threads of potential


Embroidery lives on in Palestine, a tradition passed down through the generations.  While Palestine is as modern as a choking, all-encompassing 3 year siege (since soon after Hamas was elected in early 2006) and numerous Israeli wars and attacks will allow, the traditions from generations ago are not forgotten: songs, dabke (dance), food, farming and fishing techniques, clothing…and embroidery.

In recent years, the art has taken on a new role in occupied Palestine, re-affirming Palestinian identity in proudly embroidered kuffiyehs (scarves) and bracelets, along with traditional dresses and shawls.

And in both the occupied West Bank and siege-occupied Gaza Strip, Palestinians face the obstacle of having goods but no market: since the siege was imposed on Gaza, exports have halted and the bare minimum is entering.  Meaning the products artists, not to mention farmers, would export lie in closets, cupboards (or are fed to animals, in the case of the latter).

With unemployment rates at near 50%, poverty rates at near 90%, over 95% of industry destroyed by the siege and Israel’s winter massacre of Gaza, and with international funding cut off shortly after the siege was imposed, even this meagre source of income has been shut down.  In many families, these women who sold their embroidery were the last and sole source of income.  Palestinian families tend always to be large: 8 or more children, often as many as 12 children, parents, grandparents…Imagine a large family like this living off one source of income: embroidery.  Imagine them without that income.


*embroidered shawl

DSC00263*traditional women’s dress (still worn by older women in Palestine)


*background for a wall clock



DSC00274*embroidery work is further hindered by the siege-inflated costs of material and thread, and the scarcity of certain colours


  1. Wonderful photos, as always, and a great title too! The Palestinian people have so much to teach us. Their very survival is at stake at yet they refuse to have their lives reduced to just surviving. They keep on doing their arts, their dance, their traditions. They are so proud of their culture and are ever resilient in spirit.

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