Identity: Embroidery: Munayyer Family

02.Embroidery:Munayyer Family

The seed for what would become the Palestine Heritage Foundation was planted in 1985 when Hanan and Farah Munayyer bought a traditional embroidered Palestinian dress in Jerusalem. Because the dress was torn, Hanan intended to make the embroidered part into a pillow cover. Farah stopped her, saying "you're cutting up our culture."

Ironically, neither Hanan as a child in Haifa, nor Farah, who was born in Jaffa and grew up in Lydda, had seen many women wearing Palestinian embroidery. Village women still dressed traditionally, but the Munayyer's parents were of the generation for whom being modern and advanced meant dressing in European style.  "In the 1930s and '40s," Hanan said, "there was a disconnect between city dwellers and their grandparents."

Farah remembers the first time he saw a woman in an embroidered dress. After the Israelis expelled the population of Lydda, Palestinians remaining in the area were confined in a ghetto area outside the town. There Farah, then a child of 10, met Um Zwayed, a Bedouin woman who wore a black embroidered dress. Although such a style of dress was considered backward by the displaced townspeople, Farah says he now realizes that the women who embroidered the dresses wrote the history of Palestinian culture with their needles.

The Munayyer's collection took a leap forward in 1987, when the couple took a home equity loan, and bought the entire collection of more than 65 traditional dresses from a Jerusalem antique dealer. Three years later, through a series of coincidences their collection came to be virtually completed .

Rolla Foley, an American Quaker, taught in Palestine from 1938 to 1946. While there, with the help of Ellen Scott another American, , he collected nearly a hundred complete Palestinian and Syrian costumes, some dating back to 1850. Foley fully documented each dress by village. In addition, he owned several hundred slides and collected water colors of Jerusalem in the 1940s.

Foley opened a small museum in Oakland, Illinois. The museum did not survive Foley's death in 1970 and his widow, Ulla, inherited both his and Ellen Scott's collection, she decided that her husband's collection should be joined with the Munayyer's.