82-year old Safia AbulHeja originally from Haifa, a refugee in Jenin Camp talking about the Hikaye and its narration
 © Rafi Safieh
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Impacts and response on Palestinian living heritage

Hamza Osama Aqrabawi / Hakaya Organization

First: Effects on our living heritage

As a result of the state of emergency announcement and the disruption of the normal life’s wheel after the 5th of March 2020, with the tightening of measures on gatherings and the movement of people, many Palestinian habits and practices has been changed, including:

1/Marriage and weddings: weddings, including folk celebrations, as well as women’s group parties to celebrate marriage (Hennah Parties), large weddings’ suppers that were old customs in societies, as well as the groom’s (Zaffeh) and the bride’s (Fardeh) traditions. Now weddings are held silently and on a small scale.

2/Death: The customs and rituals of death associated with opening funeral homes; holding charity feasts and meals for the soul of the deceased; feeding the families of the deceased in the first days of death has been changed. For instance, condolences are given through telephone or social media, and funeral homes are no longer organized in guesthouses and large halls, as it has been the practice for hundreds of years.

3/Religious celebrations: the popularity of the people’s festivals stopped such as The Shaaboniya (Shaaban’s banquets for the relatives); the celebrations of the half month of Shaaban (al-Nasifa) as they were usually celebrated in Nablus; as well as the collective celebration of children in the reception of Ramadan by chanting special folk songs that are sung in the villages. The annual season of The Prophet Moses, which takes place annually since the reign of Sultan Salah al-Din al-Ayubbi (Saladin) on the second Friday of April each year in the place between Jericho and Jerusalem, was suspended. Religious ceremonies of a popular nature, which are usually held in mosques and places of worship stopped as well.

4/Collective religious practices: Here we refer to the religious practices practiced by society and took the form of established customs such as Friday prayers, Taraweeh prayers during Ramadan in mosques, and the feasts of the fasting people for god’s reward. In addition to the closure of the Sufi channels institutions (Al-Zawaya), where their weekly celebrations were held every Thursday, such as in Nablus, Jerusalem and some villages.

Many cultural activities related to the popular heritage and our social interactions have changed as follows:

1-Cancellation of the annual Hakaya Festival originally programmed for (17-23 March 2020). This is a traditional folk festival, organized annually in Palestine, by the Hakaya Network in which a group of storytellers (traditional narrators) narrate tales of folklore in Palestine, in different regions and residential gatherings. The number of presentations presented exceed 70 stories told by about 20 local narrators. Unfortunately festival activities were canceled for this year.

2- A training on telling folk stories that was arranged to take place in the city of Nablus - Palestine (7-9/3/2020) was canceled, the training targets new novelists who are formed to recount folk tales in local communities.

3- Cancellation of the Biography of Al-Thahir Baybars Festival, (5-15/5/2020). This is a heritage festival through which the local narrators in Palestine relate folkloric epics with a narrative nature for the month of Ramadan, where heritage stories are told in popular cafes in different cities and towns. The activities of this festival have been canceled.

4- Work on the project “Palestine, a story to be told”, which aims to collect and document traditional tales and folk tales from the elderly in the West Bank, was suspended and postponed for a later time yet to be determined.

5-Ecotourism trekking tours for several youth groups were stopped. These cultural tours are based on the culture of walking in remote areas to identify the environmental and heritage components in those places in addition to a thorough cleaning to the natural landscapes during the visits. As well as further singing and storytelling activities. These cultural trips were organized on a weekly basis by several groups, such as the Tijwal Safar group.

In this crisis, people have resorted to restoring some of their folk and social practices more than ever before, including:

1- Resorting to agriculture and taking care of its seasons, especially home agriculture and summer field agriculture, in addition to planting fruit-trees. A wide interest in the traditions, customs and genes of agriculture, its timing, became more popular between the communities with unprecedented turnout, especially in rural areas.

2- Using popular medical treatments practiced by old women in the past as a treatment of diseases, such as the use of Anise, Chamomile, Teucrium, Sage and all available medicinal herbs with avoiding the use of doctors as much as possible.

3- The return of forms of aid and community solidarity of a traditional nature practiced in communities, including the distribution of food, vegetables and assistance at different levels as neighborhoods and assemblages by individual and local initiatives, away from the official authorities assistance, such as the villages of Aqraba, Beit Furik, Peta, Majdal Bani Fadel, Qasra, Deir Jarir.

4- Resorting to spoken and anecdotal folklore to fill in our leisure time, where storytellers and educators were active to search for stories and tales to re-tell them in different ways and present them to their audiences during this period, which grew a great interest of storytelling heritage among the communities during this period.

5. The use of traditional colors to reflect the current situation and describe the society and its interaction with the pandemic and the epidemic, such as jokes, anecdote and satirical short story, as this popular phenomenon has clearly returned to interact with the covid-19 epidemic. The majority of these jokes and new satirical expressions, or those that re-employed popular proverbs, traditional songs, and public statements; have been monitored and documented in a new way by changing some words or formulating them to engage with the covid-19 epidemic. (Available with us and we can provide you with them if you’re interested)

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