Traditions and customs of Palestine

What traditions and customs are there in Palestine?

In permanent conflict with Israel, the customs and traditions of Palestine.


Food in daily life

Palestinians often buy snacks or light meals from street vendors as they go about their daily activities. It is customary to eat the main meal between two and three in the afternoon. Many eat falafel, sandwiches made from fried hummus balls, or grilled lamb sandwiches called shwarma.

Pita bread is usually part of all meals. Other popular dishes include lamb, eggplant, chicken, and rice. Cakes, usually made with honey and almonds or pistachios, are also popular.

Drinking coffee or tea is an important social activity for Palestinian men, and conversations and business deals often end over several cups.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

A favorite dish served at weddings, parties and funerals is mensaf, a large rice dish topped with a rich lamb or goat stew and pine nuts.


Although polygamy is a common practice among Arab men, with up to four wives allowed, most Palestinian men only have one or two wives.

Traditionally, when a man and a woman wish to marry, the man approaches the woman’s family as a potential husband. After declaring their engagement, the couple and their families meet before the wedding.

In urban areas and among college students, couples may marry without the older family traditions. A wedding requires a great celebration, with songs, dances and banquets. The couple exchange vows in a simple Muslim ceremony called the Katb al-Kitab.


Palestinian men shake hands at meetings and women kiss each other on the cheeks. Palestinians are friendly and hospitable, and neighbors often visit each other to share coffee, tea, and sweets. It is considered polite to decline a dinner invitation to avoid imposing, but the host will continue to insist on the company of the guest.

Proper dress is essential to show good manners. Both men and women cover their heads, and women should always cover their shoulders and upper arms.


Religious beliefs

Muslims are the predominant religious group in Palestine, comprising about three-quarters of the population, and Islamic practices are prevalent in the territories. Most Palestinian Muslims belong to the Sunni sect.

The word Islam means “submission” to the will of Allah (God) and obedience to his commandments. Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad (c. 570-632 CE) received Allah’s orders from the angel Gabriel and that these revelations are recorded in the Koran (or Koran), the Islamic holy book.

The Qur’an sets rules for everyday behavior as well as for religious doctrine. Islam is inseparable from everyday life, which is why religion, politics and culture are united in Muslim communities.

Religious professionals

An imam (spiritual leader) gives the weekly sermon in a mosque.

Islam has no priests, and the imam usually has a full-time job in the secular world.

Rituals and sacred places

Devout Muslims pray five times a day, bowing to the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, the birthplace of Muhammad. They are summoned to prayer by the call of a muezzin (weeper) that issues from the minarets of the many mosques that dot the Palestinian skyline.

Daily prayer is one of the “five pillars of Islam.” The other four are the testimony of faith (“there is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”), giving to the poor, making at least one hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca, and fasting during Ramadan and other religious holidays.

Palestine contains many places that are holy to Muslims (as well as many that are holy to Christians and Jews, hence much of the religious conflict in the region).

Most revered by Muslims are the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosques, built in Jerusalem on the spot where Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven on a nocturnal journey known as al-Isra’ wa al-Mi. raj.

Death and the afterlife

Palestinians observe a three-day mourning period when someone dies. Family and friends offer their condolences and recite the Koran. Neighbors serve meals to the family of the deceased and his guests during the three-day period. The death of the deceased is observed again on the forty-day anniversary.

The arts and humanities


Like most Arabs, Palestinians consider verse more important than prose. The work of the highly esteemed poet and writer Mahmoud Darwish, like that of many Palestinian writers and artists, is highly political, dealing with the Israeli occupation and the plight of Palestinians.

Darwish’s “identity card,” which graphically depicts the Palestinians’ dilemma, is one of the best-known works by a Palestinian. Darwish’s work has been translated into all major languages. He also composed the Declaration of Independence of Palestine. In The Wind-Driven Reed and Other Poems, Fouzi al-Asmar evokes the Palestinian longing for a homeland.

Israeli-Palestinian writer Emile Habibi, a longtime representative in the Israeli Knesset, began writing in response to statements by a prominent Israeli politician that Palestinians did not exist; otherwise they would have produced their own literature. Habibi wrote a series of short stories and novels, one of which was translated into sixteen languages.

Many Palestinian writers and artists live outside of Palestine as migrants. Palestinian-American Edward Said is a well-known historian and essayist. Said’s Peace and Its Discontents and other books explore the problems and aspirations of Palestinians. Other highly regarded émigré writers include Liana Badr and Hassan al-Kanafani.

One of the greatest Palestinian fiction writers is Ghassan Kanafani, whose stories in All That Remains: Palestinian Children depict the aimlessness and despair of Palestinian refugees.

The works of many important Palestinian writers are translated in Salma Khadra Jayyusi’s Modern Palestinian Literature.

Graphic arts

Because Islam forbids the depiction of people and animals, most Arabic designs include plants, leaves, or geometric shapes. Many Palestinians are experts in calligraphy and illustrate verses from the Koran with beautiful designs and sell them at art exhibitions.

In larger tourist cities like Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Ramallah, artisans sell woven rugs and rugs, leather goods, pottery, and ceramic jars. There are also handicrafts made from olive wood and ivory: jewelry boxes, Last Supper scenes, crosses, camels and mosques.

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