Palestinians - Religion and Expressive Culture

Religious Beliefs. Muslims make up two-thirds of the population. The majority are Sunni, but there is also a small Druze community. Christians are almost one-third of the population. The largest denomination is Greek Orthodox, followed by the Greek Melkite Catholic, the Roman Catholic, the Episcopal, and the Lutheran. Muslim-Christian harmony was always the norm. The rise of militant Islamic groups like Hamas is a new phenomenon among people who have a powerful ecumenical tradition.

Religious Practitioners. Palestinian Muslims view themselves as guardians of the Muslim holy sites, especially the Dome of the Rock, considered the third holiest in Islam. Christian Palestinians maintain a similar view of their role as guardians of the holiest places of Christendom, such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity.

Arts. Palestinian arts center around village group dances, such as dabka. Village music is performed on traditional instruments such as the flute ( nay ), drums ( tabla ), and the lute (oud). Since the rise of the PLO, Palestinian music and song have for the most part reflected patriotic themes. Art flourished after 1948, with several artists depicting the Palestinian refugee experience. The PLO has fostered political poster art and holds exhibits in many parts of the world.

Medicine. Modern medical facilities are badly lacking in the West Bank and Gaza. Most medical institutions are supported by Arab donations from outside and private donations from within the country.

Death and Afterlife. Funerals are conducted by the family and the entire neighborhood. Long periods of mourning are observed by the Muslim and Christian communities. Cerneteries are public lands. Both communities believe strongly in an afterlife. Muslims, who believe Jerusalem will be the site of the Day of Judgment, consider burial there to be greatly desirable.

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