Holiday Moments in the Palestinian Museum Digital Archive
Palestinian archives, much like Palestinians themselves, are full of moments of joy and pain; they cultivate the Palestinian, who grieves and cheers and finds an oasis of hope in despair. Through this scope, this highlight sheds light on Easter and Eid al-Fitr, the upcoming holidays that bring with them happy repose in Palestine.
Members of the Kana’na Family during Eid
Members of the Jeries Family on Easter
This year Lent, preceding Easter, coincides with the fasting of Ramadan, preceding Eid al-Fitr. During both, people exchange greetings, make Ka’k (Eid cookies), and organise religious and celebratory activities. They take smiling photographs, which stash their cheer and are kept as souvenirs. The two photographs above are examples of this; one shows a gathering of the Kana’na family on Eid, while the other shows the members of the Jeries Family on Easter. The two families have kept these photographs, to now be shown through the Palestinian Museum Digital Archive (PMDA) which reflects our social and religious history back to us.
The photographs of children during Eid activities allow us to practically hear their carefree laughter. The following photograph, which was taken at the Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian Refugee Camp in 2001, is of Palestinian children riding in an open car and cheering as if they were at an amusement park.
Eid Activities at the Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian Refugee Camp, 2001
The days and nights preceding holidays are filled with glee as families embrace each other at the dinner table, exchanging plates with their neighbours with goodwill. They gather to pray at churches and mosques, or attend scout shows and plays. Such days do not pass without the photographs exchanged among friends and families, including this photograph of the Nasrawi Family children taken in 1961, sent to their relative Samaan Sha’rawi. In it, the children hold palm branches to mark Palm Sunday, which precedes Easter and commemorates Jesus Christ entering Jerusalem.
Children from the Nasrawi Family on Palm Sunday, the 1960s
In the following photographs, the camera shows a part of a whole. On a Ramadan evening in 2010, artist Adel Tartir Ramallah was surrounded by children who followed his shows with their hearts and eyes. In the second photograph, young men and women assembled to perform a scout show on Holy Saturday in 1955 preceding Easter, one of those activities which give an engaging dimension to the holidays.
Adel Tartir during a Ramadan Evening, 2010
A Scouts Performance on Holy Saturday, 1955
The holidays of those away, willingly or not, are another matter. Friends and families share greeting cards in a scenery of joy mixed with anguish and longing. A brother abroad would send his brother holiday greetings with photographs of his children, while a prisoner would write to his family missing them, and his family would answer him in a letter overflowing with wishes to see him and for him to find freedom.
PMDA includes a letter from prisoner Hisham al-Halawani to his wife Waela al-Halawani in 1984, as chains forbade their meeting. He wrote Eid greetings to her, speaking of how Eid means different things amongst students, workers, and freedom fighters; he described the latter as ‘freeing his nation from the tyranny of colonisation and oppression.’
A Letter from Prisoner Hisham al-Halawani to His Wife Waela al-Halawani, 1984
Eid greetings are not only exchanged between a prisoner and their family but also among prisoners themselves. Prisoners Firas Jarrar and Alaa’ddin abu Khadr wrote a letter to prisoner Nael al-Barghouthi with Eid al-Fitr greetings in 1998, along with their wishes that next Eid, he will be surrounded by his family and loved ones. These encouragements attempt to bring some joy amongst loss, longing, and shackles, in defiance of those who try to hide or quell this joy.
A Letter to Prisoner Nael al-Barghouthi from Prisoners Firas Jarrar and Alaa’ddin abu Khadr, Askalan Prison, 1998
The exchange of greetings reaches social circles broader than family and friends, such as a student sending his Eid greetings to his teacher after graduation. PMDA thus includes several letters addressed to Salameh Khalil, the director of the Teachers’ Training Centre in Ramallah, by his students. Those letters included one from his student Abderrahman al-Misht from his workplace in Saudi Arabia, which he begins by sending Eid al-Fitr greetings; he then thanks him for his efforts and the late nights he spent. You can only imagine Khalil’s happiness and how he spent his Eid receiving greeting letters from his students, especially when he read al-Misht’s description of his advice as ‘an efficient medicine that heals ailment when applied.’
A Letter from Abderrahman al-Misht to Salameh Khalil, 1966
The faces of holidays and their cheer in Palestinian archives not only include letters, photographs, and gifts, but diaries as well. Such diaries speak, besides regular day-to-day matters, of remembrance of loved ones stolen by death. As such, Khalil Sakakini wrote in one of his diaries on the Holy Saturday of 1941: ‘Today is Holy Saturday. My sister Milia and I left for the cemetery, we spread flowers and shed tears.’
Khalil Sakakini’s Diaries on Holy Saturday, 1941
From the Top of a Grave in the Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian Refugee Camp on Eid, 2001
Fadeyyeh Darabe wrote much of the month of Ramadan and its religious practices in her diaries. On December 6 2001, she wrote about having Iftaar with a group of women, followed by Tarawih prayer and going home; on the following day, she wrote about having an acquaintance for Iftaar at her house. Such was her Ramadan daily routine recorded.
A Page from the Fadeyyeh Darabe Diaries, 2001
In the shadow of the occupation, our joy, prayers, and holidays are never complete, because the occupier makes it their mission to assail churches and mosques and murder those celebrating. Newspapers told of the blood of the fallen; Attali’ah Newspaper in 1988 wrote of the Shuhada and wounded of the Intifada during the days of Eid al-Fitr. Joyful Eid activities instead became visits to the families of martyrs and wounded, demonstrations, religious rituals, and too many bitter coffees.
Issue 533 of Attali’ah Newspaper, 19 May 1988
Despite these painful circumstances, we Palestinians are overjoyed every time Eid peeks at us, as children in the streets or during events laugh with full hearts, healing our wounds with their words and their giggles, while we watch them and live Eid through their eyes.
Nary a Palestinian home is empty of Eid photographs, greeting cards, or letters, kept by the people to mark their longing and their joy when they receive their words and photographs. All of this is a part of the living Palestinian memory and their archives, which are rich with diverse and interconnecting aspects of life. Such archives are a wealthy source for researchers, historians, sociologists, artists, and others to replay the life of Palestinians, individually and collectively, guaranteeing the continuation of those lives, present and future.
Children Cheering on Eid in the Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian Refugee Camp, 2001