The Palestinian Museum Digital Archive has been, from the outset, responsible for retrieving historical realities and representing the marginalized beyond the social dominance theory, traditional knowledge structures, and metanarratives. All by reexamining the relations of power and control, the system of values and perceptions, the networks of social relations and the interaction between the different groups of society and through allowing the “ordinary” people to contribute to the production and formulation of narratives about Palestine, its culture and society through lived experiences, models of daily life, customs, traditions and self-patterns of behavior- also known as history from below.
Since this approach allows the study of the biographies, events, places and interactions of individuals and groups from the point of view of those whose behavior is not followed by researchers and scholars, and do not have the freedom to define their daily lifestyle and the distinctive and different history of their societies, this blog sheds light on an archival material that includes a report written by Muhammad Fahd Hammoudeh, born in 1927 in the village of Lifta in Jerusalem. In his report, Hammoudeh referenced many features of the social history of the Dayr Dibwan village in Ramallah and their patterns of behavior, all after he returned to the town as an immigrant, where he continued to write until he fell ill and stopped his work on the report until his death in 1980.
Handwritten between the late 1950s and early 1960s, this report follows the financial and social habits and norms of the Dayr Dibwan citizens and their professions during the period of documentation, in addition to their activities and lifestyle in the country side. The report also follows their traditional clothing, such as the Qumbaz, Kufiya and Agal for men and embroidered silk thobes for women. On the other hand, the report examines the new generation where men started wearing suits; and following the close geographical distance to the city of Ramallah, ease of transportation and the widespread of education among girls, the report states that women started wearing dresses and modern garments. As for agriculture, poor families depended on olive trees in their livelihoods along with other kinds of seeds while others survived on bread made with pure wheat and olive oil; baked in the Taboon or ovens, before food varied due to the development of the village.
Families of Dayr Dibwan naturally consisted of the father, mother and children, and either the father or the elder brother is considered the one responsible for fulfilling the duties of the family along with his wife. Women, on the other hand, were second to their husbands in responsibility besides their work in tidying and cleaning the house, and cooking. The report shows that relationships between families were based on blood before the relations of marriage and social integration. It also discusses marriage where most men were satisfied with one wife, but some would “have to” marry a second or a third for familial or infertility reasons. Moreover, the report mentions the habit of “exchange”, where a man would marry off his sister or female relative to a man, who in turn would do the same as a sort of marital exchange. Hammoudeh sees that this habit causes some of the worst issues in the village, where if one of the men had a dispute with his wife and sought a divorce, the second man would have to follow suit and divorce his wife even if they were on good terms.
The report also sheds light on many social habits and behaviors, such as the celebration of Mawlids, considering them spreading widely in the village, specifically when a villager moves into a new house, where he does not move until he invites the “Dervish people” to beat their drums as he sacrifices sheep, makes feasts and celebrates until after midnight, which Hammoudeh detests and wishes it stops. He also mentions that villagers would hold “luxurious” celebrations for the Mawlid and bring sweets, as well as another custom like the Mawlid which involves the fulfillment of vows where if a vow comes true, sheep are sacrificed, and people are invited to feast.
The report details the rituals of funerals and their customs, where when a notable person in the village passes away, the neighboring villagers are invited to the funeral, which is attended by men and women, as the deceased is carried to the mosque for prayer after being washed and shrouded, then the men would walk at the beginning of the funeral march and the women would follow, after the burial, another family prepares the food for the mourning family and those who offer condolences from other villages. After the funeral, women start weeping for a month while wearing black silk clothes. The custom is that the family of the deceased does not cook for one or two weeks, where food is sent to women at home while men are invited to dine at a different house every time. The report clarifies that these rituals only apply to deceased men, but not women, where they would just be buried.
Another custom deemed good is the “Aqd” or “house Aqd”, which is finishing the construction of the house roof, where villagers offer to help the homeowner as some of his relatives sacrifice sheep and help him with food, and the rest of them would offer rice and juice or help with finishing up the work. Usually, a white flag is held on top of the house to signify ending the construction of the roof. The report also mentions that the “construction chief” is served a plate full of bread chunks and meat. Another good custom is the “Qowad”; known in Dayr Dibwan and neighboring villages, which is hospitality, where sheep are sacrificed, and food is served on many occasions including death, Hajj or diasporic return. It also points another good custom known as clan courts, where clans aid in resolving most internal issues.
As for education, the report mentions that there is a school for boys in the village which was built as per modern standards with the financial support from the village’s residents and those abroad. Housing eleven teachers, the school teaches all grades up to the third secondary grade (high school). Hammoudeh also says that there is a school for girls, built one year prior to writing this material, from a loan from the Palestinian Economic Council for Development and Restoration (PECDAR). Housing six teachers, the school is surrounded with a big plot of land; of which a block was used as a park and another as a basketball court.
Finally, the report mentions that many poor people acquired their livelihoods, while most of the youth immigrated during the last ten years (prior to writing the report) to the United States of America (USA) along with other neighboring villages. This, the report states, participated in increasing the standards in the village, aided the construction of tall buildings, and led the village to be among the richest In Ramallah. Accordingly, several literary works focused on the financials of immigrants, their impact on the socio-economic changes and urban transformations that the villages and cities of the region have witnessed). It also points out the generosity the village was known for, still up until the writing of these very lines; however, it has been noticeably fading away due to the development and sprawling of the Dayr Dibwan village towards the city.