Um Fethi (Tarshiha)



Q: What is you name?


A: Khadija Mansour.


Q: Where are you from?


A: I’m from Tarshiha.


Q: How old are you?


A: I was born in 1929, I’ve started my 80s.


Q: Tell me what do you remember about Palestine?


A: I remember everything about Palestine. What do you want me to talk about?


Q: Okay. What did you use to do on an ordinary day?


A:  Older women used to stay at home there, or visit a neighbor. We young girls, we used ‘smell the breezes’, we’d go walking to Ja’toun and Wadi Qarn, almost the same distance as from here to Jounieh.


Q: What kind of clothes did you wear in Tarshiha?


A: We Tarshihans used to wear short dresses, to here (hand gesture). We made everything with our own hands.


Q: Did you spend money when you sewed your clothes?


A: Yes, of course, we had to spend money. We used to bring material from Haifa or ‘Akka and sew it.  Our sewing was really nice, and the fabric was of very good quality. We used to work with needles for

sewing and needles for knitting. Lots of people used to embroider their clothes.


Q: What kind of preparations did you make for a wedding day?


A: From the early morning the groom’s relatives would go to his place to help him wash and start the wedding procession. They would take him to the eastern and northern orchards, while the songs and ululations would continue for three or four hours.


Q: Do you recall any of those songs?


A: Yes.


Q: Okay, can you sing me any?


A: “Ismallah a’la al-a’rees, ismallah a’ley, wa men al-dahab al-asfar rushu a’ley, wa nadu wara’  immu tetfaraj a’ley, wa men al-mesk al-imneeh tena’f a’ley” [May the name of Allah protect the groom; sprinkle yellow gold on him, and call his mother to come and watch him, and let her spray the best musk on him.]


Q: They used to buy gold for the bride?


A: They used to buy a lot of gold. They used to get her pieces of gold that would weigh almost a quarter or half a wakiya.[1]


Q: What was included in the bride’s trousseau?.


A: A trousseau would normally include about twenty shalhat,[2] twenty pieces of underwear, dresses, skirts, and black or pink blouses.


Q: How come?


A: Well some would wear a pink bridal suit, and for the sahra [3] she would wear a black or blue one, and at sunset she would wear a white one.


Q: Did you make special sweets for the feast?


A: For feasts we would make ka’k al-‘eid, zalaabi, and ma’routa.[4]We would roll the ka’k like this, divide it in half and keep the rest. We stayed a whole day and night preparing the ka’k.


Q: Were there any Christians in your village?


A: A third of the people in our village were Christians and two thirds were Muslims.


Q: Were you friendly with each other?


A: We were very friendly with them, going to each others’ weddings, we were like brothers and sisters. There were two churches, one for the Catholics and the other for the Orthodox in the hara al-tahta (lower quarter). We had the hara al-barakeh, the hara al-sharkiyeh (eastern), the hara al-shamaliyeh (northern), the hara al-shaqfan, [5]and the hara al-tahta.


Q: Was there something called al-awneh, cooperation, among you?


A: Our life was like honey, we were all together, we helped each other, and we cooperated with each other. If one day we wanted to sow tobacco, Elie would send his older daughter to help. We filled all the houses with wheat, lentils and barley.


Q: Were there any poor people in your village?


A: No, by God, our situation was bil-lowj,[6] all the village was okay, there wasn’t anyone poor. And if there was, he would go and get a load of oranges, and exchange them for wheat and lentils. We used to love each other. There wasn’t any problem between neighbor and neighbor, we didn’t have fights or quarrels. A person from the northern quarter would go visit someone living in the eastern quarter. If we had stayed in Palestine it would have been better for us and more dignified.  


Q: Why did you leave?


A: We didn’t leave Palestine willingly.  What broke our hearts, was the Arabs[7] – and they[8] came to Deir Yassin and slaughtered people. They made the men stand against one wall, and the women against another wall. First they raped the women in front of the men, then they sprayed the men with shot and killed them. We took refugee in Nakhleh for almost a week. Then we left Palestine and came to Harees [Lebanon]. Later we came here from Tyre. We got tents and stayed in them, then we built, and stayed here.


Q: What did you use to do when somebody got sick?


A: In our days no one got sick — if someone did we would go and visit him.


Q: And when a woman delivers a baby, would you visit her?


A: Yes, each one of us would take whatever amount God had provided her with, and we would go to congratulate her.


Q: Did you discriminate between boys and girls?


A: No, no, not at all — “anything that God sends is beautiful”. My father used to spoil me a lot, and my grandfather too. Once he made me shoes and started saying “Mowji ya helwa mowji, tala’  labsi al- sarmowji” [walk slowly pretty girl, walk slowly, it’s time for wearing shoes].[9]


Q: How old were you when you got married?


A: I got married in Palestine, when I was fourteen. They put me on a horse.


Q: Why did you ride a horse?


A: That was the custom. They would put the bride on a horse, and two young men would hold onto the groom, and the women would circle around him carrying incense. And the bride would take eighty scarves from her parents’ house to her husband’s. I took eighty [scarves] that you would have loved.


[1]  A waqiya equals 200 grams.

[2] The shalha could be worn as a nightdress, or as a slip under a dress.

[3] The sahra was an evening reception made for the bride and the bridegroom by their families before the wedding.

[4] The ka’k al-eid were special cakes for the feasts – recipes are given in several interviews. Zalaabi was balls of dough, fried and dipped in syrup; ma’routa was dough spiced with anise, cut in strips, and baked in the oven.

[5] Literally ‘broken quarter’ – this could have been a family name.

[6] ‘Heavenly’, ‘luxurious’, ‘high-life’ are all possible translations of bil-lowj.

[7] Probably an allusion to the Arab Salvation Army.

[8] ‘They’ here probably means the Zionists.

[9] Mowji is derived from the word for wave, mowj, and perhaps refers to the uneven steps of a young child. The word it rhymes with, sarmowji, is an old-fashioned Palestinian word for shoes.


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