12 July 2017

The Palestinian Heritage Center of Bethlehem

Promote, revitalize and preserve the Palestinian tradition: these are the three 'commandments' of the center founded in 1991 by Maha Saca.

Christians in the Holy Land

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Promote, revitalize and preserve the Palestinian tradition: these are the three 'commandments' of the center founded in 1991 by Maha Saca.

MAHA SACA
Director of the Palestinian Heritage Center in Bethlehem
"I started this activity in 1991, conducting different types of field research, in the Palestinian villages and in Gaza. I gathered information through live recording, directly from the voices of the most experienced people which made me realize that dress is the most important thing for women, because it is what she wears for her wedding and for her trips and it remains engraved in her memory. That is why I focused on this trade."

MAHA SACA
Director of the Palestinian Heritage Center in Bethlehem
"As a Palestinian woman, I believe garments tells the story of a people. For example, in Be'er Sheva the bride wears a red dress. If she became a widow, she would wear a blue one. If she wanted to get married again, she would add some colors and toys to it to suggest she wants to have a new husband and children.”

Fashion, embroidery and jewelery are the heart of the center, but there are other sections, like the department that collects traditional tools for domestic and agricultural use, another one that displays paintings and landscapes, or sells books and postcards. There is even the chance to visit a Bedouin tent, while sipping Arabic coffee.

The center offers employment to nearly 40 women from the villages and from the refugee camps of the Bethlehem and Hebron areas. For many of them this is their sole source of income.

FATHYA AFGHANI
Employee
"Embroidery is in my blood. If I am sitting down, I must be sewing something ... this is a hobby for me and at the same time is a source of income to take care of my family and educate my children.”

Maha, the director of the center, also made the scarves that were donated to two popes who visited the Holy Land: Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. Both the Vatican and the Palestine cross, the so-called cross of return, were embroidered on the scarves by her. A sign thay gives voice to one's own people and to the desire that their identity not be lost with the passing of generations.

MAHA SACA
Director of the Palestinian Heritage Center in Bethlehem
"I grew up in a Palestinian home that taught me love for my land and the sense of belonging and dedication to it. Here, we try to create a connection between the past and the present, so that the inheritance remains alive and continues to belong to us.”