Highlight of the month

The Palestinian Museum Digital Archive

The Muhammad Fahd Hammoudeh Collection

1927-1980

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.

Highlight of the month

The Palestinian Museum Digital Archive
Vaccination Certificates: The Living Archive

It is certain that the sudden and rampant spread of the emerging coronavirus, since early 2020, has turned the tables and opposed expectations on various levels. Plus, the ambiguity surrounding the management of the pandemic, the acceleration of its transformations, and the uncertainty of its elimination raised many questions, the most urgent and interactive of which are the questions about the nature and origin of the virus, about the feasibility of vaccines, and the extent to which all of this is related to the conspiracy theory and the integrity of the various policies of countries and institutions. All due to the pandemic affecting daily life, penetrating social, economic and cultural boundaries, contributing to the reconfiguration of class structures and affecting many human and institutional practices and behaviours, so much so that vaccination certificates; issued by the competent authorities of any country, became a required necessity for many daily life activities, up to the point that such certificates started to hold control over the freedom of movement, transportation and travel.

Given that the Palestinian Museum Digital Archive, since its inception, has held the responsibility to recovering historical facts and contributing to the production of narratives about Palestine, its culture and society by reviewing lived experiences and retrieving models of daily life, customs, traditions and self-patterns of behavior – known as social history from below, this blog highlights a set of vaccination certificates and cards issued in Palestine, or to Palestinians by different authorities since the Ottoman rule of Palestine.

Ottoman Certificate of Vaccination Against a Contagious Disease, 1911
The Yaffa Cultural Centre Collection

Dated on 1329 Ah, corresponding to 1911, this document shows a certificate of vaccination, against a contagious disease, issued by the Ministry (Nazaret) of Interior and the Department of Royal Medical Affairs and Public Health in Palestine during the Ottoman rule. It is noteworthy that the cholera epidemic had swept the region in that period and caused heavy losses.

Farid Azar’s Vaccination Certificate Issued by ICRC-Nablus, 1949
The Ghassan Abdullah Collection

Issued by the International Committee of the Red Cross in Nablus on 21 September 1949, this archival material documents a vaccination certificate for Farid Yusef Azar, stating that he is from Haifa and holds a refugee card bearing no. 19011, and that he was vaccinated for Smallpox and Typhoid.

The Abdullah Affaneh Collection
Smallpox International Vaccination Certificate for Abdullah Afaneh, 1953

Issued on 25 August 1953 by the Ministry of Health in Nablus, this document shows an International Health Certificate confirming that Abdullah Abdelqader Affaneh was vaccinated for Smallpox on 17 August 1953. Bearing the Jordan Red Crescent Society stamp and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan import stamps, the certificate states that it is valid for three years.

The Omar al-Qasem Collection
Smallpox Vaccination Certificate for Omar al-Qasem, 1962

A certificate issued by the Ministry of Health in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan stating that the shaheed Omar al-Qasim; residing in al-Sharaf Neighborhood in Jerusalem, has received the vaccine against smallpox on 27 May 1962 at the age of 21 years. The bottom of the certificate bears a note stating that it is a local certificate- not valid for travel outside the Kingdom.

The Jawad Hiwwary Collection
Cholera International Vaccination Certificate for Jamal Hiwwary, 1966

Issued by the Ministry of Health in Nablus, this document shows a Cholera International Vaccination Certificate for Jamal Abdelaziz Yasin Hiwwary, stating that he received two shots of the vaccine on 24 and 31 August 1966. Bearing the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan import stamps, the certificate states that it is valid for six months.

The Nakhleh Qare Collection
International Certificates of Vaccination for Khamis al-Qare, 1969

Issued by the Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM), in accordance with the sanitary regulations of the World Health Organization, this international certificate of vaccination shows that Khamis Nakhleh al-Qare, a resident of Ramallah, was vaccinated against Smallpox on 16 October 1969, at the Ramallah Central Health Department at the age of 23. 

The Deya Misyef Collection
International Certificate of Vaccination Against Cholera and Yellow Fever for Jamal Misyef, 1970

Stamped by the Health Directorate of Health in Jericho and printed on 19 August 1970 in English and French and filled in with Arabic, this document shows an international certificate of vaccination or revaccination against Cholera and Yellow Fever in the name of 32 years old Jamal Hasan Misyef.

The Abdelhamid al-Hiwwary Collection
A Vaccination Card for Jihad al-Hiwwary, 1970

Issued by the Ministry of Health in Nablus 1970, this document shows a vaccination card against communicable and infectious diseases, including Smallpox, Poliomyelitis and Measles for Jihad Abbas Yasin Muhammad al-Hiwwary; born in Sebastia-Nablus on 1 December 1969.

The Jawad Hiwwary Collection
International Vaccination Certificates Against Smallpox for Fatima Hiwwary, 1972

Issued by the World Health Organization on 10 December 1972, this document shows international vaccination certificates against contagious diseases including Smallpox and Cholera for Fatima Rafiq Hiwwary.

The Arab Development Society Collection
International Certificates of Vaccination for Mousa al-Alami, 1978

Issued by the Deutsche Lufthansa, in accordance with the sanitary regulations of the World Health Organization, these international certificates of vaccination show that Musa al-Alami was vaccinated against Smallpox at Palestine Hospital on 1 June 1978. 

Highlight of the month

The Palestinian Museum Digital Archive
Prison Notebooks and Movement’s Archive

When colonizers exclude the colonized indigenous memory from the historical record, it is inevitable that other fields of inquiry are affected, causing a gap between the hegemonic authority and knowledge production, which enables colonial powers to dominate and loot the archives of colonized countries, consolidate control, and obliterate the identity and historical narratives of the indigenous.

In this context, this blog post highlights the experience of the Palestinian Prisoners Movement by manifesting its presence in the archive as one of the most prominent components of the Palestinian historical narrative and its emancipatory content, apart from contexts of theoretical coercion.

The colonial authority persists in suffocating Palestinian prisoners in various ways, such as by denying them family visits and preventing them from taking souvenir photographs with their families. However, prisoners managed to obtain this right after conducting numerous strikes in the mid-nineties, whereby they became authorized to take photographs with their relatives once every five years after they reached the age of fifty. In 2019 however, the Israel Prison Service withdrew this right in response to pressure from some Zionist organizations following the publication of a photo showing prisoner Omar al-Abed; accused of murdering three settlers, smiling with his mother on a prison visit. Photographs were then taken by the Israel Prison Service photographer and were restricted to relatives suffering from terminal diseases, provided that the prisoner pays for them and that they are kept with prisoners inside the prison.

Zakaria Zubeidi and Yasser Arafat in Jenin, 2002
Joss Dray Collection

Taken in 2002, this photograph shows Zakaria Zubeidi with Yaser Arafat at the Jenin Municipality during Arafat’s first visit to the city after the end of the Israeli siege of the Presidential Headquarters in Ramallah, the ” Mukata’a”. 

Clippings from ash-Shaab Newspaper on the Arrest of Bassam Shakaa, his trial, and hunger strike, 1979
Bassam Shakaa Collection

This archival item shows a paper with three glued clippings from ash-Shaab Newspaper, two of which are dated 21 November 1979. The first mentions Bassam Shakaa, the former Mayor of Nablus, continuing his hunger strike at Ramla Prison, while the second mentions the Israeli Occupation Forces imposing restrictions on the movements of resigned mayors. Dated 29 November 1979, the third clipping included a title pointing out the beginning of Shakaa’s trial. 

Prisoners Abdel-Alim Daana, Ribhi Haddad and Badran Jaber before the Supreme Court of Israel, 1989
Abdel-Alim Daana Collection

Taken in 1989, this photograph shows three leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Abdel-Alim Daana to the right, Badran Jaber to the left and behind them in the middle is Ribhi Haddad, while two Israeli soldiers walk behind them in front of the Supreme Court of Israel during one of their court sessions. 

A Letter from prisoner Nael al-Barghouthi to “Umm Assef”; wife of his brother Omar, 1998
 Omar and Nael al-Barghouthi Collection

Handwritten on 4 April 1998 AD corresponding to 7 Dhu al-Hijjah 1418 AH, this decorated card shows an Eid greetings letter from prisoner Nael al-Barghouthi to “Umm Assef”: wife of his brother Omar, and her children, during his imprisonment in room 9 of section 2 in Askalan Prison. 

Brothers and Prisoners Omar and Nael al-Barghouthi at Askalan Prison, 2004
Omar and Nael al-Barghouthi Collection

Taken at Askalan Prison in 2004, this photograph shows prisoner Nael al-Barghouthi from Kaubar village in Ramallah with his brother prisoner Omar al-Barghouthi. They were jailed as a result of an operation they conducted that ended with the killing of an Israeli soldier, through a military cell they formed with Fakhri al-Barghouthi in 1978. Omar was released within the prisoner exchange deal carried out by the General Command of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in 1985, after which he was re-arrested multiple times. Nael was released in 2011 within the prisoner exchange deal known as the “Gilad Shalit Exchange” to be re-arrested in 2014. 

A Clipping from al-Quds Newspaper Documenting Palestinian Prisoners Led to the Courtroom, 1998
Omar and Nael al-Barghouthi Collection

Issued on Wednesday 16 September 1998 AD corresponding to 25 Jumada I 1418 AH, this document shows a clipping from al-Quds Newspaper featuring a photograph of Israeli soldiers leading Palestinian prisoners; of the Abu Mousa Group dissident faction (from Fatah,) to the courtroom in the Bet El settlement. The group members were arrested in Hebron in July 1998 on charges of conducting operations against Israelis. 

Prisoners Marwan al-Barghouthi and Ahmad Sa’adat at Hadarim Prison
Marwan al-Barghouthi
Collection

Undated, this photograph shows prisoners Marwan al-Barghouthi, a Fatah leader, and Ahmad Sa’adat, Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), during their imprisonment at Hadarim Prison, where al-Barghouthi was arrested on 15 April 2002 and sentenced to five life sentences and 40 years.  Sa’adat was arrested on 14 March 2006 and sentenced to 30 years. 

Prisoners Nasr Jarrar and Omar al-Barghouthi with Cellmates at Megiddo Prison
Omar and Nael al-Barghouthi Collection

Undated, this archival item documents a photograph; the top right corner of which was cut. Likely taken between 1994 and 1998, this photo shows Nasr Jarrar, killed on 14 August 2002; to the right, and Omar al-Barghouthi, who passed away on 25 March 2021 of Covid-19, seated on the ground and having a meal with their cellmates at Megiddo Prison. 

A Wreath from the Askalan Prison Prisoners Raised at the Funeral of the Shaheed Omar al-Qasem, 1989
Omar al-Qasem Collection

A wreath from the “Prisoners of the Palestinian Revolution at Askalan Prison” raised at the funeral of the shaheed Omar al-Qasem who was killed on June 4th, 1989.

Highlight of the month

The Palestinian Museum Digital Archive
Poet Abdulrahim Mahmoud Collection

Since its launch in 2018, the Palestinian Museum Digital Archive continues to discover personal and familial archives and put together the pieces of the Palestinian archive in Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon. The project deals with different archival items including photographs, documents, and audio-visual records which shed light on personal experiences, behavioral patterns and social practices during the last two decades.

This blog highlights the Abdulrahim Mahmoud Collection, which the PMDA team succeeded in finding and acquiring – in addition to the many diverse archival collections of Palestinian poets, writers and artists. Work is currently underway to complete the digitization, archival and translation of the collection, so that at a later stage it will be displayed and made available to the public of researchers and those interested on the PMDA website, to complete the material published on the “Palestine Journeys” website – a joint project of the Palestinian Museum and the Institute for Palestine Studies.

Abdulrahim Mahmoud was born in 1913 in Anabta-Tulkarm where he completed his elementary school at the al-Fadiliyah School before moving to an-Najah National School in Nablus where he completed his secondary education and met poet Ibrahim Tuqan. He then worked at the same School as a teacher of Arabic Literature, up until his resignation in 1936 to join the ranks of the freedom fighters before emigrating to Iraq, where he joined the Iraqi Military Academy, graduating with the rank of lieutenant, then returned to Anabta and resumed work at an-Najah School.

In 1947, Mahmoud joined the Arab Liberation Army and fought several engagements against the Zionist forces before he died a martyr in the Battle of the Tree on 13 July 1948. Buried in the city of Nazareth, Mahmoud is considered one of the most prominent Palestinian poets and a pillar of Palestinian resistance literature. Mahmoud left a massive legacy of patriotic poems, of which is a poem titled “The Shaheed (The Martyr)”, starting with one of his most celebrated verses that read “I shall carry my soul on the palm of my hand and toss it into the pits of death”.

A Studio Portrait of Abdulrahim Mahmoud, 1943
Taken in 1943 by Studio Rashid in Tulkarm, this studio portrait shows Abdulrahim Mahmoud wearing a Tarbush, a suit, and a necktie.

Abdulrahim Mahmoud with the Anabta Sports Club Football Team, 1928
Taken in 1928 by Cairo Studio in Nablus, this photograph shows Abdulrahim Mahmoud with his colleagues at the Anabta Sports Club Football Team in their uniforms which represent the Palestinian flag. Mahmoud is seen (second to the right; first row) laying on the ground with the ball next to him.

Abdulrahim Mahmoud with His Teacher and Colleagues at an-Najah National School, Nablus, 1931
Taken in 1931, this photograph shows Abdulrahim Mahmoud with his teacher and poetry enthusiast colleagues in the Arabic Language Club at an-Najah National School. Seen in the photograph in the first row, seated right to left, are Tayeb Bennouna from Morocco; as it was common for students to come from Morocco to study at an-Najah School, Abdulrahim Mahmoud, Nuweihid-al-Hout; High school Arabic language teacher following Ibrahim Tuqan, seen in a Tarbush and seated on a different chair, Dawood abu Ghazaleh, and Burhan ed-Din al-Aboushi from Jenin. Standing in the second row, right to left, are Wasif as-Saliby, unknown, Rouhy al-Ahmad, unknown, Muhammad Sa’ed as-Santarisy, Muhammad al-Fasi, Hamad Benjelloun from Morocco, and Shaher ad-Damin from Nablus.

Abdulrahim Mahmoud with His Teacher and Colleagues at an-Najah National School, Nablus, 1931
Taken in 1931, this photograph shows Abdulrahim Mahmoud with his teacher and colleagues at an-Najah National School in Nablus. Signed by Dr. Saeb Erekat; Director of the Public Relations Department at an-Najah National University for four years between 1982-86, the photograph was gifted to the family of Mahmoud as a souvenir from the ANNU. Seen in the photograph in the first row, right to left, are Musa al-Khammash, Jawdat Tuffaha, Qadri Tuqan; the mathematics and physics teacher at the School, Thabet ad-Dabbagh, Nasuh Haidar, and Jawad abu Rabah. Standing in the second row behind the table are, right to left, Poet Abdulrahim Mahmoud, Muhammad al-Adham, Hussein Khoury, Adel Abatha, Taj ed-Din Arafat, Samih an-Nabulsi, As’ad Hashem, Subhi al-Azzouni, Burhan ed-Din al-Aboushi, unknown, Muhammad Sa’ed as-Santarisi, Sadeq Bushnaq, a man from the al-Budairy Family, and Dawood abu Ghazaleh.

A Letter from Abdulrahim Hanoun to Abdulrahim Mahmoud, 11 March 1933
Handwritten in Arabic on 11 March 1933, this archival document shows a letter from Abdulrahim Hanoun to Abdulrahim Mahmoud addressing his gratitide upon receiving a previous warm-hearted letter from Mahmoud. In the letter, Hanoun wishes Mahmoud success and safety from the envious, as well as reporting brief familial news from Anabta and Tulkarm. He also clarifies that the letter was written in a hurry and that a detailed letter will follow.

“The Shaheed”, a Poem by Abdulrahim Mahmoud, al-Amali Magazine, 1939
Printed in Arabic, this archival document shows a poem by Abdulrahim Mahmoud titled “The Shaheed (The Martyr)” that read “I shall carry my soul on the palm of my hand and toss it into the pits of death” published in the Okaz Column of the 21st issue of al-Amali Magazine; a weekly culture magazine. Published in Beirut on Friday 20 January 1939 corresponding 29 Dhu al-Qidah 1357 AH, the issue sold at five Syrian piastre and featured another poem titled “Qalbi (My Heart)” by Abdelqader Hasan from Marrakesh.

Abdulrahim Mahmoud with Students and Colleagues at an-Najah National School, Nablus, 1942-43
Taken at an-Najah National School in Nablus, this photograph shows students with their teachers, including Abdulrahim Mahmoud during the school year 1942-43. The teachers seen seated right to left in the second row, behind the students seated on the ground, are Aladdin an-Nimry, Abdelwadood Ramadan, Muhammad Ali al-Khayyat, Adel Tuffaha, Sheikh Zaki abu al-Huda, Adib Mihyaar; seated on a different chair as the Principal of the School, As’ad Sharaf, Khalil al-Khammash, Abdulrahim Mahmoud, Muhammad Bushnaq, and Qadri Tuqan. The teacher seen in a Tarbush standing to the far right is Muhammad Rushdi al-Khayyat, while the one on the far left in a Tarbush, a suit and a necktie is Muhammad Sa’id as-Santarisi.

“Palestine Poetry Festival”, an Invitation, 14 November 1946
Printed in Arabic, this archival document shows an invitation to the biggest poetry festival titled “Palestine Poetry Festival” held by the Dajani Scientific Committee and sponsored by Judge Aziz Bek ad-Dawody; Dean of the Dajani Family Council. Held at 04:00 PM on Thursday 14 November 1946 corresponding 19 Dhu al-Qidah 1365 AH at the Young Men’s Christian Association in Jerusalem, the Festival featured teachers; the names of which are either printed or handwritten on the invitation, including Sa’ed al-Isa, Kamal Naser, Meneh Khoury, Muhammad Hasan Aladdin from Jerusalem, Muhammad al-Adnani and Ahmad Yousef from Yafa, Hasan al-Buhairy from Haifa, Seif ed-Din Zaid al-Kilany, Abdulrahim Mahmoud, Waheeb al-Bitar, and Abdelqader as-Saleh from Nablus.

The Palestine Poetry Festival, Jerusalem, 14 November 1946
A photograph taken during the Palestine Poetry Festival held on 14 November 1946 by the Dajani Scientific Committee at the Young Men’s Christian Association in Jerusalem. Featuring Palestinian poets, the festival was broadcasted live by al-Quds and the Near East radio stations. Seen seated to the right are Amin Hafeth ad-Dajani; Secretary of the Dajani Club Cultural Committee, Hasan al-Buhairy, Abdulrahim Mahmoud, Waheeb al-Bitar, Abdelqader as-Saleh, Ahmad Yousef, Mustafa ad-Dabbagh, Muhammad al-Adnani, Sa’ed al-Isa, Seif ed-Din Zaid al-Kilany, Meneh Khoury, Muhammad Hasan Aladdin, Kamal Naser, and Musa ad-Dajani; compere of said Festival. Aziz ad-Dawody is also seen in the photograph delivering a speech on behalf of the Dajani Family Council. Appearing in the background is the Flag of Syria with the flags of Lebanon, Kingdom of Iraq, Kingdom of Egypt, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Arab Kingdom of Syria to its left.

The Nablus Municipality Official Letter to Name a Street After Abdulrahim Mahmoud, 12 August 1976
Printed in Arabic on 12 August 1976, this document shows an official letter from Bassam Shak’a, Mayor of Nablus, to the Nablus Municipality engineer requesting that he abides by the Municipal Council’s resolution no. 6 put forward during the 10 August 1976 session regarding naming the offramp street leading to the Hamzeh Toqan’s house through Rafedia Main Street after the shaheed Abdulrahim Mahmoud.

The Migratory Cactus

Today we mark the sixty-ninth anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba through the life of an aloe vera plant currently bursting with verdant vitality at Salma Al-Khalidi’s home. Through this plant’s travels out of Palestine and back to it, we retrace the journey of a family displaced by the Nakba, and join them as they embark on their return. This cactus plant not only represents one chapter of a personal history, says Salma, but also narrates the history of an entire generation.

The Palestinian Museum was not the only entity to be granted the opportunity to delve into a story that began at the clinic of a literature and plant loving physician in Jaffa. The threads of the story split and spread out, eventually coming together again in a clay pot on one of the verandas of the family house in Ramallah. Just as Salma shares the story of the cactus plant with every guest visiting her house, she also happily gives whoever of her guests desires it a seedling from it, affirming that that is the very essence of this plant. As the plant propagates and spreads, Salma hopes that the spiritual elements of the story the plant narrates will similarly multiply and propagate its significance. Today we dig into the soil of the cactus plant once again and invite you to enter into the narrative and share the dream.

Salma Khaldi- image

When the [Haganah] gangs intensified their violence and the war became oppressive, Salma’s grandfather had to leave his Jaffa clinic towards the end of 1948. He was keen not to part from his memories and chose to take with him his dearest possessions. He told his wife, who was frantically packing their belongings, to include seedlings of the house and clinic plants. Thus the aloe vera plant reached Nablus. Several years later nostalgia transported it once again, this time with Salma’s uncle, whose desire for a spiritual extension that would intensify the meaning of his existence impelled him to carry a seedling of the plant with him to his new home in Amman. Her father, with his passion for plants, continued this natural legacy and carried a seedling of the plant with him to Kuwait. Years elapsed between one travel destination and the next, with the cactus growing in exile until it was repatriated to Palestine.

In 1990, Salma’s uncle on her mother’s side took 36 cactus plants with him on a journey from Kuwait to Amman, but all the plants perished from heat with the exception of this aloe vera. After five years of residency in Amman, Salma decided to return to Ramallah. She could think of nothing better than this cactus plant to symbolize the strong ties that bound the family together, and to guard its members against the feeling of alienation during their displacement. Thus, she carried the plant with her as she moved back to Palestine.

In the sun, the red strands that adorn its leaves make the cactus glow like a flame, says Salma as she describes the beauty of her aloe vera. She hopes that the plant’s return to Ramallah will be the first step on the road to returning to Jaffa, a return bound with the return of all Palestinians to their homeland.

As the displaced move to their exiles, so this plant moved, and as they return home, so it returned.

Text: Malak Afouneh
Translation: Rania Filfil
Editing: Alexander Baramki
Interview by: Loor Awwad
Photographs: Ihab Jad

الصّبرة المهاجرة

 اليوم نُحصي عام النّكبة التّاسع والسّتين من خلال عمر نبتة الألوفيرا الّتي “تتفجّر” الآن حيويّةً وخضارًا في بيت سلمى الخالدي. ومن خلال سفرها من فلسطين وإليها، نتتبّع رحلة عائلة هُجّرت مع النّكبة، وبدأت مسيرتها نحو العودة. لا تكتفي نبتةُ الصبّار هذه بتمثيل مجرّد جزءٍ من تاريخٍ شخصيّ لفرد، تقول سلمى، ولكنّها تعبّر عن تاريخ جيلٍ بأكمله.

لم يكن المتحف الفلسطينيّ وحده من حظي بفرصة التّغلغل في متن الحكاية الّتي بدأت من عيادة طبيبٍ شغوفٍ بالأدب والنّباتات في حيفا، وتفرّقت وتشعّبت لتلقي خيوطها في إصّيصٍ فخّاريّ على إحدى شرفاتِ منزل العائلة في رام الله. فكما تشارك سلمى قصّةَ نبتة الصبّار كلَّ من يزور منزلها، ترحّب أيضًا بمشاركة النّبة ذاتها مع كلّ من يرغب، وتقول أنّ هذا هو جوهرها. ومع انتشار فسائل النّبتة، تأمل سلمى أن تتكاثرَ أرواحُ القصّة الّتي تنقُلها، والمعاني الّتي تحملُها. واليوم ننبشُ تربة الصّبارة مرّة أخرى وندعوكم للدّخول إلى السّرد، والمشاركة في الحلم.

Salma Khaldi- image

حين اشتدّت أزمة العصابات وضيّقت الحرب خناقها، اضطرّ جدّ سلمى لمغادرة عيادته في يافا أواخر عام 1948، كان الجدّ آنذاك حريصًا على ألّا يفارق ذكرياته، فاختار أن يحمل معه تفاصيله الحميمة، وأوصى زوجته المنهمكة في توضيب متاع الرّحيل أن تأخذ معها أشتالًا من نباتات المنزل والعيادة، وهكذا وصلت الألوفيرا إلى نابلس، لينقلها الحنينُ مرّة أخرى، بعد أعوام عديدة، برفقة عمّها الّذي دفعته رغبته بإقامة امتداد روحيّ يكثّف معنى وجوده لاصطحابِ شتلة منها إلى محطّة إقامته الجديدة في عمّان. والدها الشّغوف بالنباتات أيضًا استكمل هذا الإرث العفويّ واقتطع جزءًا من النّبتة في طريقه إلى الكويت. سنواتٌ تفصلٍ بين كلٍّ محطّةِ سفرٍ وأخرى، وها هي الصّبارّة الّتي كبرت في المنفى تعود إلى فلسطين مرّة أخرى.

عام 1990، حمل خال سلمى 36 نبتةَ صبّارٍ من الكويت إلى عمّان، لتهلك جميعًا في حرّ الطريق إلّا هذه الألوفيرا. بعد خمسة أعوام من إقامتها في عمّان، وحين قرَّرَت سلمى العودة إلى رام الله، لم تجد ما هو أفضل من نبتة الصبّار هذه لتعبّر عن ارتباط أفراد العائلة، ولتحمي أبناءَها من الشّعور بالغربة عند الانتقال، فكانت من بين الأغراض الّتي نقلتها معها إلى فلسطين.

في الشّمس تبدو الصّبّارة بالخصل الحمراء الّتي توشّح أوراقها كما لو أنّها شعلة من النّار، تقول سلمى وهي تصف جمال الألوفيرا، آملةً أن يكون وجودها في رام الله خطوةً في سبيل عودتها إلى يافا، عودةً مرهونةً برجوع الفلسطينيّين إلى بلادهم.  

وكما يسير المهجّرون إلى منافيهم سارت هذه النّبتة، وكما يعودون إلى أوطانهم عادت.

نص: ملك عفونة
أجرى المقابلة: لور عواد
تصوير: إيهاب جاد

The Family Album ألبوم العائلة

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عبد القادر الحسيني (من اليمين) باللباس العسكري برفقة أحد المقاتلين. المكان غير معروف، 1930-1936. من ألبوم سعيد الحسيني.© المتحف الفلسطيني

Abd al-Qadir al-Husayni (right), a Palestinian Arab nationalist and fighter who in late 1933 founded the secret militant group known as the Organization for Holy Struggle. (1930 – 1936). From the family album of Said Husseini ©The Palestinian Museum

Museum Joins Pilot Efforts to Develop Art Education in Schools

Even though art education is one of the components of the official Palestinian curriculum, it continues to be taught haphazardly and unsystematically in schools with no focus on its value to child development. Art education is generally dealt with as a recreational and unnecessary activity by schools. Firm in the belief in the role of the arts in encouraging imaginative thinking and creativity among children, developing their motor and cognitive skills, and providing them with space for self-expression and new channels for broadening their experiences, Palestinian cultural institutions have throughout the years organized a large number of teacher training courses, children workshops and diverse art and educational programs. Nevertheless, these activities have had very little impact on existing teaching methodology and practices.

In this issue, Marwan Tarazi, Director of the Center for Continuing Education at Birzeit University (CCE), Wassim Al-Kurdi, Director of Qattan Centre for Educational Research and Development, and Jack Persekian, Director of the Palestinian Museum discuss their efforts, which they believe will positively impact the standard of art education in Palestinian schools while improving teacher performance.

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Marwan Tarazi: The notion of changing the educational system is terrifying therefore we’re building Learning Objects Banks

Constituting more than half of the Palestinian population, school children are taught using conventional and outdated teaching methods, without taking into account contemporary learning models that match the changing landscape or our students and their learning habits and needs. This has given the Palestinian workforce a disadvantage at developing and competing in the 21st century. A paradigm shift in the focus and approach to education is required to achieve a transition from teaching to learning and from the transmission of knowledge to the construction and production of knowledge.
The mere notion of changing the educational system in Palestine is terrifying and it entails huge costs. Budgets are limited and the number of students is remarkably large. Moreover, sixty-thousand teachers, most of whom are compelled to join the teaching profession due to lack of employment opportunities, are paid low salaries. Such a situation will not change quickly and hence the challenge confronting us at the Center of Continuing Education is to creatively and innovatively make an impact on the existing curricula and to teach students how to use critical thinking and effective learning skills.

Learning Objects Bank in Science and Mathematics

We believe that training teachers in effective teaching methods is a key factor in the development of the teaching-learning process. Consequently, we set up a bank containing ‘Learning Objects’ or modules for use by teachers. Developed in cooperation with a group of professional academics and innovators in line with the official curricula, the Learning Objects are dynamic tools that aim at facilitating teaching. They were designed with the intent of achieving the desired educational goals provided in the textbooks. Each Learning Object comprises several components including resources, activities and pedagogy. Resources may consist of a YouTube film of a teacher explaining a particular topic, a video presenting a special experience, an article in a book, a picture or an online game. Inspired by Palestinian students’ real-life contexts, the activities are intended to encourage creative and analytical thinking. Clear and detailed instructions for the use of the Leaning Objects are incorporated within a data bank that teachers can utilize for analysis, criticism and stimulation. One of the most powerful offerings of the Learning Objects Bank is that they are fully aligned with the requirements of the Palestinian curriculum.

The process of developing these Learning Objects called for enormous efforts. Fortunately, the results we have achieved bode well, for they have provided students with an opportunity to think and engage with issues critically. Within two years, we were able to develop one-hundred-sixty Learning Objects in the areas of science and mathematics for the eighth and ninth grades which we applied to fifty schools. The project was later carried out in other schools in cooperation with the Ministry of Education. We have also conducted several tests to check the results and we have found huge discrepancies in the academic achievement of groups of students who have used the Learning Objects and students who have not.

Art Education Learning Objects

In cooperation with the Palestinian Museum and several Palestinian cultural institutions, we are now embarking on launching a program for the development of similar Learning Objects for art education. When we talk about science, for example, we are certain that the teacher has ample knowledge about the material that she or he teaches. But with regard to art classes, they are often taught by teachers specialized in other disciplines that are completely remote from art education. It is rare to find schools with art teachers that actually have a degree in studio art and/or art education.

We are eager to start constructing an effective art education Learning Objects for four academic semesters that would stimulate creativity, develop motor and cognitive skills, as well as offer space for self expression and provide channel to broaden experiences. The Learning Objects will be tested on a small focus group and if proven successful, they will be disseminated to and implemented in different schools. Finally, it must be mentioned that our target is not solely the teaching of art per se, but also the use of art in education in general and across disciplines. For instance, art can be used in the teaching of other subjects such as science. Our ultimate objective is to construct Learning Objects that are in essence artistic but can be used in the teaching of other subjects.

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Wassim Al-Kurdi: In real life, art and science are inseparable subjects

In the past, we viewed our work in education through three tracks: the arts; languages and social sciences; and science and technology. Through our experience, we discovered that the world is not fragmented and that in real life the arts and sciences are not separate fields. In fact, they are two different ways to understand and interpret the world and develop opinions and viewpoints about it. The arts enrich and stimulate the imagination, and imagination is crucial to the development and advancement of science. Leonardo da Vinci, for example, would have not been able to develop designs for big engines had he not been at the same time a creative artist capable of imagination.

However, education in our schools continues to be fragmented and students are incapable of appreciating the value of the subjects they learn and how useful those subjects could be relevant to their daily lives. When the Palestinian school curriculum was developed, the plan was to reconfigure the curriculum for the basic stage (grades 1-6) as one complete unit in which science, arts, technology, language, social sciences and history would have a complementary and interdisciplinary relationship. Unfortunately, the new curriculum was carried out contrary to the plan; subjects and lessons were kept distinct and teachers assigned separate classes.

Drama in Education

Launched in 2007, the Drama in Education Program seeks to link different subjects such as the arts, science, technology and social sciences. Drama is a representational imaginative art form that reproduces reality and establishes a relationship between real and fictional/hypothetical situations. Accordingly, students reformulate and reconstruct life situations, try to understand and analyze them, and discuss and develop new attitudes toward them. Drama is more than just a mediator between reality and imagination; it is an approach that helps students see life through a series of relationships.

The Drama in Education Program is a three-year non-compulsory continuing program for teachers. Each summer, Palestinian teachers from Gaza, Jerusalem, the diaspora and the 1948 Areas meet with Arab teachers in the city of Jerrash in Jordan, where they receive intensive training. The program is demanding and requires teachers to do research and readings, and to apply what they’ve learned in schools. Teachers are also asked to collect, document and analyze data. The number of applicants for admission to the program has been increasing each year, which led us to increase the numbers accepted, and despite this, many teachers are still unable to join the program.

The Drama in Education is part of the Art in Education program which encompasses animation and cinema in schools, which is being implemented in eleven schools. We particularly encourage supplementing the eighth and ninth grade history curricula with films and we seek to establish cinema clubs in schools and organize children festivals in which school children shoot and make their own films. The main goal of this program is not restricted to teacher training and enhancing teachers’ experiences; it also involves promoting a conversation—a dialogue–about education.

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Jack Persekian: An attempt to make an impact on education

After many years of hard work by Palestinian cultural institutions to promote art in schools, we look around and see no tangible results for their efforts. Even though many school children were inspired by the work of the institutions and new horizons opened before them, there have been no concrete results, nor has there been any documentation of those efforts. The problem is that the activities of the cultural institutions were considered extra-curricular activities, i.e. outside the educational curriculum, and therefore they were considered secondary/nonessential and nonbinding. Even the arts curriculum in schools is marginalized and the majority of teachers of art are not specialists in the field of art education. In many cases, art classes are cancelled to make up for classes in other subjects which are thought to be more important. After holding serious discussions with several cultural institutions, it now seems evident that we have to make an impact on the educational process and officially intervene to amend or develop the existing curricula which are imposed on both teachers and students.

Two Distinguished Programs

Today, there are two distinguished programs in the field of educational development. The first is A.M. Qattan Foundation’s program “Drama in Education”. It is an exemplary one but primarily focuses on smaller groups and is evolving to constitute the founding principles of the first model school in Palestine, which advocates a holistic education approach. Yet the cultural institutions involved in art education are keen to reach larger numbers of students and teachers and see art education organized and disseminated on a national scale through the Ministry of Education. The other program concerns a unique educational experience undertaken by the Center for Continuing Education at Birzeit University, titled “Learning Objects”, which is currently embarking on setting up a data bank containing newly documented references tested by multi-disciplinary team of artists, educational specialists, graphic designers, photographers, curators, filmmakers, multi-media specialists and others. The data bank will be accessible to teachers and the information contained therein can be used with students during mathematics and science classes.

Cooperation with the Continuing Education Center

The Palestinian Museum intends to cooperate with Birzeit University Center of Continuing Education on a program similar to the math and science programs in schools, through the involvement of artists and specialists in the field in order to collate necessary resources and present them to the Ministry of Education which in turn will make them available to school teachers.

The idea of this program is to focus on two classes in which students usually reach the first stage of maturity, around twelve years of age. At this age children start to shape their personalities, develop consciousness of their individuality and begin to individuate from their parents and families. In addition, children become more alert to their senses and hence intervention becomes more impactful and effective. For example, if the learning topic was about multi-dimensions in visual art, children will be provided with practical experiments like the use of lenses or the camera in addition to referring to art works and to turning points in the history of art such as the transition from two dimensional to three dimensional arts.

The art education Learning Objects will be complementary to the Palestinian Museum’s programs, mission and vision. We believe that if we succeed in reaching out to a large segment of school children we will achieve great benefits. Students will have the chance to be introduced to arts and will develop an interest in visual arts and culture in general. Indeed, the Palestinian Museum will house cultural and art activities geared toward those students, feeding their interests and fulfilling their needs.

Palestine in Comics

Books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and modern Palestinian history abound, appearing in various languages and covering various topics, angles and perspectives. Recently, three works have appeared that have looked at Palestinian life under occupation through the visually rich and textured comics form.

Despite the label, comics (or “graphic novels” as its book-length iteration is called) offer serious and sophisticated analyses and depictions of daily life through a creative combination of black-and-white line drawings and accompanying text. Here, we’ll look at three graphic novels that are celebrated both for their incisive commentaries on politics in Palestine as well as for being brilliant comics in their own right.

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“Palestine”, by Joe Sacco 

Maltese-American reporter-cartoonist Joe Sacco spent a few months in 1991 and 1992 visiting the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. At that time, the first Intifada was still raging in Palestinian towns and refugee camps. The pages of “Palestine” follow Sacco as he makes his way through Nablus, Jerusalem, Hebron, Ramallah and Gaza during a rainy, muddy winter, drawing and writing about the people he meets and the stories he hears. Whether it’s a crowded road at a refugee camp or a family dinner with a recently released prisoner, Joe Sacco’s meticulously rendered drawings reflect his keen observer’s eye for detail and subtlety.

With Sacco, it is clear who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed; yet his grasp of the political situation in Palestine does not lead to romanticized portrayals of Palestinians under occupation. He shows the gritty side of life, the hardened edges of men and women defined by an oppressive apparatus of occupation which they fight against constantly, armed by little more than “their sheer indomitability, their unspoken will to go on, and their willingness to cling to their story, to retell it, and to resist designs to sweep them away altogether.”

Originally published as a series of nine comics beginning in 1993, “Palestine” won the American Book Award in 1996. A collected edition of the comics series was published in 2001 by Fantagraphics Books.

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“Footnotes in Gaza”, by Joe Sacco 

Another work by Joe Sacco, “Footnotes in Gaza,” was published in 2009. In this work, Sacco returns to Gaza to investigate two massacres that took place in Rafah and Khan Younis by the Israeli army during the Tripartite Aggression of 1956, which was launched by Britain, France and Israel against Egypt in response to the Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalization of the Suez Canal. At that time, the Gaza Strip was under Egyptian administration.

In “Footnotes,” Sacco combines his skills as an investigative journalist of the highest caliber with his unique style of drawing and composition to create a work of visual journalism that succeeds in salvaging the tragic story of those events of 1956 from the margins of history and memory. Sacco won the Ridenhour Book Prize for “Footnotes in Gaza” in 2010.

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“Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City”, by Guy Delisle 

Canadian comics artist Guy Delisle spent a year living in East Jerusalem between 2008 and 2009, which is the subject of his 2012 book, “Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City.” Accompanying his wife, who works for Médecins sans Frontières, Delisle is the primary caretaker of his two young children. Not only is he trying to negotiate daycare and grocery shopping in Beit Hanina, he is also trying to make sense of a political situation that is at once absurd, tragicomic, and ironic. Delisle’s uncomplicated drawings and terse prose are a stark contrast to Joe Sacco’s richly detailed and researched comics, yet the simplicity of his style succeeds in making his conclusions all the more powerful and clear.

“Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City” won the Fauve d’Or at the Angouleme Comic Festival in 2012.