“We also lived a little”: Leisure and Recreation of ordinary Palestinians; Women, Children and Workers, 1920-1948

By Maayan Hilell
Submitted to Session P5020 (Leisure, Consumerism, and Food, 2017 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
This paper focuses on new patterns of leisure and recreation developed by non-elite groups belonging to the Arab-Palestinian society in the Mandate era. The major Palestinian cities underwent a fast urbanization process and a profound cultural transformation which were embodied in the rapid emergence of modern leisure sites like cinemas, dance halls, beaches and sport clubs. Veteran institutions like cafes became much more diverse and sophisticated as they introduced radios and gramophones alongside a large variety of newspapers. The few studies available to date discussing leisure have referred to the middle and upper classes as the sole consumers of this new cultural inventory. This paper will shed light on the ways other social groups, mainly women, children and workers experienced and enjoyed the new leisure opportunities in the Palestinian major cities while focusing on Haifa as a main case study.
Relying on a variety of sources including oral interviews, Arabic newspapers, archival material, photographs and memoirs, this paper will suggest that modern leisure and recreation constituted an integral part and a relevant component of the daily lives of ordinary Palestinians, as an interviewee recalled: "we also lived a little". Using leisure as an analytical category will enable us to uncover essential parts of people's everyday life and to examine their daily norms, habits and tastes. Finally, this paper will discuss the social implications of the increasing popular participation in the cultural public spheres and highlight gender, family and generational tensions which influenced and reshaped the local traditional order.