31 October 2009

I am. I am: a woman. A mother. A feminist. A lover. A writer. An activist. An immigrant. A Palestinian. A citizen of Israel. Correction: a second-class citizen of Israel. All these and more compose my identity. Negotiating between these fragments of mine is an ever-demanding task, especially in our intricate reality. A reality where all the parts I just listed are marginalized – each one for different reasons. It can be difficult, but it can also be fun! To make up a new tapestry of identity every day. To invent myself by shuffling and rearranging the pieces in a different way each time. And each time to come up with something new!

24 October 2009


Recently, I read a post on Susan's blog, one of my blogger-friends from India, where she writes about the importance of her friends in her life. This led me to make a personal comment on her wall about my friends.
Last year, my mother, a very young woman [57 years old], full of live and energy, suffered a stroke. My mother has always been the pillar of our family - taking care of everybody and everything. Being an only child, my own daughter, Michelle, was the joy of her life. She always took Michelle to "fun days" and spoiled her endlessly. I was used to her 10 - 15 phonecalls a day, checking up on me, or calling from the market to see if I needed this or that.

All that was cut short in one moment. In one moment, my family's life had turned upside down. The stroke left half of her body paralyzed, including her ability to speak, read and write. The first few months she was in a wheelchair, and stayed at a rehabilitation center for 4 months. My dad and I took turns to be with her for the whole day, supporting her and helping her emotionally as well as doing physiotherapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy exercises with her.

I had to be strong for my mother, but inside I was torn up. I was devastated. I would cry myself to sleep every night. Most of all, I missed the phone ringing and my mom's voice on the other end. Those phonecalls used to be so irritating to me in the past - I would feel that she was getting under my skin with her questions and practical advice. I miss those "irritating" phonecalls the most.

Today, my mom still can't use her right arm, she has trouble walking, and her vocabulary is minimal. But she has made great progress.

Anyway - I got carried away. I actually wanted to write about friendship. Until about 2 years ago, I didn't have any real friends. I had some friends, but not friends whom I can call in the middle of the night and empty my hearts to. In the summer of 2007 I started working in Isha L'Isha - Haifa Feminist Center, which is a community of feminist activist women. I got to know some amazing women - together we demonstrated against war, against homophobia, we marched on the international day against violence against women. Together we laughed, we cried and we planned projects.

These women became my second family. Without these women, I would have collapsed after my mom's stroke. They are my sisters and my mothers. They offered me their support; they said "You can be weak with us. You can collapse and we will carry you." I could call them in the middle of the night and they would come for a cup of tea. I could call them and cry and they would listen.

I am so grateful to these friends, these sisters of mine for supporting me and helping me get through the most difficult year of my life. Without you, I wouldn't have made it.

Thank you!

20 October 2009

Political [Personal] Fragments - Coming Up Soon

For those of you who wish to understand life in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, especially its daily effects, I am working right now on a number of "fragments" from my daily life - incidents that highlight the militarization of Israeli society and how it affects me personally, as a Palestinian [second class] citizen of Israel.

These fragments are difficult to write, so it may take some time... it is not easy to write about these things, because they are made up of so many layers.

This activity is straining my mind. That’s the word – straining. Pulling, trying to expand my mind, but the mind has a mind of its own – it resists till the end. It is like a rock. Well, not really – that is a stupid simile. It feels sticky, uncooperative, unwilling to do what I will it to do.

Petals of this Child's Soul

Petals of this Child’s soul –
Crushed with no mercy at all.
The sparks of this Child’s eyes –
Darkened for the rest of days.
The sacred dance of this Flower’s leafs –
Smothered from now until darkness.

Manacles of this Beast
Fury in the heart

A moment of Rage,
A forever of Hatred.

18 October 2009

Mysterious Women in Amsterdam

I found this photograph in an old, musty, dark second-hand movie bookshop in Amsterdam. Mistaking it for a regular second-hand bookshop, Dalia and I walked in. On the left, boxes full of black-and-white photographs from old films – most of them too tacky for my taste. Dalia, however, immersed herself in the box, and started rummaging through, looking for photographs of couples in romantic scenes. The photograph of the two women caught my eye just for a split second before it was again buried among cowboys on horses and scenes of prairies.

Dalia had meanwhile already found some couples she wanted for her apartment. I got a bit bored, so I went further into the shop, asking the bookseller if he had any books in English. “All the books are in English. This is a movie bookshop, and all the books are about movies.” Great, I thought to myself. I looked around, more boxes of photographs, a couple of stands with big tacky posters, some albums with rare photographs, and more boxes of more tacky photographs.

I went back over to Dalia’s box, where she was choosing which of the couples will make it back home with her. Then I remembered the two women. I retrieved the photograph, and was mesmerized by it. At first glance, they are just two ordinary women. But when I began contemplating the relationship between them, I realized how ambiguous and enigmatic it is.

One moment they are mother and daughter, the next moment they are sisters, and yet they tease me as if they were lovers.

A mother consoling her daughter, trying to erase the sadness in her eyes, or an angry daughter turning away from her mother?
A scene of two lovers – is one turning away from the other in sorrow, or is it the initial scene of seduction?

I knew this photograph will have a special place – a place of its own – in my life. As I paid for it, I felt elation mingled with exhilaration. As we walked out of the bookshop, I said to Dalia, “I wonder who these women are, from what movie…” Dalia said, very practically, “You want to go back and ask the bookseller? He should know.” I hesitated a moment, my curiosity trying its best to persuade me, the need for knowledge gnawing at the edge of my mind. At last, I said, “No. I actually like the mystery of them. I don’t want to know who they are. Their mystery is what makes the photograph so unearthly. It’s perfect just like it is. Knowing who they are would make it just too ordinary, sucking away all the magic.”

I have hung the photograph over my computer in my office. I know it will travel between my office and my home in the next few months, depending on my mood and my desire to see it. Every time I look up from the computer, I see it, and I spend a few moments contemplating its mysteries. Life is so much more when we have these small, delightful mysteries.

16 October 2009

Her Only Weakness

A few drags of hasheesh tonight – not marijuana like always – and I feel as my heavy body slips out of me and – in thin slices – slides in slow motion towards the sheets, detaching itself in the process from me. The body falls away voluptuously, into the dim, clinging fragrance of white desire.

My body drops down, surrendering to the weakness in my bones, giving up the possession over my body to Ziyad, knowing he will be gentle as he takes me into the blackened abyss of my un-conscious mind. He is enraptured by my passivity, by my inability to defend the secret folds of my longing to his uncontrollable fizzing flames. Flames that will embrace me with their heat, protecting me from myself...

The transition to this sublevel of elusive being is smooth, with its seductivity brushing against me, lightly breathing into me...

And only when I completely abandon myself, the moment the silky waters of my orgasm leave my body, spilling out in a wild outburst – only then does he start taking in the pleasure. He waits, holding on to his pleasure, not releasing it until he feels my whole body un-tensing. He then enters me with such explosive force – when even my brain becomes submissive, unable to form thoughts consciously...

Later he tells me, "thank God for the invention of marijuana and hasheesh. For only when you are under their influence you become weak."

15 October 2009

"Security" everywhere

You can’t go anywhere in Israel without being searched – your bag, your car, your body. Security guards lurk everywhere – coffee shops, shopping malls, schools, buses, businesses. Their metal detecting machines are ready to slide down your body ever so slowly, revealing those hidden secrets in the folds of your dress.

I try to avoid shopping malls as much as possible. But today I had an errand – Ziyad’s phone was dead and the cell-phone company’s service center is located in the Haifa shopping mall. So I had no choice.

We passed the first security guard – he was sitting on a chair, looking decidedly bored. He thought we were not worth a second glance. A young woman behind the wheel with an unshaved man sitting next to her. Ziyad’s unshaven beard has become his unequivocal stamp: his statement to the world. Not that he needs it, with his dark complexion he undoubtedly looks the part. Now if he were driving, the security guard wouldn’t let us pass so easily. But I guess he only saw me, it was already getting dark, and it was probably the end of his shift and all he wanted was to get the hell out of there – out of his security guard role for the day.

The second security guard stopped us. He opened the back door, making small talk. The “good evening how are you” is meant to identify the distinctive Arabic accent. We had some papers strewn on the back seat, and the guard asked if they were business papers. He then asked me to open the trunk of the car. And that’s where it all began. For some reason, I couldn’t open the trunk. Ziyad came out of the car, tried to open it, but still it wouldn’t budge. Ziyad’s irritation began to surface as he talked to me in Arabic. The guard studied us, still calm. But when Ziyad told him “the trunk won’t open, what’s the problem just let us go,” he began showing signs of distress. He got on his communication radio and reported to a more senior guard “come quickly, there’s a man here who won’t open the trunk for inspection.” I knew that was what Ziyad needed to hear to lose control. “Why did you lie?! Can’t you see I’m trying to open the trunk?! What do you want me to do, it won’t open!!” They exchanged some words, all the while ignoring me. I said to the guard, “listen, friend, the car is mine; I’m responsible for opening the trunk, so you deal with me. And you, Ziyad, get in the car and be quiet.” Ziyad shot me a dark look, telling me “get inside the car and shut up!”

Then another guard appeared, the one summoned. He was calm, I could even see a trace of a smile on his face. “What’s the problem?” “The problem is that your guard here is a liar. The trunk won’t open, and he says that I refuse to open it for inspection.” I tried to make myself visible again, “the car is mine, I’m responsible for it being opened for inspection. The trunk won’t open.” “Shut up,” Ziyad shot at me, this time with a wicked smile. “See how he talks to her? She is so polite, and look how he is behaving,” the first guard tells the second guard. The second guard smiled at me and asked to see my ID card. I handed him my driver’s license instead. “Have a good day,” and he let us go.

Looking back at the incident, I see at least three levels of interaction:
(1) The most obvious one is the “security” issue. Ziyad looks the “terrorist” part: his heavily-accented Hebrew, his agitated mood, unshaven beard and dark skin. He fits the profile security guards are trained to immediately identify. An all too familiar scenario must have run through the guard’s mind: Ziyad was using a “clean-looking” woman as a distraction; the bomb was hidden in the trunk. At a certain point I could see the flash of horror in the guard’s eyes – the bomb would go off, killing us all on the spot. A scenario he got drilled about during his training period, but he never actually imagined he would have to cope with it in real life. Until this moment, it was just theoretical matter he had to study in order to get his gun.
(2) The second level has to do with the politics of identities and ethnicities. The security guard was an Ethiopian immigrant. Ethiopians have been placed by Israeli society at the bottom of the social ladder, even below Arabs. So this was a contest between the two men, each making an effort to make himself look superior by crushing the other into that low inferiority.
(3) The raw, primitive form of male dominance. Each of them tried to prove that he is the “man” and has the final word. I don’t need to go into this – it’s the same old battle of men since the beginning of history.

I’m sure this list is incomplete, and upon deeper examination, additional layers can be revealed. But this was my own personal-political experience, yet again proving that the personal is indeed political.

14 October 2009

Memories of Bombing [Second Lebanon War] August 2006

“Moments of Despair”

Sitting in the shelter of our building, I hear one, two, three, four missiles hit Haifa. This time I did not take my cell-phone down with me, and my partner has gone out to a job interview. I am sure one of the missiles has hit just 500 meters from our building – the sound of explosion was so loud. A few minutes go by; all I can hear is my heart beating somewhere close to the surface of my body. It has left its place – I can feel it in my brain…

Fifteen minutes go by and I rush upstairs. I panic. My partner’s phone rings, but no answer. I dial again, with trembling hands, and his phone is dead. I want to run outside into the silent streets and shout his name.

On the news, they are showing the neighborhood where one of the missiles hit. A flash of fear passes in front of my eyes – I immediately recognize the street as the one next to my grandmother’s home. This is exactly where my father parks his car when he goes to visit her. I grab the phone again – and for a moment cannot remember my parents’ number. I have to rake my memory for it before I dial. No answer. I dial three more times, but still no answer. His cell-phone is dead. I rush to the news again and search the faces, the cars, but cannot find him or his car among the images. Where is father???

I don’t know what to do, so I just stand still, waiting for the calamity.

Has my world disappeared in one, single moment? Has it crumbled upon itself?

I sit down on the sofa and wait. For what, I do not know. My brain is empty. I listen for the sounds of sirens, screams, anything, but all I can hear is the silence after death.

I try my parents’ house again, and my father picks up the phone. “You are alive!!!” my father was at home, trying to get in touch with his older brother, who had been at my grandmother’s house at the time of the bombing. Nobody from my family was hurt – at least for the time being.
My partner returns home half an hour later.

Haifa has turned into a ghost town. We wake up to the sounds of missiles and go to sleep with the sounds of Israeli airplanes over our heads and reverberations from Israeli tanks firing into the night, across the border. For my family, life has come to a stop. We stay home all day, shuffling tiredly back and forth between the shelter and the apartment. My body feels stiff from lack of movement. I feel exhaustion – my body is just a hollow container, my mind wanders about, unfocused. During the day, I am afraid to leave the house, and in the evenings, I rush out to buy just the bare necessities.

I have a small bag ready by the door – my passport, documents, money, all my important documents on the tiny disk-on-key, my novel-in-progress, a notebook, and some clothes – in case of an emergency. Then I open the newspaper and I see a Lebanese mother of five carrying some pillows from the wreckage that was her home.

We live in a region where much blood has been shed. But I have never actually felt the fear as I do now. Never before was my life interrupted – or controlled – by war. Never before was my very existence in danger. This war has changed my priorities in life. Things that only yesterday seemed so important to me lose all meaning. When have we become monsters that care nothing for human lives?

I try to focus my mind and think clearly – with no success. There is something deep down within the folds of my soul that is moving ever so violently, trying to escape and make its appearance on the page. I try to put this something into words – but what? Words just fail me. I – master of words – can come up with nothing to write. For no words can convey these feelings of devastation, feelings of the utmost despair.

13 October 2009

My MA thesis on sale at Amazon

You can obtain a copy of my thesis, A Space of her Own: Sexuality, Silence, and Negotiating Spaces in Homer's Odyssey and Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale at the following link.
If you read it, 'd love to know what you think about it.