The star of the show

The 6th installment of the Birzeit Heritage Week come back with many new innovations. How can we make people more interested in their heritage? Well I am happy to see that this year’s festival has found a couple of new ways to do just that. In my last post, I wrote about Amti (Aunt) Tooteh and her animated cartoon spots, but this week Amti Tooteh was starring the show at the Birzeit Heritage Week!

The character of Amti Tooteh was based on an actual old Lady from Birzeit, Amti Margarete, who participates every year in the festival, but this year her participation took a new flavor with all the attention Amti Tooteh has been gaining after her appearances on Palestive TV and on social media websites.  Amti Tooteh was even part of Dr. Laila Ghannam’s speech (Governor of Ramallah and Al Bireh).

Amti Tooteh carrying Henna and walking hand in hand with the Governor

Amti Tooteh carrying Henna and walking hand in hand with the Governor

From the minute the crowds gathered to the start the traditional wedding procession, Amti Tooteh was there carrying over her head the Henna dough decorated with flowers. Traditionally the eldest woman of the family, or the village, prepares the Henna dough at the bridegroom’s house and then carries it over her head in a procession to the bride’s house. At the bride’s house, the hands and feet of the bride are decorated with the Henna. Henna, in Palestine, has been a sign for joy and celebration as it is usually connected to weddings and happy times.

This year, four couples about to be wed participated in the traditional wedding procession and Henna at the Birzeit Heritage Week wearing their traditional Palestinian embroidered dresses.

Four Brides in traditional Palestinian dresses

Four Brides in traditional Palestinian dresses

Palestinian couple in their traditional wear

Palestinian couple in their traditional wear

Palestinian bride in her traditional white dress

Palestinian bride in her traditional white dress

Not only did the brides get the Henna on their hands, but also the Governor and other officials had their share of the joy!

The elders of the families asked for the hands of the brides

The elders of the families asked for the hands of the brides

Amti Tooteh dancing with Henna

Amti Tooteh dancing with Henna

Amti Tooteh dancing with Henna

Amti Tooteh dancing with Henna

Bride getting Henna on her hand

Bride getting Henna on her hand

Bride with Henna

Bride with Henna

Bride with Henna

Bride with Henna

Governor Dr.  Laila Ghannam getting Henna on her hand

Governor Dr. Laila Ghannam getting Henna on her hand

It was a wonderful celebration and Amti Tooteh was its star! She was even saluted by the Governor who said “Amti Tooteh embodies our heritage and land and all what is good about it!”

— Jack Rabah

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Amti (Aunt) Tooteh

Amti Tooteh

Amti Tooteh

A while back I wrote a post about preserving the oral heritage and traditional songs in specific. In the recent weeks I have been working on a project that is both fun and in at the same time advances one of the causes dear to my heart. Towards the end of this month, the sixth installment of the Birzeit Heritage Week will be launch at the old city of Birzeit. For the second year in a row I’m happy to be involved in developing the week’s public relations and social media campaigns. The week is an amazing effort to preserve our heritage and bring through further development to the Palestinian country side.  Whether it is the traditional wedding held during the opening of the festival, or the newly introduced Palestine dress competition, the week’s activities bring Palestinian heritage to the spot light.

This year however, another important element comes to play. Amti (Aunt) Tooteh is starring the show! The cartoon character is based on a real old lady from Birzeit who participates yearly in the heritage week and especially in the traditional wedding and songs. Amti Tooteh will be used to introduce the festival and its activities to facebookers and other Palestinians through Palestine TV. She is featured on the week’s poster and will be part of all the festivals and memorabilia. Amti Tooteh was an instant hit from the minute we posted the first clip of her telling her long gone neighbor about how the old houses have been renovated with the spirit of the youth who volunteer and work day and night to make the festival a success.

Most importantly, for me, Amti Tooteh recites verses from our traditional songs in different poses posted on the facebook page and encourages participation of Heritage Week followers to post versus from songs they now. I have posted a few myself 🙂

For those of you who know Arabic, you can get a better idea about this by visiting the Heritage Week facebook page here, and be sure not to miss the heritage week activities if you are in Palestine between 26-30 June, 2013.

— Jack Rabah

Juma’a Mishimshieh

Literally, Juma’a Mishimshieh means an Apricot Week. Apricot fruits become ripe quickly and within a couple of weeks, if not eaten, they fall off and rot. So, people with apricot trees end up getting stomach pains trying to enjoy their apricots before they finish or fall off the trees.

This morning my daughter woke up with a stomach ache from eating too many apricots last night at her grandfather’s in Jifna. Jifna is most famous in Palestine for its apricot fruits. I’m not sure what factors are at play here, but Jifna apricots are the best.

So, back to the title of the post which is actually a proverb used in Palestine meaning you should take the opportunity while the window is still open, even though it may cause you stomach ache 🙂

Following are  a few Jifna apricot shots from yesterday:

— Jack Rabah