Palestinian Culture

Other Considerations

  • The State of Palestine claims East Jerusalem as its capital. However, due to the current political situation of Israeli occupation, Ramallah (located in the West Bank) is the de facto administrative centre.  
  • Friday is a holy day for Muslims, and thus most businesses in the West Bank and Gaza are closed. This means the weekend falls on Friday and Saturday and the main business week is Sunday to Thursday. Some select Christian businesses may close on Sunday.
  • Palestinians customarily speak a dialect of Arabic often referred to as ‘Palestinian’. Formal Arabic is used in many professional settings, such as news reports. English, Hebrew and French are also widely spoken.
  • Separation of the genders is observed in some contexts on the basis of Islamic tradition (e.g. weddings, religious buildings). Gender segregation may also occur in some institutions across the Palestinian Territories, such as schools and gyms. Instances of segregation are generally higher in Gaza.
  • Football (soccer) is very popular amongst Palestinians. The West Bank and Gaza Strip both have their own premier league. There is also a national Palestinian football team that competes in FIFA, drawing its players from the Palestinian Territories as well as the . However, competition is often limited by travel restrictions imposed by Israel.1
  • Despite reduced standards of living under occupation, there continues to be a very high value and importance placed on education. This is demonstrated by the near-perfect literacy levels in the Occupied Territories, as well as the educational applications of Palestinians across the and refugee populations.2 Previous studies have found the level of education among Palestinian refugees in camps to be higher than the population average of some surrounding countries.3 
  • Most Palestinian Muslim women wear a headscarf (). While many Christian women and less religious or traditional women do not, most still abide by conservative standards of clothing.
  • Be aware that the Israeli government’s restrictions prevent many Palestinians from being able to access their cultural heritage and religious sites (e.g. Jerusalem). Foreigners generally have much greater and widespread access to such areas.

 

Political Sensitivities

It is important not to presume a Palestinian’s political position. Many feel disenfranchised and let down by the political leadership and peace processes. However, while it is fair to say that almost all want freedom from occupation, there are political divides amongst the community as to how this can be achieved. This is most noticeable in debates regarding whether there should be a ‘one-state’ or ‘two-state’ solution, which can be a divisive topic in communities. Although various political opinions may circulate, most Palestinians are primarily concerned with restoring social normalcy, security and economic stability for their people. Furthermore, consider that a Palestinian’s political views (even voiced in another country) can make them a target or be held against them if they attempt to return to Palestine. Therefore, people may not always feel at liberty to speak their mind on certain topics and may self-censor.

 

Be aware that disputes can arise over the use or implicit bias of certain words, depending on whether the Israeli or Palestinian viewpoint dominates media representations. The Israeli government tends to avoid any reference to the region as “Palestine” or being “Palestinian” altogether (see Israeli profile). Meanwhile, many Palestinians refer to Israel as “48 Palestine” and the occupied Palestinian Territories as “67 Palestine”, indicating the years when Israel occupied the regions. Some Palestinians may avoid referring to the land as “Israel” altogether. However, this is not usually expected of foreigners. Most are likely to appreciate any recognition of the territory as being presently or historically Palestinian. 

 

Palestinian statehood also continues to be a controversial topic. The State of Palestine claims the West Bank and Gaza, with East Jerusalem as its capital. However, the Israeli government continues to deny Palestinian state sovereignty and disputes all territorial claims. While the State of Palestine may not be a ‘country’ per se, its representation on the world stage (e.g. as a UN non-member observer state) continues to be an important point of recognition for many Palestinians. As of 2020, 139 out of 193 United Nations member countries recognise Palestine as an independent state. Australia and other English-speaking Western countries have not accorded recognition.

 

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1 Khoury, 2019
2 Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 2017
3 Shemesh, 2018

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