Crosses and Birds

Bethlehem region dress inserts all couch embroidered (tahreeri) on silk taffeta (hermzi) with foil and silk thread. In the purple and orange silk sleeve inserts, very subtle and discreet square crosses could be discerned in the centre of the middle clock (sa’a) motif and a long cross in the top part of each. It is also the case with the red and green side panels (banayeq), where in each of the sa’a motifs the cross references could be seen. Additionally, two smaller orange and deep Bordeaux cross crosslets can be seen as part of the general embroidery pattern on the central green band in each panel. The crosses could have been consciously placed as spiritual references to the wearer or maker’s faith, or just made in the style and technique of the embroidery. In Bethlehem where Palestinian Christians and Muslims wore identical costumes, it could be deduced that the crosses were possibly created as a statement of one’s religion. The cockerel (deek) or bird (teer) motifs found on top of the sa’a motifs on the sleeves and side panels, as well as on the velvet inserts above the chest panel are believed to have been once an allegory to Christianity. As a way to avoid Ottoman harassment, Palestinian Christians supposedly embroidered a deek motif on one side above the chest panels as a means of secretly communicating their faith. Eventually the deek motif developed into a style and cockerels started appearing on both sides of the chest on velvet inserts placed over the panel and elsewhere. As the style of couched chest panels spread throughout Palestine, dresses with the teer or deek motifs became known as bird dresses (thob abu teer).