing my thesis on Embroidery in the Middle East. I am still in the phase of collecting information. Through your website I noticed how intricate your work is and how you still adhere to traditional concepts and quality, something that got lost in most embroidery works. I would really appreciate it if you can supply me with samples of works [good quality photos] and any extra information about the origins of the work, their artists, origins of designs worked on them, prices…or maybe supply me with links where I can see details of the works. [old and recent] Thank you for your time, I am looking forward for your input, you cannot imagine how helpful it will be for my thesis.

Souad Al-Merheb


Palestinian Costumes & Embroidery:
A Precious Legacy

A Video Review By Shira

To review the video by Shira click the link below: