Palestinian Heritage Foundation 

Newsletter of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation
   Volume 11, No. 2                               July 2005    

نشرة مؤسسة التراث الفلسطيني


Palestinian costumes, art and crafts at the 
Antiochian Heritage Museum in Bolivar, Pennsylvania.

Garden surrounding museum

Over 300 items from the Hanan and Farah Munayyer and the Palestinian Heritage Foundation’s collections are on display at the Antiochian Heritage Museum in Bolivar. The garments include over 40 thobs, along with shawls, jackets and headgear. Also on display are complete men’s attire including kumbaz of various Syrian silk fabric, shirwals, abayehs, laffeh, and hattas.
                                                                                                                  The display represents all region of Palestine including Jaffa, Lydda and Ramleh, Jerusalem and Bethlehem,
El Khalil, Ramallah, Gaza, Galilee in the north, and the Naqab Desert in the south. 

Paintings by Jihan Tannous, Irena Karkabi and six rare original water color paintings from 1930s, by Anna Rychter May are also showcased in the exhibit.

Many of the items on display including dresses, scarves, jackets, men’s attire and Syrian brass lamps and utensils were originally purchased from the collection of the late Dr. Rolla Foley.

The opening ceremony commenced on Saturday, May 7, 2005 in the presence of many guests who came from as far as New Jersey, Ohio, New York and Washington DC. The local media was

Antiochian Heritage Museum

sure not to miss this opportunity. The program included a reception, a lecture, a tour of the exhibit, a Gala Arabic Banquet and a Violin Concert by Hanna Khoury.

His Eminence Metropolitan Philip Saliba, Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America presided over the ceremonies and gave the keynote address following the Gala Banquet.

The exhibition was made possible in part through generous donations from the following:

Samih and Samira Darwazah, Jordan

Munther and Dalia Karaman, Ohio

Charles and Lina Abboud, MN

Ziad and Naila Asali, MD

Grace Austin, NJ

John and Nadia Joubran, NJ

Isam Salah and Betsy Haddad, NY

Issa and Josephina Abboud, NJ

Salim and Julie Abboud, NJ

Musa and Asma Ghannam, PA

Emanuel and Ikhlas Munayyer, NJ

Zuhair and Jean Suidan, CT

Michael and Maha Kabbash, NJ

Amin and Lina Amireh, NJ

Mousa and Ghada Mitwasi, NJ

Samir and Oranie Khoury, NJ

Samuel and Adele Munayyer, CA

Peter and Mary El Masri, NJ

Farah and Hanan Munayyer, NJ

St. Elias Fellowship, NJ

United Palestinian Appeal, DC

Palestinian Heritage Foundation, NJ

Americans for Middle East Understanding, NY

The Palestinian Heritage Foundation would like to take this opportunity to thank all those whose generous donation made this historic exhibition of Palestinian costumes at the Antiochian Heritage Museum a success. Special thanks go to Deacon Glenn McIntyre whose help in setting up the exhibit was essential and very much valued. Also, PHF would like to thank Fr. Michael Massouh, Executive Director of the Learning Center at the Antiochian Village, Ms. Denise O’Neal of the Marketing Department and the team that helped in the preparations for the reception, Gala Banquet and the overnight stay of all the guests.

From the Media:

“Threads of Tradition”

An Exhibition of Palestinian Bridal and Folk Dress at Antiochian Village

By Denise O’Neal

The Ligonier Echo

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Discover one of the most beautiful elements of the Palestinian culture and heritage through a new temporary exhibition, “Threads of Tradition,” at the Antiochian Heritage Museum at Antiochian Village Conference and Retreat Center. Represented are hand-loomed, hand-embroidered fabrics that through tradition and toil by families of women were formed into ceremonial dresses actually worn by Middle Eastern brides at their weddings and then throughout their married life for ceremonial occasions. The exhibition showcases regional ethnic folk costumes that demonstrate the textiles and embroidery of eight Palestinian regions from the Naqab Desert in the south and the Dead Sea in the east to Galilee in northern Palestine.

“The exhibition illustrates more than exquisite threads of silk, silver and gold. The intricate designs reflect the bride’s identity through regional symbolism in design, stitches and color,” said Hanan Karaman Munayyer, guest curator for the exhibition. “As people would gather in market places or for local festivals, their regional dress would show pride and loyalty to their region, also referred to as their clan,” she added. Hanan is president and co-founder of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation (PHF) and since 1987 has personally developed the extensive 1,500-piece costume and textiles collection, the largest in the United States.

The costumes and accessories displayed span approximately one hundred years, reflecting dress from the 1860’s to 1940’s. But the origin of styles and form dates back to antiquity and Canaanite times of 1500 to 1200 BC. All dresses throughout the ages to 1940 were cut from natural fabrics on a similar A-line shape with triangular sleeves, referred to by modern archeologists as “Syrian Tunics.” These “Tunics” were adorned with intricate cross stitching in colorful silk threads with heavy embroidery on the chest, the sleeves, and the skirt’s center front, back and sides. They were accessorized with a girdle (belt), which gathered the tunic to shape; a unique headdress (hat or cap), which was decorated with a woman’s personal wealth in coins received from family, friends and her husband as wedding gifts; and finally an elaborately embroidered and fringed veil (scarf or shawl).

Many of the geometric patterns displayed are dated from the fourth to second centuries BC. These patterns symbolically represented hope, prosperity, good health and protection regardless of faith as Middle Eastern people lived in harmony within their region in earlier times. Nature was

Dress from Haifa, Galilee

a common design element as shown in stitches of the moon, cypress tree, the tree of life, and the bird of paradise. Later stitching patterns incorporated Christian symbolism such as the cross and medallions symbolic of the four apostles. However, patterns, materials used, and color reflected region more than they reflected faith.

Men generally did professional weaving, but the detailed embroidery work and the special patterns were within the exclusive domain of women. In the period of Muslim Arab rule of the seventh century forward when textile arts flourished, delicate design was likely possible due to the availability of finer needles from improved steel manufacturing techniques in Damascus. This is reflected in tenth century fabric remnants of fine embroidery that have actually been found in Egypt. So over the course of history, the refined needlework craftsmanship came from a communion of people, both men and women, working in their defined roles yet ultimately together to achieve exquisite results.

In addition, the collection demonstrates the use of natural dyes in brilliant threads that appear luminous against indigo, black and natural linen backgrounds or that embellish as an artistic compliment to luxurious colorful silks and rich velvets. Age-old recipes for dyes used spices, oak

Dress from Ramallah, 1896

bark, cochineal insects, madder, indigo and other plants and fruits.

The finest embroidery also reflects economic prosperity since it was a leisure craft requiring an investment in time and materials. More sparsely embroidered fabrics did not require as much thread or as much leisure time to stitch. A well-illustrated comparison of the economics of various regions and time periods are shown in the collection on display.

These collected and preserved masterpieces of Middle Eastern ethnic folk dress are a tribute to the countless unknown women who labored with devotion to make them. Little did they realize that each piece would become a script unto itself of ancient symbols and regional heritage that would eventually introduce part of the rich Palestinian and Arabic culture and history to the Western world, from as early as Roman times through the Crusades and Ottoman Rule to the present day.

The “Threads of Tradition” exhibition is on temporary loan from the combined collections of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation and Hanan and Farah Munayyer, both Palestinian born American citizens. The exhibition is available for self-guided viewing May 12, 2005 until November every Thursday and Saturday from 11:00 AM until 5:00 PM.


Threads of Tradition

By Ann Dudurich,

Tribune-Review, PA

Friday, May 6, 2005

New Jersey couple loans a portion of their ancient Palestinian costume collection to the Antiochian Heritage Museum near Bolivar.

It’s a tale of needle and thread: a story woven from fabrics of long ago.

“Threads of Tradition” – an exhibit filled with antique embroidered Palestinian dresses, shawls and scarves – offers a glimpse into an ancient culture largely unfamiliar to the Western world.

Costumes from the villages of Deir Tarif and Beit Dajan.

Collectors Farah and Hanan Munayyer, of West Caldwell, NJ., have dedicated 18 years to their art. They’ve gathered nearly 1,500 items, including 400 dresses.

“A result of hard work and achievement,” says Farah Munayyer, who was born in Jaffa and his wife Hanan was born in Haifa. The couple is pleased to loan a portion of their assemblage to the Antiochian Heritage Museum, near Bolivar, for a six-month exhibit.

“Threads of Tradition” will open to the public Saturday with a multicultural gala celebration. Visitors will be treated to an hors d’oeuvre reception in the museum lobby, followed by a lecture and tour of the exhibition. After browsing the collection, guests will dine on traditional Syrian and Arabic dishes. The evening will conclude with a concert by violin virtuoso Hanna Khoury. Desserts and special coffees will be served in the lobby afterward.

The Munayyer collection spans nearly a century – from the 1860s to the 1940s – and represents stylistic tradition inherent to ancient Palestine. Because 19th century travel was difficult, villages remained isolated. As a result, clothing and accessories evolved into a statement of region.

Local style in Ramallah, for example, incorporated palm trunk-shaped embroidery in cross-stitch on the back panels of the dresses. A woman from Bethlehem, on the other hand, would be

Costumes from Jerusalem and Bethlehem

recognizable in vivid purple linen, with an elegant embroidery done in couching stitch. Regardless of region, the colors are vivid. The needlework is painstaking. 

A remarkable collection, to be sure; one the Munayyers are eager to share with others. So much so, the couple founded the Palestinian Heritage Foundation in 1992 as a way to preserve Palestinian arts and crafts. Their goal: education.

“We want to tell the world, ‘Yes, we do have a culture. We do have a civilization, predating the apostles,” says Farah Munayyer. “We want to tell the world that we are not just terrorists and suicide bombers, but rather people of culture, history and great civilization that goes back to 2000 B.C. when the Canaanites inhabited Palestine.”

With art, he says, comes understanding. “When you follow a political route, many doors are closed to you. Art opens the door, and you can get the message out through the cultural approach.”

It hasn’t always been easy. Farah Munayyer recalls a time not so long ago when the foundation found it difficult to recruit Arab-American models. “They were shy and didn’t care to do it.” he says.

The Munayyers no longer have to coax. “They are proud to wear these dresses. They are proud of their heritage,” says Farah Munayyer. “That was one of the goals we wanted to achieve.”


Palestinian Historical Garb on Display

By Dawn law


Monday, May 9, 2005

Guests attending the Saturday opening of “Threads of Tradition” at the Antiochian Heritage Museum in Fairfield Township got a personal tour of Palestinian costumes with collector Farah Munayyer.

Munayyer, 64, is an American of Palestinian origin married to Hanan, and father to Maha, Randa and Mona.

from left: Metropolitan Philip, Naila Asali, Dr. Ziad Asali and Dr. Joseph Qutub

Farah and Hanan are pharmaceutical scientists living in West Caldwell, N.J., and co-founders of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation. He was born in Jaffa, and she was born in Haifa. Intending to work in science, they came to the United States in 1970.

  The Munayyers began collecting Palestinian costumes in 1987 and formed the foundation in 1992. They have collected 1,500 artifacts, including dresses, menswear, headdresses, wall hangings, jewelry and shoes.

Munayyer says Hanan has researched and traced Middle Eastern history back to 2000 B.C. With the costumes and a book they plan to publish, they want to share their findings. The book “will include research that was never published before,” Munayyer said. “The dresses and motifs on the dresses would tell the world a different story and project the political message through culture

from left: Nabil Mohamad, Naila Asali, Dr. Ziad Asali and Dr. Joseph Qutub

rather than gunfire. Through culture and art, you can penetrate anything. You can break walls.”

The exhibit travels through the regions of Haifa, Ramallah, Asdud and the coastal region, the Bedouins of the Naqab Desert, El-Khalil, Jerusalem and Bethlehem and Jaffa. Dresses on exhibit date to the mid 1800s, are made of linen, cotton and silk and are generally of an A-line shape with embroidered panels.

In Palestinian culture, it wasn’t polite for men to look women in the face, so the women “were sure they had a very nice back panel,” Munayyer said, smiling. Each town or village had its own color, material and embroidery motifs. For instance, dresses from the Asdud and coastal region contain a gorgeous purple extracted from seashells.

In the former village of Beit Dajan in the Jaffa Region, a typical dress was white because “This is an area where it is very hot,” he said. Also in Jaffa, the panels were embroidered with cypress tree and citrus flower symbols indicating the orange crop grown there. “I know this because I lived there,” Munayyer said. “To separate the citrus fields, they would plant cypress trees between.”

In Ramallah, a prevalent symbol on dresses was the trunk of a palm tree. “Even though Ramallah

Ramallah parent watching their children through the “mashrabiyyeh” window.

has no palm trees, years back people from the Ramallah region came from the village of Shobak across the river Jordan because two different families fought about a man and a woman.”

 Randa Munayyer, 23, a graduate of Georgetown University working in advertising, accompanied her father to the opening in a dress worn in the 1940s in the Naqab Desert. “When people look at the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, they don’t see Palestinians as having a history and they do,” she said. “What I love about this is they use culture to educate people, especially the American public, that Arabs have a history a heritage and an identity that’s positive and very old.”

“Threads of Tradition” is on loan from the combined collections of the Munayyers and the foundation, and is available for viewing until November from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

Seen at the opening: Metropolitan Philip Saliba, archbishop of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America; Father Michael Massouh, executive director of Antiochian Village, where the museum is located; Joseph Qutub, president of Arab Student Aid International; Dr. Ziad Asali, president of the American Taskforce for Palestine; Bruce Jabara; Naila Asali; Virginia Massouh; Father Michael and Vickie Nasser; Mike and Denise O’Neal; Madelon Sheedy; Shirley Iscrupe; Robert and Gladys Laham; Carol Sutherland; Ziad and Claudia Barghash; Laurice Barghash; Salim and Julie Abboud; John and Vernie West; Dick and Helene Moore; and Eissa and Josephina Abboud.

For more information, call 724-238-3677, or visit or


Threads of Tradition Reception

Saturday, May 7, 2005

Threads of Tradition


Saturday, May 7, 2005



In the Mail:

Hi Farah,

I have not had time to explore your whole site but I like what I see.  I wish I had seen some of the material when I was doing picture research earlier this year on costumes. All the best


Dear Sir,

I think your website is great! I would really like to know how I can obtain a copy of “Palestinian Costumes and Embroidery: A Precious Legacy”. I live in Australia and I would like to know how I would go about ordering the Video.

Thank you and keep up the good work.

Farah Sultan, Australia.

Dear Farah and Hanan,

Charles and I enjoyed our visit to the Antiochian Village.  Seeing those beautiful costumes brought back so many memories of Palestine.  What a very beautiful job you both did.  I was intrigued by some of the slides Farah showed and would enjoy seeing them all.  The idea of a book is great.  Thank you so much for including us.

The best to you all,

Carol T. Sutherland
Information Coordinator
Office of Overseas Schools
Department of State

Dear Farah and Hanan

Alla ybaarek fi Hemmetkom. Kol el ehteraam!!

Deeb Daoud, MD, Galilee

Dear Hanan and Farah, 

I want to congratulate you all on a fantastic, informative and educational website.  I sent a link to Ethel Tobach, Ph.D. and Joel Federman, Ph.D.  Both are faculty at the graduate school I’m attending (Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center).  Ethel although officially retired, ran the American Museum of Natural History in NYC.  She collects her pension while she remains active in the day to day operation of the museum.  Joel has a website where he shares information about peaceful conflict resolution and global social transformation.  Joel and Ethel are very active in promoting a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian/Israeli situation.

I admire your continued commitment to sharing the rich and important culture of the Palestinian people and other Arabs.  I wish you all peace, serenity, success and good health always.

Peace and Love,Donna

The web site is great, I did not realize how developed it is. Thank you for including us in the email.

Diane Barsa

Dear Mr. Munayyer,

It is a pleasure reading through the latest newsletter in which the ‘thank you” letter of Suhail Khoury was included. We highly appreciate your support to the Conservatory, and your efforts in the promotion and the preservation of our Palestinian culture. Hope you will be able to visit our institute during your visit to Palestine.


Huda Odeh

Development Officer


Beautiful job on this web site.

George and Elsie Nassor

I found your site while looking for information about Palestine. Very nice and informative. I made a link
from my website, so everyone can enjoy it. If placing this link is a problem, please let me know and
I will remove it from my site.

Jan Kersten, Holland

Palestinian Costumes & Embroidery: A Precious Legacy

A Video Review By Shira

For the video review by Shira click the link below: