The Bethlehem Museum will be categorized into seven major sections: Roman Aqueduct, Christian Presence in the Holy Land, Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Palestinian Handcrafts, Bethlehem Heritage & Life, Palestinians in Diaspora, Contemporary Palestinian Fine Art. Each section will include its respective displayed artifacts, memorabilia, photo gallery, audio presentations, video presentations, and more.

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BeitDajan black na’ani dress. 1930s. therasheq on this dress is done with whitethread instead of the usual silver. The patternson the skirt are now vertical rows ofrepetitive patterns. The chestpiece haspearlized beads in the tassles.

Hanan& Farah Munayyer Collection

Rare Bethlehem malak dress in purple
fabric and abuwardeh strips. Early twentieth

Hanan& Farah Munayyer Collection

  1. A.  Roman Aqueduct

Built by the Roman Leader Pontius Pilate (was the fifth Prefect of the Roman province of Judaea, from AD 26–36), the Bethlehem Museum hosts the only Roman aqueduct on public display in Palestine. Its presence will naturally highlight the importance of water for the existence of a civilization.  The aqueduct was used to transfer water from Al Arqoub Spring near Hebron to Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Without water, there is nothing: no life, no civilization, no agriculture, no olive trees, and no tourism.


As the essence of life, and a critical necessity to life of all forms, WATER will be a connecting theme for this section of the museum. The role Bethlehem played in getting water to Jerusalem as well as the Christian and biblical perspectives in the use of water and how it represents life will be emphasized.  A few examples: Jesus’ first miracle was when he turned water into wine; Jesus baptized in the Jordan River, and Jesus’ final request for water when he was crucified on the cross.


  1. B.  Christian Presence in the Holy Land 

In this section of the museum, we aim to educate and communicate the Christian Palestinian identity in Bethlehem. We believe that the Christian presence and cultural traditions in Bethlehem must be studied, exhibited, and communicated in order to promote awareness for this sacred way of life.


The museum initiates this experience with a short film and interactive timeline. The physical manifestation of this timeline can be seen from the Roman Emperor Pontius Pilate’s aqueduct to the present-day handicraft artwork on display.







Through multimedia, the museum will show how the establishment of churches and pilgrims supported the Christian presence in The Holy Land. All of these aspects have combined throughout the centuries to make Bethlehem a unique and distinct manifestation of Christianity in its homeland.


Palestinian Christian roots go back more than 2000 years to when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Christianity’s presence was empowered and maintained by the establishment of the Churches. After 325 AC, many convents and churches were established in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, and areas west of the Dead Sea where John The Baptist had lived. In 327 AC, St. Hilaneh built the Church of Nativity. The churches and pilgrims nurtured Christianity’s presence in Bethlehem, turning it into more than just a religion.


  1. C.  Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

The presence of pilgrims and churches was instrumental in shaping and sustaining the identity, economy and culture of the people in the Holy Land. The flow of pilgrims and ministries to Bethlehem gave Christianity the momentum necessary to take on a major societal role beyond religion; that of a governing institution that bought and acquired land, built schools, universities, hospitals, orphanages, and started the local printing press. This strong link between pilgrims and The Holy Land was the reason for the development of the Bethlehemite handicraft industry.


Christian Palestinian life was invigorated with the establishment of the mother of pearl and olive wood industries in the 17th centuries.
















Brought over by Franciscan monks and pilgrims, local artisans quickly became renowned for their skill and creative depictions of Christian imagery. A pioneer in the dissemination of these skills, Franciscan Father Bernardino Amico passed his handicraft knowledge onto Bethlehemite artisans in hopes of establishing a new livelihood for the people. This was hugely successful and the industry became a major contributor in shaping a healthy Christian presence and identity in Bethlehem. Handicrafts also directly strengthened the tourism sector in Bethlehem, as visitors from around the world purchase these unique products as souvenirs. However, the 20th century has seen the decline of the handicrafts industry.


The multimedia and artifacts displayed will highlight the importance of supporting this industry to maintain its role as a pillar of Palestinian life.

















Headscarf from Al-Khalil district, probably the western hill, Early twentieth century.  Linen embroidered with silk cross-stitch, each scarf is composed of three panels and embroidered with the large x-motif, similar to the dresses from the BeitJibrin area.


Hanan& Farah Munayyer Collection


D. Palestinian Handicrafts

Palestinian traditional industries have an important standing among other industries in Palestine, considering their inherited and economic dimensions, which reflect the history and culture of the Palestinian people. Unlike other countries that are rich in natural resources such as oil and minerals, Palestine has very limited ones. Nevertheless, its wealth lies within its monumental stand as a haven for the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.


Palestine has also been the crib for many civilizations and thus its historical heritage is among the richest in the world. This rich history transformed the Holy Land into an attraction for tourists and pilgrims. Traditional industries have always been part of the tourism sector. As such, changes in the tourism industry translate quickly into changes for the handicrafts industry. There are approximately eighteen different types of handicraft products in the West Bank and Gaza, the most important of which are embroidery, ceramics/pottery, glass, olive wood, and mother of pearl (USAID, 2006).


The latter handicraft industries are considered very significant and are estimated to comprise nearly half of handicraft production in Palestine. Mother of pearl and olivewood handicraft industries are concentrated mainly in Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour. These cities were the original birthplace for those industries in Palestine.


Handcrafting mother-of-pearl, as the older of the two professions, started around 1600s. When the Franciscan monks brought over knowledge and skills of this trade along with professionals from Italy, the Christian population was very cooperative with the Franciscans’ efforts to train them to make rosaries and crucifixes, which was considered a religious profession in its starting stage (BCCI, 2004).


Furthermore, historical documents, mainly written by pilgrims in the 16th and 17th century, give witness to the early days of the profession. Mother of Pearl Handicrafts spread rapidly in Bethlehem area. The residents developed their skills by increasing and expanding the variety of products. The success of the trade was facilitated by the fact that for centuries the area has remained one of the main locations for Christian pilgrimage, especially at Christmas.


Documentation from 16th and 17th centuries indicate that the history of olive wood handcrafting is similar and just as tightly connected to the Franciscan presence as the development of the mother-of-pearl industry.





























The Nativity Of Christ, Early 20th Century

George Al Ama Collection


  1. 1.                      Mother of Pearl


Displays in this category will highlight the craft and natural coincidences of the Mother of Pearl.  In the 1600’s, the Franciscan Fathers were the first to enter and educate the Bethlehem city population about mother of pearl art and hand-craft.  The people of Bethlehem quickly mastered and exceled at this craft and it is now considered one of the most prestigious characteristics of Bethlehem art.



  1. 2.                      Olive Wood Crafts


Olive wood Crafts, which are mainly Christian religious crafts, are made of the locally cultivated olive trees. Although the first olive trees took root in the West Bank and Gaza as far back as 6000 years ago, the craft of ornamental olive wood carving is thought to date only to the 15th century. This raw olive wood material is obtained from the prunes of young olive trees, and the trunks of the old unproductive trees.

The process of pruning trees is essential to the growth of the trees; therefore no trees are ever damaged or destroyed. Olive wood carvings were first marketed to pilgrims as religious items, but later were extended to a wide range of handicrafts, mostly representing the story of Christianity.[1]  The Bethlehem area is well known for its beautifully hand-carved olivewood traditional art. This industry has become the most important character in the list of tourism industries.  This section of the museum will represent and highlight the family tradition of hand carved olive wood from families who have, generation after generation, mastered this craft and maintained this tradition and art.











  1. 3.                      Candle Crafts

The production of wax and candles has been closely tied with the historical and religious roots of the holy places in Palestine. The precious value this material enjoys in the hearts of pilgrims, visitors and local people was the main reason behind the creation and continuity of this craft. At the beginning, pioneers invented various designs of wax items that represented religious aspects for tourists.


  1. 4.                      Ceramic & Pottery

Ceramics from Hebron are hand formed, individually hand-painted, and heated in a clay oven. The designs date back to the beginning of civilization and are typical of Bedouin crafts that are derived from Phoenician and Biblical times over 3000 years ago.


  1. 5.                      Stone and Mosaic

The Bethlehem area is very rich in stones as a raw material used in building and construction. This industry recently took an artistic path when some ateliers started producing unique handmade statues of stones. In Bethlehem, the most famous atelier is Sculptures Fine Arts Atilier along with other small ateliers and workshops. Stones have also been used for producing distinctive artistic items of mosaic such as tables, sinks, vases, plaques, frames and other items. Mosaics have also been used in decorating houses as flower inlays especially in kitchens and bathrooms.

Handicraft products enjoy significant competitive advantage through their association with the Holy Land, which imbues the products with unique symbolism and imagery. Because artisans have practiced their craft in the West Bank and Gaza literally for millennia, the human resources base and corresponding skill levels are strong, resulting in high quality products. Solid domestic demand – both from tourists and locals- provides an additional asset.


  1. E.  Bethlehem Heritage & Life
  2. 1.   Embroidery

Traditionally practiced by Palestinian women in the villages and countryside, the stitching style, fabrics, patterns and colors are all designed to communicate specific information about the wearer or owner. According to these indicators, the dress a woman wore represented a specific marital status, region or village of origin.  For example, married women traditionally wear vibrant, heavily embroidered dresses while a predominantly blue dress indicates a girl’s unmarried status.

Palestinian embroidery is beginning to experience a revival after a lengthy period of decline beginning in 1948. This cultural craft also involves making different items such as pillows that are made from antiques chest panels and other embroidered subjects such as, eye glasses pockets, wallets, purses, book markers, table runners, kitchen holders, table coasters and other nice items.

Palestinian Dress for Men, Women & Children: Embroidery with its rich history, Palestinian dresses and embroidery tell the story of the villages of Palestine.  The Bethlehem embroidery was developed in Bethlehem and the surrounding villages of BeitSahur and BeitJala. It is unique to these villages and different from the predominant cross-stitch embroidery used in the other Palestinian regions. One example: The Bethlehem headdress, Shatweh, whose front is covered with rows of coins, beads and coral, was worn by married women of three neighboring villages, Bethlehem, BeitJala and BeitSahur.





















Nineteenth century shatwehs were low and wide in shape, sparsely embroidered, and with few silver coins. In the 1920s, shatwehs became narrower but higher. Unmarried women wore instead a small circular embroidered cap (taqiyyeh) similar to the one worn in Jerusalem. Nineteenth century shatwehs were low and wide in shape, sparsely embroidered, and with few silver coins. In the 1920s, shatwehs became narrower but higher.
















  1. 2.   Traditional Professions

Along with the introduction and teaching of the Mother of Pearl handicraft in the 16th century, the religious institutions played a major role in opening vocational schools to help the people of the Holy Land (carpentry, blacksmith, shoemakers and carpenters, printing, cooking, etc.). The museum will focus on the main professions that benefitted Bethlehem and will show how these professions helped shape their culture and identity. For example, the museum will display the equipment and tools that belonged to the last Christian shoemaker in Bethlehem, as well several printing and publishing antiques.



Bethlehem dress with embroidery at the chest-piece and light embroidery

on the sleeves and sides. Second half of the nineteenth century. The chestpiece

has the traditional four circular floral motifs in the corners, with a fifth

in the center. The fabric is the ikhdari or jannehwanaar with woven red

stripes of flowers called abuwardeh.


Hanan& Farah Munayyer Collection











Ramallah area wiqayeh, with striped silk at the top, and only one row of



Hanan& Farah Munayyer Collection









Shatweh headdress.Early twentieth century.Decorated with coins andcorals in the front and embroidery inthe back.


Hanan& Farah Munayyer Collection













Taqsireh jacket, made from cottonwith fabric with couching stich embroideryin the Bethlehem Style.


Hanan& Farah Munayyer Collection
































  1. F.   Palestinians in Diaspora

This section will highlight Palestinians in Diaspora and the effects of other cultures on daily life, art, traditions, customs and more.  Additionally it will provide insight about their perspective of their homeland.  The Know Thy Heritage Program and Palestinian Surprises website are effective tools in reconnecting Diaspora Palestinians with their roots.


  1. 1.   The Know Thy Heritage Program-HCEF’s KTH program was created to empower Palestinian youth in the Diaspora by strengthening their knowledge of the Palestinian identity, culture, history and traditions, as well as their understanding of the Palestinian economic environment, political landscape, social structures and conditions.  Annually, HCEF organizes and takes Palestinian Youth in the Diaspora back to Palestine.
  2. 2.   Palestinian Surprises – The Palestinian Surprises website and Facebook page are tools for the Palestinian people to recognize and publicize the best of their achievements in the Diaspora and the homeland, and to show their rich culture, heritage and history. These achievements are in science, education, politics, music and every aspect of Palestinian life! Thus, Palestinian Surprises is also a resource to dispel negative stereotypes about Palestine and its people.
















G. Contemporary Palestinian Art

In this section, we will include many pieces of art that have special significance relating to recent history. Often, the political climate can be discerned through the piece’s medium and content. Many pieces refer to certain events that trigger one’s memory back to that time period. Palestinian contemporary art is not only for aesthetic purposes, but also for commemorating and preserving the memory of changes and hardships.


Each section of the museum will accurately reflect semantic and symbolic gestures that convey the reality and history of the rich Palestinian values, concepts and inheritance. The antiquities, legacy, photos, paintings and signs of Avatar, which are all tools aimed at linking the history and legacy of Palestinian life, will testify to the struggle and perseverance of the Palestinian in the quest for freedom and fairness.