Newsletter of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation
Amre Mousa to Address PHF on 16th
The Palestinian Heritage Foundation will celebrate
its sixteenth anniversary on Saturday, September 13, 2003. On this special day,
the Foundation and the Arab-American community will honor Ambassador Clovis
Maksoud, former Arab League ambassador to the United States and the United
Nations, and head of the Department of the Global South at the American
University in Washington DC.
This special evening will coincide with the annual
gathering of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Several of Dr. Maksoud’s friends will be attending the event to honor him,
including Professor Edward Said, Farid Abboud, ambassador of Lebanon to the
United States, Dr. Ziad Asali, President of American Task Force for Palestine (ATFP),
Congresswoman Rose Mary Oakar, President of American-Arab Anti-Discrimination
Committee and other friends of Dr. Maksoud.
Mr. Amre Mousa, Secretary General of
the League of Arab States , a close friend of ambassador Maksoud, will give the
keynote address on that occasion. The Palestinian Heritage Foundation is proud
to host such distinguished guests who will make the honoring of Clovis Maksoud a
PHF at the Potomac Community Center in
"THESE STITCHES SPEAK" Presented at "Chai
-Time" Bano Makhdoom, Washington DC. On Sunday, May 11th, Hanan and
Farah Munnayer were guest speakers at " Chai-Time" a monthly forum
organized by an enthusiastic group of Washingtonians. Started three years ago
and spear headed by Bano and Rashid Makhdoom, the group has benefited from talks
over tea, by experts published in their fields.
This Mother's Day gathering was
no exception. An enthralled audience listened, as Hanan spun an intricate web of
facts and shed light on a unique collection of Palestinian embroideries. The
historical Palestinian dresses and intricate embroideries were displayed on one
side. Their beauty was recaptured in the show of slides.
Hanan and Farah ,
both pharmaceutical scientists , have a passion for preserving the heritage of
the Palestinian stitches. Their collection of antique embroideries 'spans almost
a century from the 1860's to the 1940's and represents every stylish tradition
they say, that once was Palestine.' The slide show supports the depth of
historical research that Hanan has put in over the last sixteen years.
Embroideries are studied by the periods of history, by geographical area, by
customs local to different tribes and villages and by style. The use of
color, dyeing and weaving techniques, availability of material all of which
contribute to a uniqueness of the dresses displayed. Antique Palestinian
embroideries are made on flax or linen. Those from Egypt are mostly on cotton.
The red dye special to Palestinian embroideries is obtained by crushing sea
shells found in the area.
The audience at Chai Time was in for a special treat
when , Hanan's daughter, Randa, modeled the traditional Malak dress from
Bethlehem. ' These generally have long triangular sleeves. The embroidered
panels include a square chest piece, and symmetrical side panels.' Hanan fixed a
traditional headdress on her, the elongated cap of which is shaped similar to
those shown in the slides of Mesopotamian stone carvings.
Symbols for the
embroideries have also evolved through the ages. Young girls as they prepared
for their marriages would set about embroidering dresses for their trousseau.
Ripples of smiles and nodding heads around the room, as Hanan mentions this.
Girls in the developing world still keep embroidery traditions alive by learning
to prepare for their trousseau.
In nineteenth century Palestine, three to eight
dresses would evolve over a long period. By herself, a girl could take a year to
complete one costume. As travel was limited, traditional designs were passed on
from generation to generation, identifying families, tribes, traditions, as well
as geographical areas. Symbols from nature, the palm trunk in the hills north of
Jerusalem, the cypress in the low lying areas, or from Islamic prayer carpets
discovered in Egypt , dating to the eighth century, all create a uniqueness of
design and workmanship. The most elegant of the Palestinian embroideries
is attributed to the metallic threads used in the Bethlehem couching stitch,
with medallions in the back, sometimes embroidered on Syrian silk.
Hanan were applauded for the splendid presentation and for the depth and scope
of information shared. 'These stitches' with all their intricacy and finery,
really did 'speak', to an absorbed audience, on a warm Sunday afternoon at Chai-time.
For information on antique Palestinian embroideries visit
PHF at Rutgers and Saint Francis Palestine
During February 2003, the Palestinian Heritage
Foundation participated in the Palestine Solidarity Committee’s activities at
Rutgers University campus. The afternoon program included Palestinian music,
dabkeh dance, poetry reading, and a costume show of traditional Palestinian
dresses representing all areas of Palestine. PHF display included contemporary
embroidery pillows and large photos of girls wearing traditional dresses taken
at PHF functions. Over hundred fifty students and family members attended the
program that included Arabic food that complemented the cultural event.
March 2003, selections of PHF collection was on display at another cultural
function at Saint Francis College on Long Island, New York. The display included
several dresses and embroidered pillows and lasted for three days. Several
hundred students attended the event.
Hanan talks at the Princeton Middle East
On Sunday, May 18, 2003 Hanan was the keynote
speaker at the monthly meeting of the Princeton Middle East Society at
Princeton, New Jersey. The Society is an organization of some 150 Americans most
of whom have lived or traveled in the Middle East. The event was attended by
more than fifty people including several who are guests of the Society. Hanan
Munayyer, a scientist with a scrupulous concern for facts, presented a series of
slides showing the ancient – in many cases prehistoric - roots of Palestinian
dress design and embroidery.
Two young women modeled some of the spectacular
costumes from the Bethlehem and Jaffa regions on display. The outfits included
appropriate headdress and jewelry. Other dresses from Ramallah and Asduud along
with many old and contemporary pillowcases were on display. Mrs. Munayyer also
identified some items brought by the audience, including an antique embroidered
linen bag from Ramallah and a dress from the Sarakeb village in Syria.
Munayyer family has dedicated itself to preserving the distinctive dresses and
textiles made by women from various parts of Palestine in the face of
dispossession of the indigenous population and the hybridization of designs in
the last thirty years. They hope to establish a museum in Washington DC, to
preserve and display this precious collection. The audience at the Princeton
event, which included several experts in Middle Eastern art, was most interested
and impressed by the beauty of the embroidery and the fascinating description of
In a thank you letter to the Foundation the Society wrote: Thank you
so much for coming to Princeton and giving us a wonderful afternoon. Everyone
seemed absolutely fascinated and very complimentary. I am so glad that you
decided to bring the slides as they added great depth and interest to your talk.
You made of our annual meeting a really great occasion and we all thank you for
the effort you made to bring this beautiful exhibit to
Mrs. Sheridan Collins Donates Dresses to
Mrs. Sheridan Collins of Virginia recently donated
three antique dresses to the Foundation. Two of the dresses are from the Majdal
and Asduud area in Palestine, and the third is from Syria. The Palestinian
Heritage Foundation would like to thank Mrs. Collins for her generosity and
Letters to PHF........
Hello Mr. and Mrs. Munayyer, My name is Cynthia
Horne, from Bakersfield, California. I spoke with Mr. Munayyer a few years back
about my Palestinian embroidery habit, and Mrs. Munayyer has corresponded with
me via e-mail about various specifics with the embroidery. Your research and
encouragement has truly been a blessing. I teach Palestinian embroidery
(formally through a non-profit historical society and informally to anyone who
will stand still long enough to listen) and frequently tell the inspirational
story of the beginnings of the Palestinian Heritage Foundation. It is truly
remarkable. Today I found your website again. (It was new to me, but we have
been off-line for a bit.) It mentions that at one time there was a 70 minute
video tape. I have purchased several of the 35 minute videos, both as gifts and
a teaching tool.
As I am always on the lookout for more information and more
embroidery patterns, is the 70 minute video still available? Also, are there any
more photos of the collection available? It would also be helpful if I could get
some more bibliographical info. For example, in the 35 minute video there is a
Syrian statue that shows the beginnings of the Bethlehem-style chest panel. I
would love to know the name of the statue and where it is currently housed.
Also, there was a wooden carving showing the Bethlehem style headpiece shape.
is difficult in this hectic world to convince people that finding the time for
embroidery is a worthwhile pursuit, but I am still trying. The Palestinian style
is extremely striking and a soothing activity after a busy day.
"Traditional" European-style, or even Scandinavian, embroidery tends
to be somewhat smaller stitches (sometimes 22-32 per inch) with more focus on
absolute perfection, and more stress producing. I can say this from experience
as I had a Danish grandaunt. She also loved to knit, and the family used to
tease her. They claimed that she ripped out more than she knitted in! I am still
working on various Palestinian techniques.
I believe that no matter how you try,
while you are working on a form that is not native to you, a bit of your
personal embroidery background escapes into your work. My cross stitches and
composition skills seem to be fine, but incorporating the couching is still
difficult for me. My applique, although attractive, seems to be a bit too
precise. I always show pictures of embroidery by real Palestinians when I teach
so that students can get a truer feeling for the work, along with my own work,
which they can touch and feel. The goal is, of course, to inspire them enough to
pick up needle & thread and do some small bit of work while they watch (or
more accurately listen) to their TVs at home. Any more info you can provide me
with will be truly appreciated. Thank you again, Cynthia Horne
This is to specially thank you both and your lovely
daughter for taking out time from your busy schedules to be guest speakers for
the 'Chai Time' program on Sunday. We specially appreciate your driving down
from New Jersey. We admire the depth and scope of your historical research.
'These stitches' with all their intricacy and finery, really did 'speak' to an
absorbed and enthralled audience. It was a learning experience for all of us.
The display of the beautiful antique pieces further enhanced your wonderful
collection of slides. Thank you again for a beautiful presentation.