Um Lutfi (Safad)



Q: What’s your name hajji?


A: My name is Fatima al-Shemali.


Q: Where are you from?


A: I’m from Safad.


Q: How old are you?


A: I am 85 years old.


Q: Tell me what did you use to do when you were young in Palestine?


A: We had lands. We used to work it, plant, plough, and grind wheat in the mill.  


Q: What did you wear?


A: We used to wear clothes that didn’t show our legs and arms.


Q: Did those clothes have a name, hajji?


A: They were bedouin clothes. The men would wear the qumbaz and aghal.


Q: Okay, what did little boys wear?


A: Young boys wore trousers and pajamas. Our village was very civilized.


Q: What did young men wear?


A: The young men wore trousers, shirts, and suits.


Q: Were there suits?


A: Yes of course. They used to get them from Safad. Our village was very modern.


Q: Did you buy clothes or sew them?


A: No, we used to sew them. We sewed clothes of silk, we sewed joukh (fabric), we sewed thick scarves lafhaat joukh and put silk on them. And the sash [shambar] was made of silk.


Q: What’s a shambar?


A: What’s a shambar? It’s like this, ‘isharb’.[1]


Q: When the groom went to the bride’s house to ask for her, did he see her?


A: No, he wouldn’t see her. His mother would come, and then she’d describe her to him.


Q: Is it true that they used to pull her hair and look at her teeth?


A: No, no. It was on the basis of hasab wa nasab[2] not the bride’s personality. They used to check her reputation and the family, we didn’t have that kind of thing. I am telling you about our village and the neighboring villages. I don’t know what other people used to like [to do].


Q: What did they do for the engagement? Did the groom see the bride on the day of the engagement?


A: Yes he would come and they would slaughter animals. The engagement was more important than the wedding. There were songs and story telling and dabkehs.


Q: What songs? Do you remember them?


A: You want me to sing them? No! They’re very old.


Q: Like what?


A: Like “Yakhlef a’leku wa katter Allah khayrku wa ahel al-a’rees yakhlef a’leku” [May God bless the groom’s parents.] I was young I didn’t learn the songs.


Q: When your children got married didn’t you sing for them?


A: Me? No. I didn’t sing or dance.


Q: When they were doing the bride’s henna what did they sing for her?


A: I don’t know, I don’t remember.


Q: How long did the wedding festivities last?


A: Three or four days of dabkeh and dancing, everything and everyone.


Q: Did you use to invite neighboring villages to the wedding?


A: Yes, of course, we used to invite three or four villages.


Q: What are the names of your neighboring villages?


A: There was al-Jahoula, al-Khalsa, and al-Na’meh.


Q: Did you marry people from other villages?


A: Yes, they did. Each village took from other villages.


Q: How did you get to know each other?


A: All the village families were neighbors, it was all based on talk. I hear you have a daughter, you hear I have a daughter, so you’d come to see her. People came and went to each other.


Q: If the groom was a widower or a divorce would he have a wedding?


A: Wallah in our village we didn’t have widowers or divorcees.  We didn’t have divorce or anything like that.


Q: You don’t remember anyone whose wife died?


A: No, I don’t remember anyone whose wife died. There wasn’t much death back then, not like today.


Q: No one got sick?


A: Very, very rarely.


Q: Did you use herbs if someone got sick?


A: No, not herbs or anything.


Q: Okay, and if someone broke a limb how would you treat him?


A: We treated him with Arab bone setting.


Q: You didn’t have a doctor?


A: No, the doctor was in the quarterof the Jews.


Q: You were on good terms with them?


A: Yes, we were friends with them, there wasn’t hatred or anything.


Q: Did you visit each other, you and the neighbors?


A: Everybody had land to sow and to plough, we were peasant women. Everyone was on their own. Not like here where women visit each other. No it wasn’t like that. We were all relatives, we didn’t have formalities.


Q: Hajji, did you have something called al-awneh?Did you use to help the poor?


A: There wasn’t anyone poor among us, everyone had land, everyone had a farm, everyone had plants.  If you don’t have leban I would go and get you a dish of leban. This person gives to that person, and that person brings to this person.  Then in our village we were very few. We didn’t have poverty. The one who had land and the one who didn’t were like each other. [ie. lived the same way]


Q: How did you celebrate the feasts?


A: We used to prepare ka’k, and there were dabkehs and dancing.


Q: Did you buy the sweets from shops?


A: We used to make them at home and buy them from shops.


Q: How did you prepare for the season of the hajj?


A: I never heard of someone going on the hajj. We used to have the nabi Washa [3], people would go to it, it was like the hajj.


Q: They didn’t use to go to Mecca?


A: I don’t remember.


Q: How did you mourn a dead person?


A: A person would get sick and when he died we would bury him. We would mourn for a year, two years. But death was dear not cheap [ie. an important happening], unlike today. Twenty villages would come to the funeral.


[1] Sharb seems to be a mixture of ‘shawl’ and ‘scarf’.

[2] Hasab wa nasab are relationships through blood and through marriage.

[3] Probably the tomb of a local holy man. There were many of these in Palestine.


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