Nur Arafeh

Nur Arafeh (The Democracy Workers Rights Center - DWRC): Nur is a Palestinian from Jerusalem, who has long been interested in politics and human rights, principally in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. She has participated with the model United Nations and has worked with Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights in the summer of 2011. She represented Badil at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Nur was studying for a dual BA at Sciences Po University of France, and Columbia University in New York, at the time of her fellowship.


11 Jul

Art has always been used as a form of cultural resistance. Specifically, Palestinian art has a significant role in resisting the silencing of the Palestinian history by the Zionists and the erasure of its cultural traces. In other words, art helps to assert a national identity that is threatened of being eradicated by another identity.

Art can also be seen as a tool to preserve memory. In fact, memory is the driving force of one’s art, especially in the case of artists who live in exile and who wish to invoke the recreation of the past through art. For more information on this subject, I recommend to read Kamal Boullatta’s book Palestinian Art. From 1850 to the Present. It is one of the most enriching and well-documented books I read on Palestinian art.


The well-known Palestinian artist, Kamal Boullata
The well-known Palestinian artist, Kamal Boullata


Palestinian women have always played a significant role in resisting the occupation and enhancing the Palestinian identity. Nowadays, many of them work for the revival of Palestinian heritage (Turath) through embroidery, weaving, crochet, etc.


Houwayda, one of the employees at DWRC, wearing the traditional Palestinian gown.
Houwayda, one of the employees at DWRC, wearing the traditional Palestinian gown.


On Monday, I went to Sakhnin with four other Palestinian women from the West Bank. I was the only one who had an Israeli Residency blue card, so I could go to Sakhnin without any problems. However, the other women from the West Bank, who have Palestinian IDs, needed a permit in order to go to Sakhnin since it is a city in Israel and only Israelis or Palestinians with Israeli IDs are allowed to enter.

Sakhnin is a Palestinian city located in lower Galilee, to the north west of Tiberias. Its population is Arab, mostly Muslims.


Sakhnin to the north-west of Tiberias (source: Wikipedia)
Sakhnin to the north-west of Tiberias (source: Wikipedia)


The purpose of our visit to Sakhnin was to attend the opening of a Bazar named “oudna عدنا” (we’re back). The Bazaar included all kinds of craft products such as Palestinian embroidery, straw, jewelry, ceramics, glass and crochet.

All these craft products were made by Palestinian women from the West Bank, Negev and the Galilee. The goal of the Bazaar, which will be open for a year, is to unite Palestinian women who live in the West Bank and in “Israel.” Its purpose is also to increase the marketing of Palestinian products in Israel, support these women and empower them economically and financially. A long-term goal would be to sell these products in the Arab World, Europe and the US.

The idea of the project was suggested by The Democracy and Workers Rights Center (DWRC). It can be viewed as a continuation of their 2010 project that was organized to help and empower women who work in the informal sector. The two women who went with us to Sakhnin attended all the courses prepared by DWRC. The courses included subjects such as project management, marketing, communication, establishment of a trade union, etc. The goal was to train these women, support them and help them to get a permanent income.


Names of Palestinian cities.
Names of Palestinian cities.


I met in Sakhnin a woman from Nablus, in the West Bank. Her name is Rania and she’s a mother of four kids. A year ago, she established a small cooperative with four other women in Nablus. Each one works at home, but then they sell their products under the name of their cooperative “نواعم Nawa’em.” What I like about these women is the fact that each one is specialized in a specific type of craft. For instance, Rania makes crochet and weaving. Another woman embroiders Palestinian dresses and wallets, etc.


Embroidered shawls
Embroidered shawls


All the women I talked with told me that they were taught by their mothers how to embroider. Rania started embroidering at the age of 8 and is now teaching her 9 year-old girl the same craft.

What is interesting is the fact that Rania has a BA degree in Applied Medical Sciences. However, when she got married and had kids, she stopped working. Therefore, she found in embroidery the best way to work and at the same time stay at home and raise her kids. The other Palestinian woman I met was a teacher from Bethlehem (in the West Bank). In her free time, especially in summer vacations, she embroiders pillows, bags, wallets, etc.


A quilt made in the Netherlands. The subject was "peace."
A quilt made in the Netherlands. The subject was “peace.”


I believe that it is very important to support these women and raise their educational and economic standing since they play a significant role in preserving the Palestinian cultural legacy. This might explain the huge media coverage on Monday. You can check the following websites:,31,32.html,,1,2.html

In the first one, there’s an interview that was done with me. I’m sorry but it’s only in Arabic.

Posted By Nur Arafeh

Posted Jul 11th, 2012

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