Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Reopening of the Palestinian Heritage Museum

By Beverly Yu - July 24, 2012
Section: [Main News] [Culture]
Tags: [dar al-tifl al-arabi] [hind husseini] [museum]

 Fifty-five young faces peered out at Ms. Hind Taher Al-Husseini as she passed by Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre church in April 1948. The children had just survived the brutal slaughter of their parents and families in the Deir Yassin massacre which was led by the notorious Irgun and the Stern Zionist gangs. The new orphans wandered for miles searching for shelter and reached the Old City in Jerusalem. After finding them, Hind Husseini made it her personal mission to gather and care for the children, at a time when Palestine had few charitable groups. Despite warnings that her safety was endangered, she rented two rooms in the Sahyoun Convent and in time of war, continued caring for the children, until she brought them to the Husseini family mansion in Sheikh Jarrah.  A few days later, the Convent the orphans had slept in was bombed, and the room the children slept in was hit. They escaped death a second time. In the weeks following the Deir Yassin massacre, Hind Huesseini transformed the Husseini home into a school for children and orphans, renaming it the Dar Al-Tifl Al-Arabi (Arab Children’s House). A small museum opened in 1978 but closed in 1987 due to the outbreak of the first Intifada years. It has remained closed until April 2012.

Fast-forward to today.

In a large new book at the front desk, visitors from around the world have written to express their gratitude for the work done, hope for the Dar Al Tifl’s future, and amazement at its legacy. At Dar Al-Tifl’s door, a Swedish woman thanks the museum’s curator, Baha’ Jubeh for his tour of the exhibition halls and library on the second floor. They hope to expand both within the next two months. The recently reopened and renovated museum displays both traditional daily-use items as well as  ornate home furnishing decorations from the  Ottoman period. There is also an art workshop for school children.

Dar Al-Tilfl’s mission is to preserve Palestinian culture and heritage in the face of its ongoing destruction in keeping with the tradition of its founder Hind Husseini. Baha’ Jubeh stresses the importance of preserving both the day to day life of the Palestinian people along with Palestinian culture’s celebratory side. He explains with the traditional Palestinian dress collection that the museum preserves the daily Palestinian work dress alongside the special ceremonial dress to end the misconception of celebration as being the chief activity for women in their daily lives.

The Palestinian Heritage Museum’s strength lies in its representation of the people through the displays of tools, home decor, and products made of straw, pottery clay, and metals. Artifacts used in traditional rural households for cooking, weaving and spinning, growing crops, and raising livestock have been collected from throughout Palestine. The ethnographic information presented alongside the artifacts is invaluable. Aside from the museum’s focus on heritage, its exhibits delve into the historical influence of Ottoman culture on Palestinian tradition, including the Ottoman Faramans Book describing land deeds to Palestine, the significance of Jerusalem, and the haunting reminder of destroyed and displaced villages during Israeli occupation that solidified Husseini’s dedication to her vision.

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