Words By: Dana Amawi
2022, for Palestine, could be described in the words of Charles Dickens’ “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” One neighbourhood’s protesting against their dispossession erupted into support and unity which put Palestine in the centre of world news. Even celebrities on social media, such as Emma Watson, expressed their support. Years and years of accusations of settler colonialism triggered epiphanies all around the world. For a second there, Palestinians spoke and the world listened. As a Palestinian in diaspora, it is an innate duty to educate people about Palestine; not just about the conflict, but to celebrate its beautiful culture.
One of the most fundamental aspects to Palestinian culture is literature. Aspects such as poetry symbolize Palestinian steadfastness. While all nations use literature to express cultural identity, this translates to Palestinians as expressions of rationalized anti-occupation and anti-apartheid sentiment. Poets realized the obligation to legitimate the Palestinian cause; to counterbalance the occupation. Poets such as Samih Al Qasim and Ibrahim Touqan wrote in order to articulate their identity out of the occupation. Their poems come as a retaliation to their deprival, they discuss concepts of nationalism and history. While Palestinian poets are shaped by their milieu, they write to reconstruct their history and reclaim their homeland. Palestinian literature represents the dignity and resilience of its people. Essentially, these poems are so important to Palestinians that they are incorporated into everyday life, for example, Ibrahim Touqan’s revolutionary poem “Mawtini” (O, My Homeland) became Palestine’s national anthem in 1996. This national anthem, unlike most others, is about the right to return. These poems are taught in schools at a young age, they are buried deep beyond just literature, they represent values that Palestinians live and die by.
Another powerful feature of Palestinian culture is clothing. Women’s clothing includes the thobe – a long sleeved, loose dress which is embroidered, this design is called the tatreez; which is known for its cross-stitch and couching stitch techniques. Every individual city in Palestine has its own thobe. Essentially, it is important to note that a lot of women’s livelihood depends on thobes, as they embroider and sell them. Earlier last month, Palestinian women created an online movement #ShowYourThobe, which was able to raise awareness on the cultural, political, and national identity of Palestinians, which is just as effective as the movements done using the Palestinian flag. Tatreez is a recognizable, very specific, Palestinian uniform, it is an emblem of Palestinian perseverance and resilience. My teta (Palestinian for grandmother) still wears a new thobe every day, her favorite being that of Lifta, the village in Al-Quds/Jerusalem where she is from.
Palestinian culture is the glue that keeps us together, and while it is very important to discuss the oppression that Palestinians face, it is still important to remember that Palestine is still a beautiful country with rich culture, despite the headlines. Talking about the Palestinian culture reminds people that Palestinians will never give up seeking their freedom.