Palestinian Heritage Foundation 

Newsletter of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation
  Volume 6, No. 1                              June 2000   

نشرة مؤسسة التراث الفلسطيني

PHF Exhibits at Jerusalem Fund in Washington DC

“Threads of Tradition.” a Palestinian arts and crafts exhibit was inaugurated on Saturday April 1, 2000 by the Palestinian Heritage Foundation at the Jerusalem Fund in Washington D.C. The display will remain open to the public through September 2000.

Deir Yassin village dress on display at the Jerusalem Fund

On display are traditional Palestinian costumes representing Ramallah, Deir Yassin from the Jerusalem region, Beit Dajan from the Jaffa region, Asduud and Masmiyyeh villages from the coastal region, authentic headpieces (Shatweh, Saffeh and Smadeh), from Bethlehem, Beit Dajan and Ramallah, several felt and velvet jackets (Taqseereh) from Bethlehem and Jerusalem, Hebron glass painted with Arabic calligraphy, an olive wood statue of the Last Supper made in Bethlehem, and many other items including authentic silver jewelry. Also on display, are five 1940’s original watercolor paintings from Palestine recently acquired for the Munayyer Collection.

On Sunday, April 2, 2000, the Jerusalem Fund held a reception to commemorate the opening of this unique exhibit. The event, which lasted for three hours, was attended by about 80 guests from the Washington area and friends of PHF and the Jerusalem Fund.

Immediately after the reception, Ms. Heidi Shoup, Executive Director of the Jerusalem Fund introduced Professor Hisham Sharabi, the Fund’s Chairman and Founder. In his opening remarks, Professor Sharabi welcomed the guests and praised PHF’s activities in promoting Arab culture and traditions in the United States.

Following Professor Sharabi’s introduction, Ms. Shoup enumerated the many activities of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation in the cultural and educational fields, and praised PHF’s efforts in promoting Arab and Palestinian traditions in the Arab American and American communities in the United States. Ms. Shoup then introduced the Jerusalem Fund’s guest speaker for the afternoon, Mrs. Hanan Munayyer. 

Using colored slides, Mrs. Munayyer discussed her extended research regarding embroidery in Palestine since 2000 BC.

Foundation Thirteenth Anniversary Celebrations

April 2000 coincides with the anniversary of the inception of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation in 1987. On our thirteenth birthday, we are proud of the high quality of education that we have provided to our Arab and American audiences.

Ramallah black dress at Jerusalem Fund display.

Since the Foundation’s Twelfth Anniversary Banquet in April 1999, the Foundation has attracted more and more supporters. The presence of His Eminence Metropolitan Saliba, Primate of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America as the keynote speaker, and Guest of Honor Professor Edward Said, distinguished Palestinian scholar and Professor of English at Columbia University, and more than 450 distinguished guests was itself a great reward.

During the past year, PHF has been featured in the London based AL HAYAT, the California-based BEIRUT TIMES, ALSUNNARA of Nazareth and the WASHINGTON REPORT on MIDDLE EAST AFFAIRS, and AL AHRAM International of Cairo.

During the fall of 1999, the Foundation set-up the “East Meets West: Common Threads in Culture” exhibit at the Historical Society of Rockland County which was covered by local papers of Rockland County, New York. Portions of the Foundation’s collection are currently at the Jerusalem Fund in Washington D.C. This exhibit will continue through September 2000. Both exhibits featured an opening lecture by Hanan Karaman Munayyer about the ancient traditions of Middle Eastern costumes.

The Palestinian Heritage Foundation is planning new exhibitions at two other Museums, which are scheduled to open in the coming year.

A Santa Fe Story

By Beth Noland

In a small suburban home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in late April 2000, a group of women met for their bi-monthly literary gathering. The program presented by their hostess Beth Noland was to be on Palestinian costumes and design.

The Noland house had been festooned with various pieces of embroidery collected by Mrs. Noland over the past 11 years, from trips taken to Palestine during that time. Her collection was modest: a stunning contemporary dress jacket and scarf, a house dress from Ramallah region, and several small bags and wall hangings.

Palestinian art and crafts at the Jerusalem Fund

One hour before the presentation was to be given; a box arrived by Federal Express from Hanan and Farah Munayyer of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation in West Caldwell, New Jersey. As a result of their generosity, at the last moment Mrs. Noland was able to add several stunning pieces to her program, on loan from the Munayyers, neither of whom she had ever met.
In preparing for the program, Mrs. Noland had consulted several books on the subject of Palestinian costumes. She knew that for the purposes of her audience, she did not have to have an expert’s knowledge on the subject. Nevertheless, she wanted her presentation to contain as many visual effects as possible. Several nights prior to her program, she decided to check the World Wide Web. The name of the Munayyers’ Foundation flashed on the screen, and within moments, Mrs. Noland was e-mailed an address to request a copy of their video on Palestinian costumes. Not long after sending the e-mail, her phone rang and Farah Munayyer was offering assistance in any way possible.

Long interested in the history, people and traditions of Palestine, Beth Noland has constantly sought ways in which to share the rich heritage of a people she has grown to respect and admire. “I guess it all began over 40 years ago when in college I was waitressing one summer with a girl whose father was an Arab Christian originally from Katamon, a suburb of Jerusalem.” The family lived in a suburb of Boston, where Beth is from, and she and they have remained friends for many years. “In fact, I and one of the daughters traveled to

Jerusalem in 1993 for two weeks of exploring and meeting her relatives. In all her travels, Valerie had never been to Jerusalem and met her father’s remaining relatives. It was a marvelous experience for both of us. I went along as the “official family photographer,” and met some of the most interesting, stimulating and talented people in the world.”

Beth and her guests found themselves brimming with enthusiasm over the rich colors and designs she was describing, feeling a growing curiosity about the exquisite creativity expressed in the work displayed in her living room by people from ancient and rich heritage. “I am even more committed now, after seeing how interested everyone was, to learning as much as I can about the Palestinians through their art, especially their embroidery. And more than that, to sharing it as broadly as possible. I am grateful beyond any words for the Munayyers and what they and their Foundation are doing to encourage people like me in learning about this most fascinating subject.”

Arab Americans in New York: A Community of Many Worlds
Symposium on Arab Americans

By Inea Bushnaq

The word “Symposium” may not spell everyone’s idea of a fun weekend, but the two days devoted to this symposium were an unprecedented and very exciting happening.

Masmiyyeh village dress, scarf and “Miklab” coat

On February 5th and 6th, an audience of several hundred filled the auditorium of the Museum of the City of New York with an almost immeasurable charge of intensity as they listened to 18 presentations piecing together the past history and present condition of the Arabs who have come to live in New York in the last 120 years. The program was structured for variety: academic papers were interspersed with personal reminiscences, community history, film clips, slide shows and readings from Arab American writings. Much of the material was new. For most listeners, this was about their lives and the lives of their parents and grandparents, so the question and answer periods were animated.

Joint sponsors of this Symposium were the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, which is engaged in a three-year demographic study of Muslims in New York City funded by the Ford Foundation, and the Museum of the City of New York, which is preparing for an exhibition about New York’s Arab community scheduled for February 2001 and which will last almost six months.

Speakers on the Saturday program focused on the first wave of ‘Syria” immigrants who came to seek their fortune and many of whom eventually remained when immigration laws in 1924 closed the gate, except for a very small quota to Arab countries. Alixa Naff, author of Becoming American: the Early Arab Immigrant Experience: 1880-1950, whose Naff Collection of Arab American artifacts is in the Smithsonian Museum, told of the struggles and successes of the early door-to-door peddlers. Mary Ann Haick DiNapoli described how the community took root and developed in Brooklyn between 1900 and 1977. Dr. Michael Suleiman from Kansas State University had his audience in fits of laughter as he read from the letters and writings of early immigrants commenting on what they found in the New World. And Dr. Jonathan Friedlander of UCLA’s slides located sparse traces of first Arab community in lower Manhattan and their last resting-places in a Brooklyn cemetery where beautiful carved headstones bear Arab names.

Turning to the arts, poet Gregory Orfalea, co-editor of Grape Leaves: an Anthology of Arab American Poetry , discussed the lively literary world around Khalil Gibran’s Pen League in 1920s New York. Stanley Rashid, whose family has shipped Arabic music to every corner of the U.S. since the 1930s, recalled the festive mahrajans in the 1950s which used to attract thousands to hear the sounds of the old country, while Eddie Kochak’s Ameraba music expressed the taste of American-born generation.

To conclude, Professor Philip Kayal of Seton Hall and Dr. Peter Awn, who teaches Islam at Columbia, shared painful and amusing anecdotes about growing up Melkite and Maronite in Irish Catholic New York.

The second day of the Symposium addressed the new wave of Arab immigrants who came after quotas were lifted in 1965 from a more politicized postcolonial Arab world.

Dr. Yvonne Haddad analyzed some of the complexities of political alignments in the Middle East, and how they and U.S. policy have affected Arab American activists here. Then the results of Columbia’s demographic study were projected in the form of very detailed maps showing the concentrations of Arabic-speaking households, homes of foreign-born Arab Americans, Arab-owned businesses and places of worship, in all five boroughs. Dr. Paula Hajjar followed with a study of the interaction between new Arab immigrant parents and their children’s educators in two Brooklyn public schools. Her observations demonstrated the need for a better understanding within the school system of the differing expectations and values of the two cultures to help the children receive most benefit from public education.

In the arts, Dr. Jerrilyn Dodde of CUNY showed slides of some of the 72 mosques she has documented in New York, Inea Bushnaq gave a survey of current Arab American cultural activities in New York and Jack Shaheen, author of The TV Arab, projected a collage of film clips from Hollywood movies in most of which Arabs were cast as villains.

Further afield, Dr. Evelyn Shakir, author of Bint Arab: Arab and Arab American Women in the U.S., quoted from interviews with Lebanese women, who returned to Beirut after the recent war, about their memories of New York. And Dr. Walter Zenner of SUNY Albany discussed the Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn.

Simon Shaheen Appointed to The John F. Kennedy Center Advisory Committee

Composer and musician Simon Shaheen has been appointed to the Kennedy Center Advisory Committee. In a letter addressed to Shaheen from the Office of Presidential Personnel, Mr. Charles H. Cole wrote: “President Clinton has approved your appointment to the President’s Committee on the Arts at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Art. Congratulations, and thank you for your willingness to serve”.

Simon Shaheen at PHF Twelfth Anniversary Banquet

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is the national center for the performing arts and a living presidential memorial. The Center’s mission is to embody, stimulate and transmit the values of freedom, creativity, expression, and joy inherent in the performing arts—the opportunity to dream, to risk, to learn, to excel with a clear artistic vision. It presents and creates programming of the highest standards that reflects the diverse cultural life of the United States and that recognizes and Noritz our international heritage.

The President’s Advisory Committee on the Arts (PACA) was established in 1958, and has played a valuable role in sustaining the Kennedy Center. The Chairmen and Members of the PACA are civic and cultural leaders who are selected by the President of the United States to serve as representatives in their own communities for the Kennedy Center.

Acting as a national network for the Center, the PACA helps to strengthen the Center’s influence and spread its artistic vision across the country. Their role also includes providing general or designated program support through personal contributions, solicitations, and sponsorship of development events by the Committee and its members.

Simon Shaheen, Palestinian Heritage Foundation Advisory Board Member, ALF MABROUK.

Mr. and Mrs. Munn Donates Palestinian Dress

By Farah Munayyer

For many years, I have been trying to locate some of my friends at the American Consulate General in Jerusalem where I worked for nine years while studying at the Pharmacy School in Jerusalem. Some were easy to locate, others were not.

For example, for the past fifteen years I have been trying to locate Mr. and Mrs. Robert Munn. Mr. Munn was former American Consul in Arab Jerusalem and remained with the State Department until shortly before his retirement. I met the Munns in Jerusalem in 1964-65 and have not seen them since 1972 when they were still living in Washington D.C.

This past April, after the opening of the PHF exhibit at the Jerusalem Fund, Hanan and I were having dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Richard Curtiss and a very dear friend of ours, Mrs. Carol Sutherland, former staff member of the American Consulate in Jerusalem. Keeping with my tradition of looking up friends, knowing that Mrs. Sutherland is still employed by the State Department, and that the Munns, as retired State Department employees, must be on the Department payroll, I figured that she could help me locate them. It didn’t take long. Carol directed me to the address at the State Department for retired officers, and soon we were in touch with our good friends.

Hanan and I were thrilled to find the Munns, and they were happy to hear from us. Mark and Lynn, their teenage children have done so well: Mark is a professor of History in Pennsylvania, and Lynn is a State Department Officer in Canada.

We told the Munns about our family and work in the United States since we met them last in 1972. They had heard about our research jobs and the Palestinian Heritage Foundation’s role in promoting Arab culture in the U.S. They had also seen a copy of the videotape that we produced, regarding the history of the art of embroidery.

Recently we received a note from the Munns thanking us for the tape and the literature about PHF’s activities. In their letter the Munns wrote: ” We packed up the dress today, and will mail it tomorrow. We are glad it will be of some use to the Foundation.” Mrs. Munn added: I have been sewing and doing some needlework most of my life, and have always admired and respected the time, effort and talent that goes into items such as the Palestinian dresses.

When my husband, a diplomatic officer, was assigned to Jerusalem in January 1964, it provided a wonderful opportunity to get better acquainted with the many beautiful things produced in Palestine. During my many trips into the Souk, over a period of time, I now and again found a dress or some piece of the embroidery, which had been removed from other dresses.

Mrs. Sutherland Donates a chin chen

Mrs. Carol Sutherland of Bethesda, Maryland has donated an antique Bethlehem “Chin-Chen” necklace known as “Saba Irwah”, or seven lives, to the Foundation. Mrs. Sutherland, a friend of the Foundation and a very dear friend of the Munayyer family, has previously donated a rare antique Bethlehem “Thob Malak” dress and its complementary “Shatweh” headpiece to the Palestinian Heritage Foundation. In her letter to PHF, Mrs. Sutherland wrote: “Many, many thanks for a warm and wonderful evening, bringing back so many wonderful memories of Jerusalem and of the many friends and acquaintances who passed through there. I appreciate Hanan having put my necklace in the exhibition. I was sure you already had one, but thought that you could use a second one to barter. What you are both doing is so important.

I plan to take as many colleagues as possible to see the exhibition at the Jerusalem Fund and to tell them a little bit about Palestine.”

Samia Halaby’s Art Brings Palestine to Chelsea Gallery

By: Inea Bushnaq

Leading Palestinian American artist Samia Halaby is currently exhibiting her latest work in Chelsea’s Skoto Gallery (529 W. 20th St., 5th floor. Just west of 10th Avenue, Manhattan). The exhibit’s curator is Osama Abusitta.

Samia Halaby was born in Jerusalem and lived in Yafa until her family was forced to leave Palestine in 1948. Educated in the U.S., she has taught art at several universities including 10 years at Yale. Her work is in the collections of museums such as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Detroit Institute of art, the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the British Museum, London, the Musee du Monde Arabe in Paris, to mention just a few.

Arts magazine’s John Goodman has characterized Halaby’s ‘visual language’ as ‘urban contemporary’ and yet she is inextricably tied to her Palestinian roots. She has exhibited in Ramallah, Amman, Beirut and Damascus as well as New York, Chicago, Washington and Hawaii. She has been offered workshops as a visiting artist at Bir Zeit and Amman’s Darat-al-funun. Samia has also been instrumental in raising funds for art supplies for classes in Palestinian refugee camps, by arranging sales of children’s art. Visitors to the current show ‘Places and Spaces & Olives of Palestine’ will see both abstract and representational works and a clear link between the two. A stay of several months in Palestine last year inspired a series of drawings, watercolors, and pastels of olive trees: in groups, standing alone, thousand-year-old and recently-uprooted-by-Israelis. This portrait gallery of Palestinian trees is a ‘must see’ for any Palestinian, art-lover or not. In the same exhibition are large abstract canvases with stunning arrangements of color, each conveying a distinct atmospheric environment from pale ‘Milk/Pearly’ which has the shimmering freshness of early dawn to cool dense saturated greens and blues of ‘The Green Forest.’ One of the abstract paintings is called ‘Olive Shading’. “When I look at this painting I see that I have intuitively captured something of the texture of light and shade that I always love in the terraced mountains of Palestine. That texture is composed as much by the scattered stones and turned up earth as it is by the cast shadows of olive, fig, almond and other fruit trees,” comments Halaby. What the painting also contains for this viewer is a sense of movement, a breeze rustling the leaves.

Samia Halaby has also used digital media since 1985. On Saturday May 6th she gave a performance of kinetic computer painting: improvisation (taqaseem) with live musicians. “Although Halaby’s technology is up to the minute…arts writers have connected her imagery to ancient geometric patterns.” Kalamazoo Institute of Arts.

Samia Halaby’s next exhibition will open at the Sakakini Gallery in Ramallah, Palestine on June 10, 2000.

Palestinian Costumes and Embroidery: A Precious Legacy

By Beth Noland

I have watched the video presentation “Palestinian Costumes and Embroidery: A Precious Legacy” several times and each time I was more impressed. The tape presents a balanced approach to the folk art of Palestinian costume, transitioning from stitch details to the overall costume designs themselves in such a way as to keep my interest and make me disappointed when the tape is finished, although for the purpose of this presentation, its length is just right.

The narration is well done and the script is engaging. The choreography is just right: not too much action but just enough to show off each piece without leaving the viewer bored. The brief references to places on the map of Palestine are quite necessary and provide good visual points of reference for the next segments of costume narration.

I really cannot think of any criticism, except that Tape #2 is needed for the next chapter in a rich saga of folk art that intrigues so many of us viewers.

PHF Donates $1000 to The Museum of the City of New York

The Palestinian Heritage Foundation pledged $1000 to the upcoming exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York. In a letter from the Museum Director to the Foundation, Mr. Robert R. Macdonald wrote: “On behalf of the Trustees of the Museum of the City of New York, I would like to thank the Palestinian Heritage Foundation for the generous pledge of $1000. The first $500 of your gift has been received in support of the initiative A Community of Many Worlds: Arab Americans in New York City. Your leadership in funding this important project will aid the Museum in fulfilling its role as a major educational resource for New York City.

The Exhibition scheduled to open at the Museum of the City of New York in Fall 2001, will be a major highlight of our busy Fall season guaranteeing exposure to the many school groups that visit our Museum on a regular basis. The initiative will be an important contribution to the understanding of New York City and its diverse population.

Thank you again for your support of the Museum. I hope that you will have the opportunity to visit the Museum to view the exhibition and programming.”

Lecture at the Islamic Heritage Society in New York

On Tuesday May 16, Hanan was guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Islamic Heritage Society at the United Nation Plaza in New York. Attended by over 120 people, Hanan’s lecture was followed by a delicious Middle Eastern lunch, specially catered for the event.

Prior to the lecture, young Arab-American women modeled two costumes representing the Palestinian towns of Bethlehem and Ramallah.

In a letter to the Foundation, Mrs. Nevine Hassouna, President of the Islamic Heritage Society wrote: “On behalf of the Islamic Heritage Society, I would like to thank you and Mr. Munayyer for taking the time from your busy schedules and participating in our May program.

As you could yourselves judge from the large number of members and non-members who attended, there was a vast interest in your presentation.

I thank you both for sharing your wonderful collection of antique Palestinian Costumes and embroidery and for the outstanding job you are doing to preserve the traditions of the Palestinian culture and art. I wish you lots of success in all your endeavors.”