FASCINATING HANDICRAFTS GALORE
Palestineboasts a delightful variety of traditional handicrafts. Choices range from priceless
authentic antiques to exquisite modern hand-made crafts.
Palestinian handicraft designs are heavily influenced by its culture. Knowing that Palestine is the heart of the Holy land, many handicrafts are designed as souvenirs for pilgrims and
tourists visiting the holy places.
Palestinian embroidery is rich in color, texture, and history. Historically Palestinian
girls have learned to embroider (tatriz) as soon as they could hold a needle
–at the age of six or seven. A girl was normally taught cross-stitch and the
simple motifs of her village. Palestinian women have expressed their sense of
regional identity and pride in he designs and colors of embroidery in their
dresses. For example, the traditional styles in Gaza include a great deal of black and deep magenta, while those in Nablus incorporate a zig-zag appliqué edging for hems and cuffs. Syrian silk fabrics or black cotton are sometimes used for the embroidery background.
A woman’s marital status is customarily reflected in her style of embroidered
dresses. Vibrant, heavily embroidered dresses are traditionally worn by married
women. Predominant use of the color red usually symbolizes that a married woman
is in her childbearing years. An embroidered dress that is predominantly blue
indicates a girl’s unmarried status. In most Palestinian dresses, the chest
panels (qabbeh) are extremely elaborate which intricate designs and colors. The
back panel at the bottom of the dress is also usually elaborate. Today, one can
find modern versions of jackets, vests, and other clothing made from embroidery
Pillows made from antique chest panels and traditional embroidery also make an
Pottery & Ceramics
The simple designs of Palestinian pottery are world renowned for their intricate
detail and arabesque patterns. At the turn of the 20th century, when the tiles
at the Dome of the Rock required replacing, a Turkish family of ceramic specialists was brought to Jerusalem to take on this daunting task. While doing the work, the family established a business in Palestine that has thrived ever since. Today there are many styles of Palestinian pottery and ceramics-all of them artistic and intricate in design. Though Palestine is known for its colorful tiles and plates, which are particularly beautiful, everything from vases to hanging ornaments can be found. And in most ceramic factories,
you can have your name painted on tiles while you wait. These make lovely
reminders of your historic trip toPalestine.
Like mother-of-pearl, olive wood carving has its origins with the Franciscan monks
who taught the local residents the craft of carving and inlay work around thr
time of the construction of the Church of the Nativity (approximately the
fourth century). Initially rosaries were made from olive pits. Today olivewood
is crafted into crèche scenes with individual figures of Jesus, Mary, Joseph,
the three Magi, and the animals. Some crèche figures are extremely ornate, with
detailed work. Palestinian olive wood carvings are known worldwide for their
beauty and elegance. Today one can find delightful candleholders, ornaments,
boxes, and other modern works of beauty made by Bethlehem artisans. A walk along Milk Grotto Street in Bethlehem will take you by wood-carvers busy creating these traditional crafts. Samples of these highly acclaimed crafts are available throughout Palestine.
Handcrafting from abalone shells, or mother-of-pearl, started in the 17th century when
Franciscan monks brought their skills from Italy. The Christian population,
primarily in the Bethlehem area, worked with the Franciscans to develop religious icons that reflected their faith in God. Initially rosaries and crucifixes made from olive wood with inlaid mother-of-pearl were manufactured and sold. Today Bethlehem is still the center for the manufacture of mother- of-pearl objects, with an immense range of beautiful, luminous designs that include those inspired by Muslim and Christian
Hebronis known throughout the world for its famous glass blowers and designers. The royal blue glass produced in the city is perhaps the most recognizable in the entire
Middle East, but Hebron glass blowers also create items in many other beautiful colors. Glass creations in deep amber, rich burgundy, and verdant green adorn the shelves of manyHebron glass blowers.
A variety of bracelets, necklaces, chokers, and rings made by silversmiths in
various towns have been worn by the villagers and bedouin of Palestine
for centuries. Like the traditional embroidery, Palestinian jewelry interprets
regional influences. For example the traditional headdress (smadeh) often
includes a halo of coins (saffeh). Silver coins, used most often in the
headdress, are from the British Mandate Period, while gold coins are from the
time of Turkish rule. Other cast-metal items include ornate jars for kohol ( a
type of mascara), elaborate oil lamps, icons, and vases. If you are a collector
of ethnic art or jewelry, you’ll love browsing through the myriad shops in Palestine. You are certain to find just the right item to bring home.
Throughout Gaza, weavers can be seen creating brightly colored rugs on wooden looms. These traditional cotton rugs resemble the flat weave of Navaho Indian rugs. Pattern such as stripes and simple geometric shapes adorn these native works, which come in a
variety of vibrant colors, such as bright blues, deep greens, and brilliant reds.