The Beautifully Diverse People of Palestine

Written By Hibah Jelani

People from all over the world, standing in solidarity with Palestine.

This article is not about finger-pointing, who’s right and who’s wrong, or even about the politics and issues surrounding this community. This article is about the significant detail that is constantly ignored during victory and defeat: the people. The people who build communities from the ground up, only to have them destroyed. The people who fight for the right to hope, and dream, and pray. The people of Palestine. This article highlights the beauty of these people and provides a deeper glimpse into their culture, cuisines, and architecture. 

The People

Some countries recognize Palestine as an official state while others do not. Similarly, Israel is recognized as an official state by some. Either way, the people living on this land continue to live, whether it is on Palestinian or Israelian land. They try to keep their culture alive in whatever ways they can, even though most impacted by this cycle of violence are penniless. These people struggle to feed their families on good days but despite all that, they still have hope. 

Palestinian man paints a mural on International Day of Solidarity for the Palestinian People

This disputed land is home to many different cultures and religions including Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Their culture evolved over the centuries as different empires and kingdoms took over. The Palestinian culture was thriving until the collapse of its society in 1948. As the Israeli state took over, historical texts and other archeological evidence were destroyed. Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic historical pieces were lost. Even though the continuous occupation threatens to eradicate the Palestinian culture, many hold steadfast to their roots. For example, Christians in Palestine celebrate Christmas to honour the birth of Jesus. Many visit the Church of Nativity on December 25th to celebrate the son of God. Jews celebrate Passover to remember their ancestor’s liberation from Egypt led by Moses, while Muslims celebrate Eid. Eid marks the end of their holy month of Ramadan, and Muslims are encouraged to eat, dress up, and give to charity. 

Families still come together for a meal despite the death and destruction that surrounds them

For many Palestinians, regardless of their religion, family is one of their greatest values. This is because, after the collapse of the Palestinian society, there were no governments to support them. This caused families and even entire communities to become tight-knit groups, always ready to help each other out. After Nakba, meaning “the catastrophe”, extended families began living together as a support system. The constant death and destruction caused many people to lose their sources of income. And since the Israeli forces began arresting the men. Women were given the responsibility of being the sole breadwinners. The Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Palestinian women are an invaluable part of their community as they continue to support their people from every profession. 

Their Cuisines

One of the major components of Palestinian culture is food. The blend between Middle Eastern and East Mediterranean cuisine with exotic spices creates a meal that is hard to forget, from breakfast to dessert. Traditionally, food is used to mark joyous celebrations such as an aqiqah, the celebration of a child’s birth done by Muslims, baptisms done by the Christians, or the celebration of naming a child done by Jews. 

Falafels

Some of these delicious foods are widely known throughout the western world. To begin with, we have falafels made with chickpeas, parsley, coriander, onions, lemon, and garlic. There are many alternatives that people have created by experimentation and their own experiences, but this is the most widely used recipe from street vendors to fine dining restaurants. 

Hummus

Next, we have another common dish also created with chickpeas. Hummus is eaten all over the world with pita, sliced vegetables, and even chips. One of its greatest qualities is that it’s filled with nutrients. It is made up of chickpeas, garlic, lemon, olive oil, and tahini. Similar to falafels, hummus can be made with different variations by adding spices, honey, or parsley. The list is endless.

Kunafa

Lastly, we have Kunafa, made with crispy phyllo pastry and a creamy cheese filling. This dish is topped with rose and citrus-scented syrup that is sure to attract even the most half-hearted dessert eaters. The possibilities with Kunafa are endless. You can make the dish with brioche buns instead of phyllo pastry which gives it a very different texture but still an amazing taste. Or try stuffing the Kunafa with puddings, fruits, caramel, or even nuts. Either way, Kunafa is going to retain its cultural background with variations.

The Architecture

If you get the chance to travel, one of the most significant things you’ll notice is the stark differences and unapparent similarities between the architecture of holy sites, grand palaces, and even homes. Across the great landmass that encompasses Europe, Asia, and Africa, a variety of different people thrive. The disputed land of Palestine and Israel is specifically located in the Middle East and is home to some of the most ancient architectural creations known to man. From desert palaces to historical churches and mosques. However, not all the people who live there have access to these sites. 

Labelled image of Temple Mount/Al-Haram al-Sharif

Al-Haram Al-Sharif encapsulates the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. This place is said to be built in the 7th century and holds a lot of significance for Muslims around the world. Many Palestinian Muslims come to peacefully pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque as it is a holy site. For the Jewish Palestinians, Al-Haram Al-Sharif is known as Temple Mount and holds just as much religious significance. The mount is believed to be the site of ancient Jewish temples. Located on the west side of the walls surrounding Temple Mount (or Al-Haram Al-Sharif) is the Wailing Wall. This is believed to be the only remnant of the old walls and is extremely sacred to the Jews. This architectural site was built to be a place of peace and prosperity, but over the years it has deteriorated through state-sanctioned violence. Many hope that one day it will be restored to its historic beauty.

The Church Of Nativity (birthplace of Jesus Christ)

Along with its population of Jews and Muslims, Palestine is also home to a considerable amount of Christians. This is because many of their holy sites are located there along with the fact that it is believed that Jesus was born in this area. Some Christians are unable to visit their holy churches or pray due to the Israeli occupation. Some of the most important sites include The Church of Nativity, The Basilica of Annunciation—where Gabriel is said to have spoken to the Virgin Mary—and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Jesus is said to be buried.

We stand stronger united

Call To Action

When we categorize the Palestinian occupation as just another war in the Middle East, we become ignorant of the importance of every individual life. The death count becomes just another number and the wounded are forgotten, pushed aside to focus the money on weaponry, destruction, and dominating territory. Has the value of human life dropped so low? Despite what you may have heard or learned, the issue between Palestine and Israel has nothing to do with religion, culture, or any of the things that truly make up a person. This fight is much more materialistic and is about land and ownership. That is why it is important to acknowledge and remember what truly makes up these survivors before their culture is lost to all. We must remember those we have lost, and do whatever we can to make sure others don’t suffer the same fate. This is a humanitarian cause and we must make every life matter. These beautiful people, their historic cultures, and architecture, all matter. 

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Image Sources:

Thomson, KarrieThe Beautifully Diverse People of Palestine