This is a not-for-profit project, established to support Palestinian embroiderers in Palestine and the diaspora, in producing a Palestinian History Tapestry. The Tapestry tells the story of the villages and towns, and the lives and heritage of the indigenous people of Palestine from the Neolithic era to the present time. The History Tapestry was conceived and initiated in Oxford, England, in 2012. The Project’s fundamental aims are:
- To support the traditional craft of Palestinian needlewomen
- To record an insufficiently appreciated history of Palestine and Palestinians
The Palestinian History Tapestry Project is coordinated by a Committee with Palestinian and British members, assisted by advisers and others.
Team members in the Middle East
Ibrahim Muhtadi is a Committee Member and Design Adviser for the Palestinian History Tapestry whose family comes from Al Quds. He combines design skills and architectural experience to create memorable visuals using calligraphy, jewelry, graphic design, and Palestinian embroidery. He has contributed to design exhibitions locally and internationally, and participated in an International exchange program in the USA in 2016. Ibrahim has contributed to a number of initiatives to enhance the lives of marginalized people and refugees. Until recently he was Crafts Manager at Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children. He is currently embroidery centre manager at UNRWA’s Sulafa, and works closely with women artisans to create traditional and contemporary embroidery. He has contributed to the design of several PHT project panels and advised on design methods, color matching, and finishing.
Shayma AlWaheidi is Coordinator of the Subcommittee for image selection for the Palestinian History Tapestry Project. She is a Palestinian, born and raised in Gaza City, whose family comes from Bir Seb’a. She did her first degree in Pharmacy at the Al-Azhar University there in 2012. In 2015 she won a scholarship to study for a Master’s Degree in Public Health at Oxford Brookes University. It was during her time in Oxford that she became involved in the Tapestry Project, initially by embroidering a panel. The work for her Master’s degree identified priorities for research understand how to improve the very poor survival rates among women breast cancer in Gaza. In August 2017 she started to implement some of the research needed. She is currently a PhD candidate at King’s College London and will identify which policies and interventions can be expected to improve survival rates for women with breast cancer.
Wafaa Al Za’anin is an Assistant Field Coordinator in Gaza for the Palestinian History Tapestry Project. She is a Palestinian living in Beit Hanoun, a town in the north of the Gaza Strip. She is a dentist who trained in Al-Azhar University, Gaza, and practises at the Al Rimal Clinic in Gaza. Like many Palestinian women she has a passion for embroidery. Wafaa joined the Project in 2013 when her sister Jamila moved to Dubai. Wafaa works with the project to “treasure and promote Palestinian heritage and culture”.
Yasmin Haj-Amer is Field Coordinator in the Naqab for the Palestinian History Tapestry Project. She is a Bedouin school teacher and lives near Bir Seb’a with her husband and two children. She became interested in the Project during her Master’s studies at Oxford Brookes University in 2014. Her father is a successful artist and Yasmin has been surrounded by artistic influences for most of her life. Not only does she coordinate the embroidery team in the Naqab, she also sketches for the Project.
Riham Khalil is Field Coordinator in Lebanon for the Palestinian History Tapestry Project. She is a Palestinian from the village of Al Sufsaf, in the Galilee, but she was born and raised in Kuwait. She currently lives in Lebanon with her husband and family. For the moment she is a ‘stay-at-home mum’, raising her three children. Riham’s most recent employment was with UNRWA as a member of a protection team for Palestinian refugees from Syria in Lebanon. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Economics from Damascus University. Riham was very happy to receive an invitation to act as Coordinator for the Project in Lebanon. She is pleased with the idea that the long history of Palestine and the Palestinian people should be seen and told in embroidery.
Mahmoud Zeidan is Field Adviser in Lebanon for the Palestinian History Tapestry Project. He is a Palestinian from the village of Al Sufsaf, in the Galilee, but he was born and lives in Ein el Helweh, a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. He has an MA in Human Rights and Democratization from the University of Malta, and he has been working as a specialist in education, human rights and protection. Mahmoud co-directs the ‘Nakba Archive‘, an oral history project based on narratives provided by the first generation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and a grassroots documentary initiative ‘Lens on Lebanon’, formed during the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon in 2006. Mahmoud is a cofounder of the ‘Centre for Refugee Rights (Aidoun)’, which defends the right of return of Palestinian refugees.
Barbara Haj-Hassan is Field Coordinator in Jordan for the Palestinian History Tapestry Project. She is American and married to a Jordanian. She has a grown up family and has lived in Jordan for much of her married life. She has a keen interest in creative needlework and has a good eye for precise and exact stitching. Barbara is conscious of the difficulties suffered by Palestinian people in refugee camps in Jordan and appreciates communal need for a better understanding of their situation. She hopes that the embroidery the History Project generates will encourage a clearer awareness of the land of Palestine.
Basma Nazer is an Assistant Field Coordinator in Jordan for the Palestinian History Tapestry Project. She is a Palestinian from Al-Khalil [Hebron], a Palestinian city south of Jerusalem. She was initially introduced to the Project when she was in Oxford completing her MBA degree. As a passionate Palestinian and Jordanian, she was thrilled to join the team and assist with co-ordination in Jordan, where she currently lives and works. Basma enjoys working with embroidery groups in Palestinian refugee camps. Every thread and stitch tells a story of a Palestinian city and together the embroidery helps us learn about the history and beauty of Palestine.
Team members in the UK
Jehan Alfarra is Co-chair of the Palestinian History Tapestry Project. She is a Palestinian writer and journalist born and raised in Gaza, where she first worked as a freelance reporter. She is a contributing author to the book “Gaza Writes Back”. Jehan later moved to Sweden to complete her studies before moving to the UK. She became involved in the Tapestry Project during her time in Oxford where she was completing her masters degree in Computing at Oxford Brookes University. Now, she is a full-time multimedia journalist covering Middle Eastern affairs and specialising in Palestinian political news and social issues.
Jan Chalmers is the Project Founder, General Co-ordinator and Co-Chair of the Palestinian History Tapestry Project. She and her husband lived in Gaza for two years, [1969/70] working in UNRWA’s maternal and child health programme. Between 2000 and 2012, she taught embroidery to South African village women, and supported them in creating a South African History Tapestry, which is now displayed permanently in the Parliament House in Cape Town. This experience has proved invaluable in developing the Palestine History Tapestry Project.
Judith English is a Co Founder of the Palestinian History Tapestry Project, and has stepped down as a committee member. Judith had a career in Academic Psychiatry, and was Principal of St Hilda’s College, Oxford University for six years. Since retiring, she has pursued a longstanding interest in textile art, working in fabric collage. Her interest in Palestine developed through her husband’s involvement in surgical training programs in Gaza and the West Bank. She views the Palestine History Tapestry Project as a way to offer support to Palestinian women, recognizing that participation in creative activity has the potential to build self-esteem and strengthen resources for coping with stress.
Selma Harb, is an Adviser to the Palestinian History Tapestry. She is a Palestinian whose family is from Tayibe, in Western Palestine. She spent the first 15 years of her life in Libya, where her parents were academics. Selma lives in Oxford with her husband and their two children. She has a doctorate in the History of Islamic Medicine from the University of Oxford (St Hilda’s College), and practiced as a pharmacist. She and other family members are active in promoting awareness of Palestinian embroidery and other artefacts by holding sales of work.
Liz Taylor, is a Coordinating Team Member for the Palestinian History Project . She has spent the last forty years between the Middle East and the UK. She is married to an Egyptian, has taught sociology/anthropology at universities in the UK and Cairo, and also worked in development in Egypt, Palestine and the Yemen. Much of her development work has been concerned with issues relating to women and gender. Her work took her to Palestine during the first intifada and since then she has been passionately attached to the country. Now retired, she continues to live between Cairo and the UK. Liz’s prime interest in the History Tapestry project is in its developmental and creative potential.
Hemlata Bountra is the Accountant for the Palestinian History Tapestry Project. She is the Accountant for St Hilda’s College, Oxford, and has been Director of the Friends of Oxford Botanic Garden & Harcourt Arboretum Oxford for a number of years. She joined the Palestine History Tapestry Project team in May 2013, following the Projects registration with HMRC for gift aid.
Shelagh Weir is an Adviser to the Palestinian History Tapestry Project . She is an internationally respected authority on Palestinian costume and embroidery. She did intensive field research in Palestine and Jordan between the late 1960s and 1980s. As curator for the Middle East at the Museum of Mankind, the former Ethnography Department of the British Museum, she organized several exhibitions on Palestinian culture. Her books discuss techniques, materials, and the regional and social symbolism of rural dress and embroidery, and include Palestinian Embroidery: Cross Stitch Patterns (1988), Palestinian Costume (1989), and Embroidery from Palestine (2006), all published by the British Museum.
Iain Chalmers is the Personal Assistant to the Project Co-chairs of the Palestinian History Tapestry Project. He was a clinician in the UK and the Gaza Strip between 1966 and 1973, when he became a full time health services researcher. Between 1978 and 2018, he was founding director of the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit (www.npeu.ox.ac.uk), then founder of the UK Cochrane Centre (www.cochrane.org), the James Lind Initiative (www.testingtreatments.org), and The James Lind Library (www.jameslindlibrary.org). He was knighted for services to health care in 2000.
Klim McPherson is the Treasurer for the Palestinian History Tapestry Project. He is a retired Professor of Public Health Epidemiology who has worked largely on Women’s Health and on teaching medical statistics in Oxford, Bristol and London. He has been Treasurer of the UK Health Forum and Chaired the Society of Social Medicine, the European Public Health Association, and the British Breast Group. His current ambition is to encourage and enable multi-disciplinary collaboration in public health science and practice.
Robin Layfield is digital adviser to the Palestinian History Tapestry Project. He is based in the South West of England. He is a web developer who designed, built and maintains the PHT website. He advises the Steering Committee on online issues as required. Robin curated in February 2020 a successful exhibition of a selection of embroidered PHT panels in the textile town of Stroud. In his home life he puts a great deal of time in to supporting his local community, from council work and representation, to advocacy and climate activism. He is a great believer in the power of people to move mountains.
Gwithian Bowness/Doswell is the PHT/ Oxford Ramallah Friendship Association (ORFA) partnership representative. Gwithian first went to Palestine in 1983 to teach English as a volunteer in a women’s vocational college in Al Bireh, West Bank. This is where she first came across women making Palestinian embroidery, and she loved it! She has visited the occupied Palestinian territory several times since then, most recently as a human rights monitor with the World Council of Churches, first in the South Hebron Hills and then in the villages around Nablus. She has been involved with ORFA (www.oxford-ramallah.org), since 2011 and enjoys hosting visitors from the Al ‘Amari camp (Ramallah) in her home. Gwithian is proud of ORFA’s key role in establishing Oxford-Ramallah Twinning, and more recently, the partnership with the PHT. Together with other members of the ORFA team she hopes to increase awareness and support for the Palestinian History Tapestry, and Palestine and Palestinians more generally.
History Advisors: Mahmoud Hawari [Tarshiha], Ghada Karmi [Al Quds], Eugene Rogan, Amin Tawfiq-Tibi [Taybeh], Avi Shlaim, Salman Abu Sitta [Al Ma’in], Nur Masalha [Galilee].
Panel Selection Committee: Coordinator: Shayma Alwaheidi [Bir Seb’a], Jehan Alfarra [Khan Younis], Hassan Alhallaq [Majdal], Safa Alhallaq [Gaza], Yasmeen Haj Amer [Naqab], Riham Khalil [Sufsaf], Ibrahim Muhtadi [Al Quds], Basma Nazer [Khalil], Ramy Salem Deeb [Hirbiya], Mahmoud Zeidan [Sufsaf].
Newsletter editor: Ramy Salem Deeb
Photography: Theo Chalmers
IT Assistance: Hamish Chalmers
Brochure design: Mark Epton, Advocate design agency
Canvas printing: Carbon Colour
Other contributors: John Beavis [RIP], Jane Caplan, Khamis Elessi [Jaffa], Salem el Qudwa [Gaza], Terence English, Jane and Simon Fisher, Weeam Hammoudeh [Lifta], Tony Jefferis, Nick Maynard, Refa Mustafa [Al Na’ani], Aida Nasif-Tibi [Tulkarm], Akhiro Seita, Andrew Wilkinson, Eleanor Woods, Shirabi Yamanda.
Statistics: Salman Abu Sitta [Bir Seb’a], Abla Sami [Al Quds], B’Tselem.