Throughout her life, my grandmother produced hundreds of masterpieces of Palestinian authentic embroidery pieces. Functional and decorative and ranging from small napkins to dining table covers. However, what has become my favorite piece from all her works is an uncompleted piece that I found laying in the bottom of one of her drawers.


I remember as a child, and after her eye sight became weaker, transposing embroidery patterns for her on square grid paper. Everyday she would have some time set aside to work on her latest piece. My guess is that this piece is one of her latest works where she made a mistake in calculating how much space is needed for BLESS. I’m not sure why she didn’t attempt to correct it? However, with her needle still there I would guess it maybe her last piece.. which makes it so precious and so dear to me.

She was the blessing of our home and not a day goes by that I don’t miss her, her smile, and the blessings she brought into our lives. RIP Tata Badia’a.

–Jack Rabah


Old window, full of stories

Old window, full of stories

Walking around the streets of the historic part of Birzeit city in Palestine during the annual Heritage Week is quite uplifting. No longer the old homes and windows are closed and empty and longing for their original inhabitants. There is light, people, art, new stories and a new commitment that we are here to stay.

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

Early morning photo shoot…

Yesterday morning, I packed my gear and headed to my kids’ school. My son’s class was presenting Arabic club activities to the rest of the school in the morning chapel meeting. He wanted me to take photos so they can put them on the school’s facebook page. I was happy to oblige.

I was happy to see that their activities included a number of traditional dances, songs, and an enactment of a traditional wedding. I thank their teacher for taking the time to teach them about these important aspects of our heritage. The kids enjoyed their performance and had a very lively, at moments uncontrollable, audience 🙂

— Jack Rabah

How does heritage evolve?

How does heritage evolve and develop? I think it is a mixture that stems from a deep understanding of one’s cultural heritage as well as having a creative vision on how to bring on new advances and forms. Watching the following video of Le Trio Joubran performing with the First Ramallah Group dance troupe at the Olympia Music Hall in Paris got me thinking, are we creating a new heritage for our grandchildren? Will it be remembered and appreciated by them as we appreciate the inheritance we received from our ancestors?

Besides the good music and the great enthusiasm of the dancers, something else tickled my senses and got me thinking of what made this performance so special. In my opinion, a number of elements contributed to this success: the refined and well rehearsed show, the beautiful yet simple stage setting, and the balanced mix between dance, music and poetry.

What more? How does a simple traditional tune became a show? The Dal’ona song, a well known simple tune that is part of our tradition in the Middle East was turned into a masterpiece. It reminded me of Franz Schubert lieder and how he turned small tunes like Die Forelle into elaborate works of music.

Congratulations to Le Trio Joubran on their 10th anniversary and to the First Ramallah Group for their Parisian show.

— Jack Rabah