Once a traditional craft practiced by village women, Palestinian embroidery has become an important symbol of Palestinian culture. Embroidered pieces can be found in the homes of most Palestinian families in the West Bank, Gaza and beyond - adorning homes in Bethlehem, cement block houses in Gaza, villas in the Gulf and suburban split-levels in the United States. Cross-stitch embroidery is given as gifts and worn by Palestinians worldwide on special occasions.
The popularity of embroidery springs both from its beauty and its association with Palestinian culture and history. Embroidery patterns are derived from sources as diverse as ancient mythology and British colonization, and date back as far the Canaanites who lived in the region more than 3,000 years ago.
Traditionally, embroidery was the principal decoration of rural Palestinian women's clothing. It was part of a village woman's daily routine and a means of showing off her personal skills and social identity. The various colors, patterns and styles of dress reflected a woman's social standing, marital status and wealth.
Although the Palestinian cultural landscape has changed dramatically in the past fifty years, cross-stitch embroidery remains a vibrant handicraft because for many Palestinians it is a familiar reminder of the lives of their grandparents and great-grandparents.