An official UN organization, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), has finally added Palestinian embroidery art to its List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This is certainly good news. In addition to the appreciation, recognition and distinction of this national art, this step adds to the inscription of Palestine in the world as an identity with characteristics, marks and a long history. This aids the battle for survival in the face of the continuing fierce attack launched by Zionist colonialism and its supporters to abolish Palestinian identity and its symbols.
One of the latest manifestations of the theft of Palestinian embroidery by the Israeli occupation was to dress Miss Universe contestants, who were hosted by Israel, in traditional Palestinian clothing and use their photos to promote tourism, citing that this dress is an Israeli symbol. Israel’s theft of everything Palestinian, from land and homes to dishes, fashion, art and even monuments and architectural styles, is an attempt to give identity and heritage to a fabricated nation by appropriating the identity of a real people. We remember Israel’s Minister of Culture, Miri Regev, when she wore a dress at the Cannes Film Festival with the Old City of East Jerusalem occupied with the walls of Jerusalem and the Dome of the Rock painted on it.
In fact, there is hardly a national costume in the world as beautiful and distinctive as the costume of Palestinian women. It is not completely uniform as most people’s national costumes are, but it is also considered one costume. It is a very diverse composition within the framework of unity. Its versions differ in colors, details and forms of embroidery in order to identify the region of origin of its owner. There is the Nablus dress, the Ramallah dress, the Jenin dress, the Jerusalem dress, the Bethlehem dress, the Beer Sheva dress, etc., but they are all Palestinian dresses.
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The Palestinian dress, or thobe, is not made by simply cutting fabric and sewing it, like most dresses around the world. It was not bought ready-made on the market. Girls learn embroidery from their mother as part of their education and life skills. Most of the strong Palestinian women made their own thobes and it took a lot of time to embroider and miraculous precision. The size of a rose, a stem, a bird or any shape in dozens of these artistic units repeated in the garment will not differ from each other, not even by a single point. Thus, Palestinian women are natural artists when it comes to creating and wearing these distinctive pieces of art.
Palestinian women around the world still keep traditional dresses in their closets as part of their Palestinian necessities. These dresses not only have sentimental and heritage value, but they can be worn for any occasion and are fashion for every occasion and every moment. Traditional forms of Palestinian dress have developed and embroidery is used on various designs and modern designs of women’s dresses. Palestinian embroidery is also used in paintings, bedspreads and ornaments that decorate homes and objects. Palestinians cannot be confused with anything bearing the unique Palestinian art of embroidery.
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Unfortunately, the generation of mothers who wore the hand-embroidered Palestinian dress all the time is gradually dying out, especially outside of occupied Palestine, as daughters only wear it for special occasions. However, this garment deserves to be brought back onto the world stage and worn as much as possible as a sign of the strong and enduring Palestinian presence in the world. Indeed, despite all the modern Palestinian dresses and the various “embroidered” designs of drawings or sewing machines that emerge, the original dresses of the mothers who embroidered them with their own hands have that particular spirit that distinguishes manual work and is organically linked to Palestinian history.
Recognition of elements of Palestinian identity continues, and it becomes clear that it is impossible to ignore the Palestinian people and expel them from existence, as the sponsors of the Zionist colonization project had hoped. As bleak as the Palestinian scene may seem, the history and legacy of Palestine triumphs over global erasing factors and stands apart from the turbulent, ahistorical and contrived formation of the Zionist enemy. The long decades of conflict have proven that the Palestinian identity cannot be erased because of its authenticity and the richness of its components. It is a struggle in which the frail and cowardly competitor who is perpetuated by money, arms, injustice and the power of outside supporters will not resist nor be perpetuated by the self-qualifications he does not possess. not. Everything that is human or natural in Palestine will continue to resonate with its Palestinians and remind outsiders that they do not belong in the things there or in Palestine.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Al Ghad December 22, 2021
The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.