The West Bank has a thriving art scene and cultural centres in the major cities often have both temporary and permanent exhibitions, featuring mostly local artists. Be sure to check out the Peace Center and the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, as well as the Khalil Sakakini Centre and the Yasser Arafat Museum in Ramallah. Street art by local and international artists (yes, including Banksy) appears on large swathes of the Palestinian side of the separation wall near Bethlehem.


The most widespread form of literary expression among Palestinians has long been poetry, whose leading voice remains Mahmoud Darwish (1941–2008). His lyrical collections, dealing with loss and exile, include Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone? (1995) and Unfortunately, It Was Paradise (2003). Prominent themes in the poetry of Tawfiq Ziad (Zayyad; 1929–94) include freedom, solidarity and Palestinians' connection with the land.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that narrative fiction appeared on the Palestinian literary scene. Emile Habibi (1922–96) – like Ziad, a Knesset member from the Israeli Community Party – was the author of seven novels, including Secret Life of Saeed the Pesoptimist (1974), a brilliant, tragicomic tale dealing with the difficulties facing Palestinians who became Israeli citizens after 1948.

The stunning debut work of Ghassan Kanafani (1936–72), Men in the Sun (1963), includes a novella and a collection of short stories that delve into the lives, hopes and shattered dreams of its Palestinian characters. In The Inheritance (2005), Nablus-born Sahar Khalifeh (b 1942) provides frequently chilling insights into the lives of Palestinian women, both in the Palestinian Territories and abroad.


In addition to catchy Arabic pop from Beirut and Cairo, visitors to the West Bank and Arab areas of Israel may come across traditional folk music featuring the sounds of the oud (a stringed instrument shaped like half a pear), the daf (tambourine) and the ney (flute).

For something completely different, check out the love ballads and nationalist hymns of Mohammed Assaf, a Gazan who won the second season of Arab Idol.

As for alternative music, the genre most closely associated with the Palestinian Territories is hip-hop, pioneered by Lod-based rappers DAM and later by artists such as Palestinian Rapperz (from Gaza) and Ramallah Underground. Shows in the West Bank are infrequent (they are more common in Israel) but an incredible experience if you are lucky enough to catch one.


Long an important expression of Palestinian national aspirations, Palestinian theatre has been censored by the British, suppressed and harassed by the Israelis, battered by conflict and closures and, most recently, targeted by Islamists.

Nevertheless, Palestinian actors and directors carry on. Juliano Mer-Khamis (1958–2011), the Palestinian-Israeli founder of Jenin’s Freedom Theatre, was murdered by masked gunmen in Jenin, but the theatre continues to function in the city's refugee camp to this day.

Visual Arts

Contemporary Palestinian art became distinct from traditional craft-based art during the 1960s. In the West Bank, the best places to see visual art are Ramallah’s Khalil Sakakini Centre and the International Centre of Bethlehem.


Cinema in the Palestinian Territories is hampered by a dearth of resources and film schools, a lack of funding and by threats from Islamists.

Most feature-length Palestinian movies are international co-productions. The first Palestinian film nominated for an Oscar was the controversial Paradise Now (2005), directed by Nazareth-born, Netherlands-based Hany Abu Assad, which puts a human face on Palestinian suicide bombers.

Elia Suleiman's Divine Intervention (2002) tells the story of lovers from Jerusalem and Ramallah who have to negotiate checkpoints to arrange their clandestine meetings.

Omar, also by Hany Abu-Assad, is a political thriller about trust and betrayal, and garnered an Oscar nomination in 2014.

Sadly both of the West Bank's movie venues – the Al Kasaba Theater & Cinematheque in Ramallah and the internationally supported Cinema Jenin – had closed as of 2017, with the latter bulldozed to make way for a shopping mall.


The most popular Palestinian folk dance is a line dance called the dabke. One of the best Palestinian dance groups is El Funoun (, based in Al Bireh in the West Bank.