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أبريل 23، 2012

Preserving Palestine's Heritage .. a tale of Palestine

Old Palestinian Currency/ Ikram Abu Asheh
Azzam Aref Ismael lives in Beit Ebba, a village located north west of Nablus. He started collecting old stamps and currencies 47 years ago and later, his hobby changed and he began collecting more important things, like old pieces related to the Palestinian folklore. Finally, he opened an exhibition center in Rafiedya, which is a very lively area of Nablus. Azzam called it “Beit Al-Antika” (the Arabic equivalent for “House of antiques”).

When he opened the exhibition center, Azzam didn’t aim at making money out of it. All he wanted was to raise people’s interest in the rare pieces of their own history and heritage. “ I noticed that people in Palestine (and especially in Nablus) don’t really realize what our ancestors have left us. These old things are a cultural heritage which proves our legitimacy on this land. Therefore, I decided to collect all the precious pieces related to the history of Palestinians, and some of them go back to more than a hundred years! The aim of all this is to give an idea of our great history” says Azzam.

Azzam adds that one of the main reasons he collects these archeological pieces is Israel’s constant attempts to take control of the Palestinian heritage. He believes it’s his duty to do his best in order to save this heritage and prevent it from being stolen. “We should keep everything that relates to our past because we inherited it from our ancestors, and we should pass it on to our sons”.   
Some old Jewels in Home of Antica
Azzam says the attendance at his exhibition is satisfying. He adds that most of the visitors are people interested in interior design, since old pieces are used nowadays in houses that reproduce classic designs. Moreover, women come to the exhibition to see the old decorations, and they are also impressed with the old ornaments and silver jewels which are, in their view, more beautiful than modern jewels.

“Every piece that our ancestor used has its own story, they are not only utilitarian,” says Azzam. “Those items tell us about the old traditions and habits, like this embroidered dress which points to the status of the girl who wears it (if she is married or single) and the area she is from”.

The bride box is also one of the significant items that clearly tells us about the tradition of
Palestinian bride's box 170 years ago
wedding preparations. As Azzam explains: “every bride used to take a box with her when she would move from her family house to her husband’s. She would put her things, clothes, jewels, perfumes and Arabic Kuhul in the box, depending on what she and her husband can afford”. Azzam then points to the copper layer which covers the box, saying that it indicates the bride belonged to a wealthy family.

The antiques scattered in “Beit Al-Antika”look like a surrealist painting. Whoever visits the exhibition center will be taken by the beauty of the priceless pieces which have been collected from Palestinian villages and cities and have been conserved for more than 47 years. One would be pleased by seeing these witnesses to the Palestinian heritage, which indicate that Palestinians hold tightly to their Canaanite land.
an old music instrument
Azzam finally hopes that his message will reach Palestinian citizens and leaders: they need to take more care of the archeological pieces and historical places in Palestine, by specializing staffs responsible for documenting and conserving these precious heritages that are confronted with cultural Israeli attacks. “Our people has to prevent its heritage from being stolen, therefore our past has become more important to us than our present and future, says Azzam. And he adds: “who doesn’t have a past can neither have a present nor a future”.

* By Ikram Abu Asheh

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