JERUSALEM (AP) – The brightly embroidered traditional dress of Palestinian women, known as "thobe", was not the type of clothing that one expects to see become a symbol pop politics.

It now stands out as a softer expression of Palestinian nationalism, even in competition with the classic keffiyeh – the scarf worn by young Palestinian men throwing stones to protest IsraelThe occupation.

The dress, embellished with elaborate hand-stitched embroidery, requires months of grueling work. Some thobes bring in thousands of dollars. Traditional textiles are reminiscent of a bygone era of Palestinian peasant women sewing fields away.

Last month, Rashida Tlaib proudly wore her mother's veil during her historic swearing-in as the first woman member of the Palestinian US Congress, inspiring masses of women around the world, especially in the Palestinian territories, to tweet photos of themselves in their ancestral dresses.

"The historical thobe evokes an ideal of pure and intact Palestinebefore the occupation, "said Rachel Dedman, curator of a recent exhibition at the Palestinian Museum, devoted to the evolution of Palestinian embroidery. "It's more explicitly related to history and heritage than politics. That's what makes it a brilliant symbol. "

The Palestinian thobe traces its history until the beginning of the 19th century, when the embroidery was confined to the villages.

The richly decorated dresses marked an important stage in the life of women: early puberty, marriage, maternity. Patterns varied from village to village – three-dimensional special stitching for the upper class of Bethlehem, large pockets for Bedouin nomads, orange branch motifs for the city of Jaffa, famous for its orchards, Maha Saca, director of the Palestinian Heritage Center in Bethlehem.

Thobe's motives also expressed the different social positions of women: red for wives, blue for widows, blue with multicolored stitches for widows contemplating remarriage.

While Arab women in the region have been wearing dresses for centuries, thobes have become distinctly Palestinian, especially since the creation of Israel Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes during the war around IsraelCreation. Many only took their robes to the diaspora, Saca added.

The war, which the Palestinians call their "nakba", or disaster, has transformed the thobe.

"Suddenly, in the face of Israeli dispossession and cultural appropriation, embroidery has become an urgent task," Dedman said. "The dress was taken and politicized."

In decades of conflict that has claimed the lives of thousands of people on both sides, Palestinian nationalism has taken many forms.

In the early days of IsraelThe establishment, he was associated with calls to IsraelDestruction and deadly attacks. The armed struggle then gave way to calls for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, in the Gaza Strip and in the east. Jerusalem – land captured by Israel in 1967. The peace talks were interrupted by spasms of violence and, in the last ten years, by a freeze on negotiations.

Today, the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority self-government, which administers parts of the West Bank, continues to seek a two-state solution with Israel. Hamas militant group, which took the Gaza Strip in 2007, is still searching for IsraelDestruction, while many Palestinians, especially the younger generation, are now talking about a single binational state with Israel in which they would enjoy complete equality of rights.

Along the way, the popularity and popularity of the Thobe brand have evolved, with garments that reflect many dramas in history.

During the first Intifada or Palestinian uprising in the 1980s, the thobe flourished with rifles, doves and flowers. When Israeli soldiers confiscated Palestinian flags during protests, women inserted banned cards and banned national colors, according to the Palestinian museum's exhibition.

Now, Palestinian women of all walks of life wear pants to express their national pride at weddings and special occasions.

"It's a way to defend our national identity" Saca I said.

The care, work and skills needed to make a garment prevent the garment from becoming a daily garment of streetwear – or protest clothing. But less expensive versions of the dress, produced in series, have sprouted.

"A woman usually wears something to wear occasionally during her life. It's very expensive and impractical, "said Maysoun Abed, director of a thobe exhibition in Al-Bireh, a city in the West Bank near Ramallah. "But the demand for the thobe is still as important to express patriotism."

Although the dress shares a powerful patriotic subtext and roots in peasant life with black and white plaid kaffiyeh, made famous by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the thobe is permeated with nostalgic, almost mythical associations.

"Embroidery evokes the timeless connection of Palestinians with the land," Dedman said. "It's a sweet picture, referring to a deep past with which people have positive associations."

Palestinian girls, especially those in the diaspora, adapt ancestral dresses to modern tastes and trends. Girls are asking for shorter, less embroidered versions, said Rajaa Ghazawneh, a thobe designer in al-Bireh, West Bank.

Natalie Tahhan, designer based in the east Jerusalem, produces cloaks from digital prints that embody traditional embroidery stitches, "connecting tradition with what's new and stylish".

TlaibThe Michigan Democrats, now viral, whom the Michigan Democrat called "a shameless demonstration of the fabric of the people of this country," said it recalled the memory of his mother's village in the West Bank, revived the 'enthusiasm aroused around the world compared to the dress.

"Rashida has become a model for Palestinian women around the world – a strong woman, proud of her national identity and able to reach the top, "said Saca.

Tahhan agreed, saying that "TlaibThobe broadcast a beautiful image of Palestinewhen the media usually only shows wars. "

For Palestinian women born abroad and refugees prevented from visiting their ancestral homes Israelthobes are a tangible link to the land and a way to preserve their culture.

"These dresses are our link between the past and the future," Saca I said.


Mohammed Daraghmeh, Associate Editor for Press in Ramallah, West Bank, contributed to this report.

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