25 December 2010

Militaristic Discourse like a Raging Fire

photo taken from israblog nana.

The Carmel Mountain burned for five days, and the all too known militaristic discourse which controls the consciousness of Israeli society, and constitutes the artificial glue holding everything together, reached new heights.

I didn’t follow the discourse closely, but there was no need to. There’s no need to search between the lines for this hard-core militaristic discourse. It stood out – there was no need to make extra efforts to notice it. I got updated on the news like any other citizen – about twice a day through online media, I read the Friday print-edition headlines and that’s pretty much about it.

So what did we have? Yes, I am well aware that when it comes to fire, there’s no way of avoiding the use of some language of fighting, like “fight the fire.” I’ve followed wild, raging fires around the world, but everywhere it was just a fire – nothing more. No government or media have ever made the fire serve a different cause. But of course in Israel, everything is looked at from a different perspective. Those in power (government and media) look for the hidden potential in everything; a potential to serve their own agenda. And the main agenda in Israel is to keep feeding the fear of society.

So what language did we have during and following the fire? Here’s some of the language. I didn’t write the expressions down, this is what I remember right off the top of my head, but there must be more. It would be interesting to take a sample of media items published during this time and make a research of the militaristic discourse used and the context in which it appears.

 “The Five Day War” – which immediately calls into mind the Six Day War of 1967.
 “An Environmental Holocaust” – no need for comments.
 “We don’t have another country, and it’s a very small country” – Netanyahu, Israel’s Prime Minister said this when asked how come they were able to put the fire out in such short period of time.
 The word “battle” instead of “fight.” In Hebrew – at least this is my own feeling – the word “battle” (krav) is a very strong word, reminding war.

Other than this, there were radio stations which broadcast 24/7 news of the fire. Updates, correspondence from the site, all kinds of interviews with fire experts, trauma experts, representatives from local municipalities, government officials, men from the military, police officers, people who had to evacuate, people whose houses were burned, you name it. And when they exhausted everything, it started all over again. This is the culture of war. This is what we have when there’s war, and the media reproduced it.

I don’t own a television, but when I was at my parents’ house, I saw the same thing on TV. At least a couple of channels were broadcasting issues related to the fire constantly.

These are my reflections on the discourse during and following the fire. They are not some subtle issues under the surface – this reproduction of the militaristic discourse was too strong to be ignored.

13 November 2010

"You can't join the group because you're not Palestinian"

“You can’t join the group because you’re not Palestinian.” It was said as a joke, and she of course didn’t really mean that I couldn’t join the group. But it was a shock to me nevertheless. It’s been a while since I felt an outsider, not belonging to either culture. I remember myself as a child – always somewhere in the corner, never belonging. I was the “foreigner.” I tried hard to fit in, but never quite succeeded. Something was always somewhat off; things never fit exactly into their neat slots. This feeling accompanied me throughout my adolescent years in high school. As an adult, I came to terms with my bi-cultural background and found my identity. Yes, I come from two cultures. But today I feel that my identity is much more closely connected to my Palestinian side than my Slovak. It might be because I left Slovakia at the tender age of eight. It might be because I know almost nothing of Slovakia’s history or literature. It might be because I was searching for roots for so long and when I didn’t find any, I sprouted some here on the slope of the Haifa Carmel Mountain. I don’t know the exact reasons why, nor do I feel any need for them. But I know that I am a Palestinian. Is there a need to explain why? No, I don’t think so either.

Whenever I am asked to present myself, somebody always reminds me in one form or another that I am “half-and-half.” I wonder why they feel this need? What, am I less of a Palestinian because I have foreign blood in me? I don’t want to be looked at as a foreigner anymore. I had been a foreigner – an outsider – most of my childhood years. No more! I am not “half-and-half.” I am a whole. And it is up to me how I present myself to the world. If I feel I am wholly Palestinian, then I am wholly Palestinian, and nobody has the right to take this identity away from me.

So when she said the words – even though jokingly – I felt again my identity is being questioned. But it wasn’t only questioning my identity, but my very belonging to this group of feminist activists, with whom I struggle daily for justice. Suddenly, my very right to stand by her side and to struggle along with her was undermined. Because I am not a Palestinian. Her words threw me again into a turmoil of representation and how I am perceived by my colleagues. Am I still perceived as an outsider? Do I not have the same claims to make my voice heard as they do? Only because my blood contains foreign blood-cells? I stand up and I refuse this label. I am not an outsider. I am not a foreigner. I am Palestinian.
Afterthought: No, being Palestinian of course isn’t my sole identity. I have a plethora of other identities which together compose my whole person. I’ve written about this in the past, for example in the post I am.

6 October 2010


A new amendment to the Citizenship Act will be presented at the next government meeting in the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) in the next few days. An amendment according to which anyone seeking Israeli citizenship has to declare “loyalty to a Jewish and democratic State of Israel.” I read the article in Hebrew, then searched for the English version, because I know that English versions of news articles often don’t match their original Hebrew. Thus, the English article doesn’t mention one small – but very significant – detail. This amendment, should it pass, will not be applicable to new immigrants who are seeking Israeli citizenship by virtue of the Law of Return. Now here’s the twist: the Law of Return is based on a racist ideology, granting the Right of Return only to Jews. Following simple logic, not only is the amendment in itself racist as well, applying to certain religious and/or ethnic groups, but it is outright ridiculous. Since Palestinians and/or other Arabs who don’t already hold citizenship are not entitled to citizenship in the first place, and since new immigrants seeking citizenship under the Law of Return are exempt from declaring their loyalty to a “Jewish and democratic State of Israel,” then who in the world is the amendment supposed to be applicable to?

p.s. please bear with me - there's just so much going on here, and I'm trying to write about everything, but just don't have the time - I've got 3 articles in the process right now, so hopefully I'll be posting them soon.

25 September 2010

losing my disk-on-key – discovering an Arab at the pool

Losing my disk-on-key – discovering an Arab at the pool

Yesterday morning I lost my wallet. Everything in it was replaceable of course, but the shock of losing my disk-on-key stayed with me all day long. As I don’t trust technological gadgets, I always make sure I have backup for my writing on 2 computers and an external hard-drive. I try to send a copy of my “Life in Fragments” novel in progress to my email when I remember. But the most updated versions are always on my disk-on-key, as I use different computers when I write. Well, the last back-up I did was two weeks ago, and since then I wrote a lot. All that is lost now. I cannot replace the words I wrote or retreat them from memory. It took me a full day to overcome this small tragedy of mine.

This morning, I religiously updated all my back-ups, and then decided to stop moping around and get to work. I started going through the hundreds of writing files that accrued during my years of writing. Many of them unfinished pieces and beginnings of short stories. I discovered a piece I wrote back about three years ago, about my experience when a receptionist at the pool said to me, after I showed her my ID, “You know, if it weren’t written down here, I would have never believed you were an Arab.” I discovered other stories left unfinished for various reasons. Going through them, reading some parts, I am filled with renewed energies. I never discard a piece, even if it’s only one paragraph. I believe that if I wrote it, then there’s a reason behind it. Sometimes I leave a piece because I feel I’m not ready to cope with the subject at hand. So I’m taking this as an opportunity to go back to my past writing and rediscover themes. Sometimes it’s good to stop and go back. Writing about an experience with a distance of time can give new perspectives.

Follow up here for the whole story of the pool – and other stories. Coming soon.

11 September 2010

family matters

The following event succeeded in getting awed replies even from my friends here in Haifa who are well aware of these issues.

I was invited for a job interview at one of the largest Palestinian NGOs in Israel advocating for the rights of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. I walk in the room, and am greeted by the director (needless to say he’s a man), and the two deputy directors (both women). Before we start the interview, the director asks one of the women to make him coffee. Then the phone rings, and he asks the same woman to answer the phone. She picks up, and says that it’s for him. He doesn’t approach the phone, but rather asks her to ask the caller what it is, and then tells her what to reply.

A few minutes later, we are all seated at a round table, the director looks down at my resume, and reads out loud “khulud kh____.” A short pause, while he tries to figure me out. “Where are you from originally? And are you related to so and so?” For about ten minutes, I find myself answering these questions that have nothing to do with me or my skills. He needs to know whose daughter I am, which village my family comes from originally, whether I’m related to the Kh who is a member of the Haifa city council, and if – by chance – I’m related to that Kh who married a Jewish woman. Of course he doesn’t ask me if I’m Muslim or Christian, but this is also important to him. He discerns this from the answers to the other questions.

I was accepted for the job, but needless to say that even before they informed me of their decision, I made up my mind. I will not work in a place where part of my job description is making coffee. I will not work in an organization where my family’s background is more important than my abilities, skills, and potential.

This incidence is an example of why I tend to drop my family name. I resist the labels people attach to me just because of my family name. I resist the preconceptions people have about who I am based on my family’s background. Yes, I share a collective history with my family. I’m not breaking away from them, no. All I want is to be accepted for being who I am, and not for being the cousin of, or the daughter of.

Family reputation here is of great significance. So if I come from a “respected” family, lucky me. But if I don’t? I don’t even want to go in this direction here – because this is not what matters to me. I am not trying to hide my family’s name and thus my family’s background because they’re perceived as “respectable” or “not respectable.” This is not the issue here. Just as I don’t want people attributing negative conceptions to me based on my family’s name, I also don’t want them attributing positive ones based on it.

I am a full, complete person with abilities, emotions, ideas, and my own political stance. I have my own goals and visions as well as my own challenges and dilemmas. In an ideal setting, I imagine meeting a person and introducing myself as khulud. khulud the individual, complex person.

Of course family plays a significant role in how I developed to be the woman I am today. But this is in the small daily interactions with my close family members. The fact that I’m related to someone who’s on the Haifa city council doesn’t count here. I don’t see how the very distant relative (whom I never even met) who married a Jewish woman has any effect on me, or the fact that two of my cousins are advocates. What’s that got to do with me???

2 September 2010

Notes from underground

I am continuously faced with the difficulty of negotiating my spaces of existence. It is becoming harder and harder to find the emotional space to write, not to talk about the actual physical time and space. I find myself increasingly sitting at the computer screen into the small hours of the night, at times even greeting dawn, as I sit here with my coffee (trying to replace it with ginger tea, but it's not really working), cigarettes and two dogs.

Sometimes I reach the breaking point. Sometimes I want to give up. The effort to find the space and time - to clear all the clutter of the day from my mind - becomes an unbearable task. But something deep inside me keeps tugging at me. Keeps telling me that I need to do this. I need to write. To me, writing is like breathing. I imagine sometimes breathing as painful - but there is no other option. I have to keep breathing even if it causes agonizing pain.

Lately, I received some very heartwarming personal emails from some of you. Some even from people I don't know. I just want to tell you that your emails - maybe you didn't think of them like that - are lifesaving to me. They join the other life-lines I hang on to. I don't know what you think of my person, maybe you think I have all the confidence in the world and that words come easily to me. Well, writing is a struggle. It's an amalgamation of agony and ecstasy. But confidence? That's also a problematic word. Sometimes I believe. Sometimes I waver and am uncertain. Sometimes I have faith in my own abilities - but more importantly in my mission. Other times I feel frustration and don't see any progress. But with all this - it has never crossed my mind to abandon my goal.

But I think that a major cause for my frustration is actually not directly connected with writing itself. It's connected with being unable to find that silent, free space: mental, emotional and physical. The small tasks of life are so demanding, sometimes not leaving us time even for a hug. But I make an extra effort. Sometimes I give up another hour of sleep, pass a good read, or skip a nice relaxation. At the end, it's a matter of choice.

What's the point in writing this post? I think it has served its point!
Good night all and see you around the corner, khulud.

6 August 2010

bathroom tiles, cornflakes and death to Arabs

It was such a good and fruitful day. You know, those days when you get out of the house in the morning with your "to do" list and actually outdo yourself and get much more done? Well, it was one of those days. I went to the office, and got tons of work done. In the evening, I went with my parents to Kufr Manda to help them pick new tiles for their bathroom, which was an extremely difficult task, but accomplished successfully.
By the time we got back to Haifa it was eight thirty in the evening, and I took a nice walk back home from my parents' house, meeting my daughter and two dogs halfway. On the way, I bought some cornflakes.
As we were nearing our house, I had a satisfying feeling of being tired. A good kind of tiredness from having a productive day. And then I saw it. At the entrance to our building - a car with a finger-written message on its unwashed back window. Normally it would say something like "wash me please." But this one was different. It said "Death to Arabs."

But of course we are immune to these graffiti, aren't we? After all, we see them all over. So what was so different about this particular one? It instantly threw me off my delicately balanced mental state. No, it wasn't panic. It wasn't surprise either. Nor fear. I can't quite put my finger on the emotion I felt at reading the words. But it was very disturbing emotionally and mentally. My first reaction was to look in the direction of my daughter, who was walking in front of me. I felt relieved that she didn't pay attention to it - she was looking straight ahead, being pulled by our two dogs. Then I looked around - for what of for whom, I don't know. The words and the strong emotions they evoked accompanied me to bed. This was two days ago. Tonight, the car is still parked right at the entrance to our building. The word "Arabs" was erased, leaving only "death to."

12 June 2010

Breaking a Promise - Refusing to Apologize

I’ve been putting off writing about the following issue, as it’s been very difficult for me emotionally. This is to all my friends who don’t live in an armed-conflict zone and who have no idea how the conflict gets under our skins, affecting all areas of our daily lives.

Someone dear to me was coming from England to visit, and we arranged for my daughter to come wait for her at the airport. She was arriving at around 19:00, which was already quite late.

Getting to the airport from Haifa is quite easy by train, which takes about an hour and 20 minutes, and it goes all the way to the airport. So of course I was a bit worried about my 15 year old daughter traveling alone, but not too much. I had everything arranged – meeting point for them, telephone numbers, exact instructions for my daughter, etc.

And then, as life happens to unfold, something unexpected happened. The woman arriving (let’s call her Maria for the sake of convenience here), sent us a text message from the London airport that the plane is one hour behind schedule. This one seemingly insignificant hour threw me off balance (this is the whole point of this post, so bear with me and read to the end. I need to get the facts out of the way first before I start dealing with the conflict and how it’s connected to this). I immediately sent her a text message that my daughter will not come to pick her up, but apparently the message was lost in cyber-space and did not reach its destination.

Needless to say, and understandably, Maria reached Tel Aviv and was surprised that my daughter wasn’t there waiting for her. (Just for clarification: Maria knows her way around Israel, she’s been here several times and knows how to arrive by train on her own, which she did in the past).

So Maria arrived in Haifa alone by train, my father and my daughter were waiting for her at the Haifa train station. I didn’t come to the train station because when she arrived in Tel Aviv, she called us and said that she didn’t want to see me. Why? Because I promised that my daughter would wait for her and I broke my promise. Simple logic.

Upon arrival at my parents’ house, she attacked me, screaming between her tears that I am selfish and that I broke my promise. (I was also accused of playing the victim – but to this day this remains a mystery to me. I’ve never played the victim in my life, nor do I see myself a victim in any way.) I was not allowed to explain why I decided not to let my daughter come to the airport. I told Maria that when she is ready to hear my explanation, I am here and willing to explain. Throughout her whole stay in Haifa, she did not approach me once to demand an explanation.

Now back to the reason why and how it’s connected to the conflict. The one hour delay in the plane schedule – as I already said – threw me off balance. Different scenarios began running through my head. Many times, foreigners coming to Israel would be delayed by security forces for anywhere between 1-4 hours upon arrival. Recently, a German woman coming to do her internship at Isha L’Isha was taken to an investigation room and held there for 3 hours. The famous Spanish clown, Ivan Prado, was recently detained for six hours at the airport, following which he was denied entry and put on a return flight to Spain. More recently, the great linguist Noam Chomsky was not allowed entry either. Last month, Druze women who received permits from the Ministry of Interior to visit their relatives in Syria were denied entry back into Israel, of which they are citizens. The Occupation is built on arbitrariness. This very arbitrariness is a systemic policy designed to instill chaos into our lives.

I didn’t want my daughter to wait at the airport into the night. Another image – that of my daughter being beaten up on the bus by a grown woman just because she spoke Arabic on the phone – also came to my mind. Acts of violence on a racist basis have become rather the norm than the exception in Israel. I didn’t want to expose my daughter to unnecessary risks. This is my right as her mother. And nobody can take this right away from me.

I was asked to apologize, but I refused. I refuse to apologize for a decision that I made and for which I take full responsibility. It does hurt me that I didn’t get the opportunity to explain my decision. Looking back, I would have made the same decision again.

So if I am selfish by protecting my daughter, so be it. No, I can’t protect her forever from the conflict. She will get her share of it in due course. But for now, let her enjoy being a 15 year old as much as possible.

As for Maria, in her eyes I am still selfish. She hasn’t approached me since to demand an explanation. Maybe it’s convenient for her to think in a superficial black-and-white way in terms of me breaking a promise.

Many people who think they know everything there is to know about armed conflicts disregard the fact that the conflict is inherently connected to our everyday experiences. Every day, we have to make new decisions and negotiate our personal and private spaces according to the unfolding political reality. They refuse to see these connections, because then all their clean theories (anchored in a certain type of discourse that is not applicable to us) would collapse. They refuse to see, for example, that violation of women’s health rights are – in our case – connected to the conflict as well as to socio-economic issues. But this is for another post.

And lastly, you might wonder why I initially did agree that my daughter go to the airport. Well, for the very same reason. We do our best to live as much a normal life as possible in this insane, absurd reality.

2 June 2010

While I slept

While I Slept

I’ve been trying to get my thoughts together and write something cohesive – a glimpse from the inside. But I feel so overwhelmed by all the disinformation, secrecy and lies. Trying to piece together a complete picture out of the fragments. I started writing last night, and I actually spent three hours writing, getting all the information from the various Israeli and international media together – but at the end, it just didn’t make sense to me.

So I decided to share with you my own day. A day in the life of one feminist activist. The day of 31 May 2010.

As I suffer from insomnia, and I’m used to work at night, I spent the night of the 30th working all night, writing. Before shutting the Internet, I got a last update on the www.witnessgaza.com website, and everything was fine. They were on their way, supposed to arrive in Gaza in the afternoon of the 31st. Then I opened my “Life in Fragments – Novel in Progress” file and started writing. At 8:00 in the morning, I went to bed – without getting updated on the web before shutting the computer.

And while I slept….

I woke up at 14:00, and a quick glance at my phone told me something was wrong. More than 20 unanswered phone calls: from my partner who is currently in Sweden, from my dad, from my colleagues at Isha L’Isha – Haifa Feminist Center, from one of our Swedish donors located in Jerusalem, and other friends. My phone also informed me of 7 new text messages. Upon opening my email, I was shocked to discover 45 emails! And all this before drinking my two cups of “morning” coffee!

I got quickly updated from my feminist friends. An emergency meeting was held at Isha L’Isha – Haifa Feminist Center (while I slept, but of course), and they formulated a statement of solidarity with the women activists on board the Peace Flotilla. I was also told that a solidarity demonstration is planned for 17:00 in front of the Rambam hospital in Haifa, where they were supposedly bringing some of the injured activists.

Now I have to share with you the implications of this location on demonstrators. Haifa is a mixed city, but with clear division between the Arab and Jewish neighborhoods (like in most mixed cities in Israel). Traditionally, most of the demonstrations take place just above Wadi Nisnas, in the heart of the Arab neighborhood. On the one hand, it is not a hostile environment for us, while on the other hand it is still a quite central location, as we stand on a main junction where many cars pass – both Jewish and Arab. The chances of violence breaking out are not high.

Any other location in Haifa constitutes a threat and is a hostile environment for us. Why? Most of the Israeli public backs all government policies and military actions 100%. They see the demonstrators as traitors. The Palestinian citizens of Israel are seen as traitors and enemies, while the Jewish demonstrators are viewed as “ochrei Israel.”

Thus, the demonstrators face hostility from two sides: passersby and the police. The police are usually very brutal and violent – in most cases initiating the physical outbursts of violence.

Back to the events of the day. As I said, I got all the information before being able to start my brain working. So I didn’t think about the location of the demonstration. Usually I try to avoid demonstrations with potential violence. I quickly got updated on the brutal attack of unarmed peace activists bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza by Israeli commando in International waters – through different websites. The Israeli media was very vague. No official reports of the number of killed. Everything was engulfed in secrecy. There was a lot of disinformation. I don’t own a TV, but my dad told me that the running caption throughout the news was that five Arabs from Haifa were killed, and that their families have been informed of their deaths. Needless to say this turned out to be not true – but only later during the day. I was also told by someone that the ship carrying Haneen Zuabi was being towed into the Haifa Port, which is close to the Rambam hospital. This rumor also turned out to be not true.

While getting updated I had my three big cups of coffee, then took a shower, and headed for the first demonstration. I arrived a few minutes after 17:00, to find 4 or 5 women friends at the entrance to the hospital. We waited for more people to arrive and, after about 15 minutes, we were a total of 20 people, feminist women, both Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel, and a few men. At this time, I thought we really looked pathetic. I was still not thinking about any risks or possible violence. We got out our posters and situated ourselves on the big roundabout close to the hospital. A few minutes after this, about 10-12 young people, I would say they were between 15-18, with Israeli flags and posters in support of the Israeli Defence Forces, situated themselves on the other side of the street, right opposite to us.

Two journalists were there to cover the demonstration. Some minutes later a small number of men and women joined the right-wing demonstrators. One man was particularly violent. He came close to us and started screaming at us: “Do you know Arabs? Do you know Arabs? Show me one Arab who doesn’t want to kill us and destroy us and take over our land. All they want to do is kill us. They don’t want peace.” He continued like this for a while, I guess he didn’t think there were any Arab demonstrators. He actually hurled at me the “Do you know any Arabs.”

At this point there was still no police in sight, and I was beginning to be afraid. I just stood there in silence. I didn’t want to provoke any physical violence. Call me a coward. If courage means getting beaten up, then I refuse to be courageous. I don’t want to get beaten up. I don’t want to get arrested. I don’t need to brag that I spent the night being investigated. I don’t need or want a “badge of courage.”

After a while the police arrived. And I do have to say that unlike their usual behavior, they were actually nice to us this time. The demonstration went on.

We were called names and we were cursed. Some of the verbal violence included words and phrases like: prostitute, disgusting, stinking, you get fucked from your ass (I am really sorry for these obscenities, but these are the actual words we were subjected to).

My Mizrahi friend (Mizrahis are Jews originally from Arab countries) were called names and my Russian speaking friends were told to go back to Russia, because “who needs you here? We don’t need you here! Who told you to come here?” We were also told that if we love Arabs so much, we should and live in Gaza or go to Lebanon.

I can’t remember right now all the other name calling and cursing, but these words remain in my memory.

At 6:20 we dispersed, and we all went to the second demonstration, the one in the usual location in Haifa. This one was a much bigger demonstration, I would say there were several hundreds. This time, there was quite a big presence of religious men. The demonstration began at 19:00 and it went smooth until we left. We left earlier because we had a collective meeting that night at 20:00 in Isha L’Isha. At the collective, we went over the statement that was formulated in the emergency meeting and in email correspondences throughout the day and changed some of the wording until every woman present felt that the statement is in line with her convictions. Then we had our regular discussion of the issues on the agenda.

It was a long evening for me, with quite a lot of confusion. I arrived home after 22:00, and got online hoping to get some facts. Still, no facts. Still, the official bodies of the state of Israel were silent. Until now, we don’t know the names of the murdered. We don’t even know the exact number of the wounded and the murdered.

The last two days have been insane for us all.

I want to thank all the support we received from our feminist friends around the world – Australia, Philippines, Uganda, Canada, the US, and others. Thank you for forwarding our statement. It is so important for us to get the word out that there are feminist women in Israel – Jewish, Palestinian citizens of Israel, lesbian, bi-sexual and Russian women who are working together in solidarity for peace, fighting injustice.

At this moment, the last ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, is making its way to Gaza. They have received the full support of the Irish government at this stage. However, Israel claims that it will be better prepared in the future for these ships. They also say that they will take all the necessary measures to stop any ships in the future from entering the Gaza port. And I really hope that nothing will happen to the activists on board the MV Rachel Corrie as I shut my computer and head to sleep. Because I really don’t have the energies for another “while I slept.”

The above picture was taken by Marie Dion

1 June 2010

Statement of Isha L'Isha - Haifa Feminist Center

We, the women of Isha L'Isha – Haifa Feminist Center, express deep shock at the continuing and deteriorating consequences of the siege on Gaza. We express our solidarity with women peace activists who acted to break the inhuman siege on women, children and men; a siege that has been preventing basic human freedoms, health services and essential materials.

We extend our support to our sisters in the feminist movement, especially those who went out to exercise their right to protest against an outrageous injustice, and found themselves facing a military attack that was a result of a violent state policy.

We call on women and men in Israeli society to resist the assault on the most basic human values, and to join our call – the attack on the peace flotilla is an attack on me. The siege on Gaza endangers us all.

Isha L’Isha – Haifa Feminist Center is a multi-cultural feminist collective established in 1983. Our aim is to bring about social change by promoting values of equal rights and equal opportunities for all women; eradicating discrimination, violence and oppression of women; and fostering solidarity among women.

Isha L'Isha - Haifa Feminist Center
118 Arlozorov St. Haifa 33276 Israel
Tel: + 972 4 865 0977

28 May 2010

Language-less (or more)

I am. I am a woman who dreams in an unknown language. Who counts “one-two-three” in one language, and “four-five-six” in another. My thoughts come in fragments of four languages.

My language of love is the poetic song of this ancient land – Arabic. My language of politics is a language I have no connection with – Hebrew. My language of creative writing is yet a third language – language foreign to me and my land – English. And my language of family – well, that’s the simple language of my early childhood – Slovak.

Four languages, one brain. Most of the time there is chaos in my brain – I feel the words of these four languages racing, competing for my tongue. Fighting to escape.

Ideas I write in English I struggle with in Arabic and Hebrew when speaking. The things I write in one language I cannot express in writing in the other one. The words I speak in Arabic cannot be pinned down on paper. The intimate discussions with my family in Slovak cannot be rendered into another language. The heated political discussions with my friends in Hebrew become a struggle when I repeatedly attempt to document them in English. The words of passion in Arabic – well, I can never imagine myself speaking these words in any other language.

Each language leaves an imprint on my identity, as words shape our realities. Each language carries within itself a complete world – of traditions, cultures, symbols, jokes, street-language, and more. Descriptions of feelings and emotions can extremely vary across these languages. The same words – when translated – carry completely different connotations, denotations and meanings. Sometimes they carry history itself within their very letters.

I use all four languages on a daily basis, in different settings and in various contexts. I try to negotiate my identity between and within those four languages and the spaces left by the gaps. It is no easy task. The instant switch between languages feels a burden at times, while at other times I take it up as an intellectual challenge. One thing is sure: life is so much more interesting when experienced in four languages.

25 May 2010

Waqfet Banat - Personal Narrative

Cover Image of Waqfet Banat (taken from Aswat's website)

There was a lot of commotion and excitement today at Aswat - Palestinian Gay Women's office. "Waqfet Banat - Personal Narrative" has just arrived from the printing house. A small book, with a colorful cover picture, inviting the reader to the personal, often guarded, private spaces of Palestinian lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex women (LBTQI).

The stories are corageuos narratives of individual women who have had to deal not only with the rejection of their families and communities, but with the very journey of self-discovery. While some celebrate their very identities, others describe the all-too-painful rejections they have had to encounter time and again. Some have emerged stronger and are able to live their lives being openly themselves, while others have been broken and have to lead a double life. A few were not strong enough (how strong can one be?!) and succumbed under the weight of patriarchal, religious, or societal oppression.

I want to personally thank the women of Aswat who worked so hard on collecting, translating, editing and making available this important book. I also want to thank the women who contributed the narratives: your strength and courage are an inspiration to me and I feel privileged to be part of your world. Thank you for opening your hearts and sharing with me your most personal experiences, thoughts, pains, losses and loves.

"Waqfet Banat" is an important contribution to Palestinian literature on sexual identity, and I believe it has the potential of changing perceptions among the public. But most importantly, I hope it reaches the hands of parents of young women on their journey of self-discovery, as family acceptance is a major thread running through almost all the narratives.

I strongly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in a closer glimpse and a deeper understanding of sexual identity and its intricate interrelation to patriarchal oppression and societal norms.

The book is available in Arabic and English. To order a copy, please visit Aswat's website at www.aswatgroup.org.

Cover Image from Waqfet Banat (taken from Aswat's website)

19 May 2010

Love Cannot be Defined

I was once given a book called “Conditions of Love,” written by some Armstrong (don’t remember his first name). I try hard to remember anything from the book, but in vain. Today I realize the reasons.

Love cannot be “conditioned.” Love cannot be defined by a single individual who has only experienced one kind of love, in one type of cultural and historical context.

Because love is a slippery word. It is a word meaning cannot be attached to. It doesn't conform to the rules of the Oxford Dictionary.

Love can be gentle, it can be ferocious, it can be calm and it can be raging. It can take you up beyond the tip of the edge, and it can take you down into the bottomless well of grief. It can be happiness, but it can also live in anger. Love can be ..... fill in whatever emotion and love can be that. And it can be all these combined together and much more.

Whenever I think of the love I have, one word instantly forms in my mind: “intense.” That is the kind of love I am experiencing in this stage of my life. But of course it is accompanied by other emotions as well. Ours is a love riding a wild rollercoaster. It is at the same time thrilling, breathtaking but also scary. It is painful fear mingled with exhilaration. It is like lovemaking – with an amalgamation of feelings beyond pain and joy.

Reading “Mornings in Jenin” by Susan Abulhawa, I came across a paragraph that will remain with me always. Reading her definition of love, I was magically drawn to the concept. I felt, yes, this is my kind of love. Not the philosophical notions of love fed to us. Her kind of love touched me in a deep place of my very existence. Here is the paragraph:

“Amal, I believe that most Americans do not love as we do. It is not for any inherent deficiency or superiority in them. They live in the safe, shallow parts that rarely push human emotions into the depths where we dwell. I see your confusion. Consider fear. For us, fear comes where terror comes to others because we are anesthetized to the guns constantly pointed at us. And the terror we have known is something few Westerners ever will. Israeli occupation exposes us very young to the extremes of our own emotions, until we cannot feel except in the extreme.

“The roots of our grief coil so deeply into loss that death has come to live with us like a family member who makes you happy by avoiding you, but who is still one of the family. Our anger is a rage that westerners cannot understand. Our sadness can make the stones weep. And the way we love is no exception, Amal.

It is the kind of love you can know only if you have felt the intense hunger that makes your body eat itself at night. The kind you know only after life shields you from falling bombs, or bullets passing through your body. It is the love that dives naked toward infinity’s reach. It think it is where God lives.”

“Mornings in Jenin” is one of those few books that have made a deep impression on me. Its scents, colors, grief, pain, and hopes will remain with me always. I urgently recommend this book. But my recommendation comes with a warning: at the beginning of the book, a small ball of joy makes its home in the readers stomach, but suddenly, and very violently, this tiny ball betrays you and transforms itself into a knot of grief that keep growing and pushing itself upward, until it settles into your throat, making you unable to breath. This knot will accompany the reader to the very last lines of the book.

14 May 2010


"she opened her post box and was taken aback. first, by the quantity of the mail. But something was not right. Reaching in, she drew a heavy bulk of letters. All were torn open, their contents scattered. some of them were torn to pieces, others just crumpled. Love letters, bills, notifications of a big package waiting at the post office. She didn't understand. she could tell by the dates on the stamps that this was at least three months worth of mail. who did this? and why was she all of a sudden targeted? or was it not all of a sudden? she felt they were closing in on her."

6 May 2010

Imagine You're on a Military Training

Walking my two dogs in my neighborhood, I saw a mother with her 7 year old boy. The boy was carrying a cage with hamsters in it, and I heard him complaining to his mom how heavy the cage is and how difficult it is so him to carry it.

My first thought was that the mother would find words of motivation, telling him that he's doing great, or that they're almost home or some such words.
Instead, she tells him: "Stop being such a brat. Just pretend you're on a military training."

MILITARY TRAINING???? A seven year old boy????

I don't think I need to add any commentary here...

4 May 2010

Sarkuzi will liberate the Muslim woman – part two

Reading my last post, my dear friend Talma brought to my attention the fact that again this is an attack directed at a certain group – the Muslims. What about other groups, such as nuns or Jewish women in traditional dress? So clearly this is yet another campaign to demonize Islam.

And if we take up Sarkuzi’s claim that the Burka defiles women’s honor, then why not outlaw pornography, sexist advertisements and magazines that show all-too-often almost naked women? And what about advertisements using young girls in seductive positions? There is no end to the list of things that portray women as mere sex objects. It’s a whole industry. But of course this is allowed in the name of terms as “freedom of expression” and other such noble terms.

27 April 2010

Sarkuzi will Liberate the Muslim Woman

Picture taken from the campaign of the International Society for Human Rights

Sarkuzi (no, I didn’t get his name wrong. It makes me mad whenever my name is misspelled, so I decided to do the same with names in other languages. See who gets mad now) has come to the rescue of Muslim women. He has promised them liberation from the Burka in the form of legislation. Again, the West has harnessed its legal framework to the benefit of the primitive east. The Burka will be outlawed! Yippee! Freedom from the patriarchal sexist oppression! WRONG!

Yes, we live in an oppressive patriarchal society. Some more oppressive, some less – but all societies are ultimately oppressive and sexist. And we women suffer the most from this structure. The west needs to reevaluate and reconceptualize its notions, concepts and values. The legal system inherently and essentially serves the oppressor. Social change will not come through legislation.

Yes, after this law passes, we will no longer see any veiled women in the streets of France. And that is the ultimate aim of this law – to disinfect the streets from the Burka. Nothing more, nothing less. But has the legislator thought about what will happen to these women? Instead of liberating them from the Burka, this law will only further push them underground – making them completely invisible. Does the legislator think that these women’s husbands will all of a sudden let their women roam the streets of France unveiled? Well, think again! They will continue to wear their Burkas, but as the law will make them outlaws, they will remain at home, hidden from the eyes of society. Thus, this law serves to further oppress the women. Is the legislator so blind? This is such simple logic.

And now to the question: then what is the solution? How do we liberate women? The only way is through attacking the roots of the cause – which is the patriarchal sexist value system. There are many grassroots feminist women’s organizations throughout the world who are committed to eradicating this oppression. Their work is focused on education and awareness-raising rather than on forced, artificial and superficial solutions. Yes, the road is long and difficult, but change is happening – slowly, but surely. So please, dear westerner – if you can’t sincerely help, just leave it to the women themselves to work. Because your solutions – as they are formulated now – are only detrimental and harmful to advancing our rights!

31 March 2010

A Woman's Place

Hanady's voice was barely a whisper in the night. A sad voice, a voice with no body attached to it... I could tell she had been crying before, for a sob escaped over the phone line, secretly inserted between her words. 'I didn't know who else to call, Khulud.' I could hear the screams of a baby from a distance, and another child sobbing and breathing heavily close to the phone.
I remember Hanady from the university. A young woman... no, barely a woman. A girl trying to be a woman. In the second year of our studies I noticed a thick gold band on her finger... an invisible shackle... but she didn't know it then. She walked the dark corridors of the university, an Arabian princess, unawares. Dark curly hair, big olive eyes, smiling eyes. Expensive clothes from her fiancé, and every now and then a new, thick gold bracelet or a necklace... more shackles, until her body felt too heavy under the weight, but she still walked the university like an Arabian princess... smiling, the whole world under her feet...
That's how I remember Hanady.
Her fiancé, I heard, was an important business man, something with importing or exporting or something like that. From Nazareth. Good family. Rich family. Did she marry him for love? Or for money? Or because she was twenty two and it was time? Or was it an arranged marriage?
Don't know, doesn't matter now.
Everything is gone now.
What's left is a house to clean, long hours alone in the dark house, a meal to cook from scratch, a bruise over the left thigh, another under the eye... the left eye or the right eye? This week it's the left eye, but last week it was the right one... a sore arm from hitting the wall... a broken bone...
Then, as if that were not enough, two babies... born one year apart. Teeth that hurt at night, one already pulled, more to be taken care of. A few white hairs that seem to multiply too fast. Hanady's hair isn't curly anymore... she has ceased to be an Arabian princess, unawares...
Hanady isn't even a woman anymore... she only breathes, and walks, and cleans, and cooks, and cares for her babies...
There is no Hanady anymore...
Hanady doesn't live here anymore... not in this house, not in this body...

p.s. I wrote this short piece a few years back, after receiving a phone call from a woman I studied with at the university. As far as I know, her husband still abuses her and she lives an unhappy life. She calls me about once a year to pour her heart out and to draw some strength to go on.

24 March 2010

Nulla Dies Sine Linea - Progress Log Entry no. 1

Ok so this is my first entry of my “Progress Log.” Supposed to rapidwrite my progress in writing. So I’ve started reading the “Writing on Both Sides of the Brain” to overcome my writing block and to write more effectively. Mainly – to write. What I’ve learned so far is that I need to learn how to separate the two functions of the right and left side of the brain. First – let the music, rhythm and voice out through the right side of the brain. This usually happens as we use rapidwriting and don’t let the critic come between the finger and the keyboard. After that – and when the time is ripe – let the critic in to do all the editing, rewriting and crossing out. Sounds logical, especially as I am writing at the moment in this very way. Not paying any heed to the critic. Not thinking too much. And it’s going pretty well because the fact is that I wrote what I wrote until now in less than 4 minutes. Usually it would take me at least half an hour to write a paragraph this long. But this is different, because here and now I’m not really concerned with any metaphors or fresh language. Only letting my thoughts roam.

As far as my novel? And its progress? Well, I haven’t written for a while. I don’t really know where the novel is going. Don’t have a story line yet. I mean I’ve got the dilemmas and I know more or less the political orientation of Maisoon and Ziyad – but how in the hell am I going to make it be felt in the novel? I can’t just write “she thinks this and he thinks that.” It has to be played out in real-life scenes. In their actions. In their dreams. In their inner monologues and their dialogues with each other.

One way to go about it is just write the scenes I’ve already got, separately, and then try to do some sort of pasting or putting them together. But this doesn’t seem right to me, as I need to know the chronological order because I want the two characters to grow somehow in their realizations or understandings. At first, they are complete opposites in their political understandings, but I want them to come closer. The same goes for Maisoon’s father – first an alienation of her from him, she doesn’t understand anything about him, doesn’t know he’d been a political activist in his youth. Then she starts putting the pieces together – learning somehow about his activism, his theater, his poetry, his dream of being an actor and a poet (both? Why not, we’ll see). Ok, so there’s an idea. This can be the story line – Maisoon’s search for understanding what happened to that “subjugated” generation of her father and their dreams.

And then, parallel to this, I can have her political development – from being mere “errand runner” when she drives the kids to hospitals and goes to olive harvests to becoming something else. Another kind of political activist.

And then parallel to her development we have Ziyad – who’s the farthest of all in all of this, and his search for his own identity: who is he?

And lastly, we have Layla, Maisoon’s mother – and her dreams. I need a dream for her. A dream of education. She can be the “three times oppressed woman.”

Great. This progress log has already helped me clear some of the clutter. I even feel like continuing to write but I don’t know what to write. Tomorrow I will be reading chapter four of “Writing on Both Sides of the Brain” and will be doing the exercises in the chapter. Looking forward to it actually, as when I did the rapid writing, it really felt good though my arm began to hurt (I did that exercise and the first one also in my notebook no. 4).

I will let the new thoughts about the characters and this story line of their political development / understanding / awakening sink in for a few days and think of way how to write it. Maybe parallel chapters – going back and forth with Maisoon. Alternating the chapters between her and her parents, her and Ziyad, and just her. Maisoon being the threading link between all the characters. And I almost forgot – I need that one character from a refugee camp. Now this will be difficult. Do I want him fanatic? Do I want a tragic end for him? Does Maisoon fall for him? Will that be too much? Not if it’s a 600 page book. And also – do I want just one character? That wouldn’t be doing justice. Maybe I need a contra character to him. Someone who’s lost a loved one but turned to non-violent resistance? Wow, this is complex – but at the same time I’m getting excited. Very much! At the prospect of this creation. Yes, I feel mature as a writer. I feel confident that I can do it.

I’ve written almost two pages in less than half an hour. This proves how fertile my brain is when I decide to put the thoughts into actual words black on white. I feel exhilaration just at writing this. So how does it feel to actually be writing the novel? Complete ecstasy! Energy. I forget my own tiredness and how tired my body feels. I even forget – if only for a little while – the pressures of my work and all the tasks I have. It’s pure pleasure. Tomorrow I will find the time to read that chapter four and to do the exercises. Maybe even do a bit of writing “Life in Fragments.”

3 March 2010

Glimpses of an Ordinary Night in Haifa

The place: not a very secure neighborhood, upper story, one room apartment with an attached roof three times the size of the apartment.
The people: four students, two men and two women, all in their late twenties, three of them Arabs, one Jew.
Time: about 23:20, I'm already high from smoking marijuana, and so I'm not so sure about the time.
I'm half sitting, half lying on the mattress, listening to their souls... through music...
Happiness? Or is it sadness?
Do we miss these moments even as they are occurring?
If they last too long,... it will become too painful.
These fingers; are they expressing what the soul is saying?
Are we in music lost?
Do we lose total control in music? Does music become us?
Tayseer taps his fingers on the guitar as if it were a durbakky... desire... it is making love to the music...
Maybe actually we become in music...
We are music!
I hear your soul through the music!
It is angry... or maybe the feelings lose their names as they become sounds...?
I wonder if you can see the sounds enter my body and become one with it...
Each instrument you take in your hands – becomes you.
The sound of it enters into you and becomes one with you... you become the music and the sound...

The music stops suddenly, we smoke another joint of marijuana and drink some more red wine. Ehab, who studied law at a college for two years only to quit and now studies theater at Haifa University and writes plays, said: "Music takes on different colors." After that, silence... more smoking, they all laugh at something I didn't hear, and then they continue playing.
Yes, I think it does... it wears all colors of the rainbow...
But it also climbs mountains. And it makes you climb the mountain with it, and does not let go of you. You are forced to climb with the music, until again you become the music's colors... and then, you become the music...

Maybe I am to live for music...
Maybe I am to dance for music...

You will create music for me... and I will live through it... I will be born through it.
You will give birth to me, until I become the sound, the music, and the colors... and I will be your woman!
My body is the instrument, and my soul contains the strings. You are playing me... playing the strings of my soul...

Now the music becomes two colors, two sounds, together, but distinct... making love.
The one – strong, firm...
The other – soft... softer: an echo.
The softer one becomes louder now, trying to be heard, trying to remain in control.
But the first one doesn't give in, and takes over now completely.

And now... and now... now I feel like making love to you like these two colors and sounds...

They have stopped playing again, and are now talking, and I am wrapped up in my words... hiding my desires and feelings within the pages of my notebook.
I hide them from all to see.
I want my thoughts kept to myself... please, don't touch my thoughts, it is a volcano!

A woman. Nurit. Now she has taken the djembe and started playing.
A woman... seducing me? Can I face it? She is playing music... for me...
But... Tayseer is fighting for me, he is playing louder now and faster... or is he trying to seduce... her?
She is falling for his music, now their rhythms are falling together, in perfect harmony.
Is he playing for her, or... for me?
I don't know. The music reached its peak, and so did we all, and with exhaustion, the music faded and stopped. But! Tayseer starts playing again, softly this time, scooting his body closer to mine, and looking at me, caressing my face with his soft music... A man.

I went out to the roof to take some fresh air, leaving my blue notebook open on the mattress, with the pen next to it. Ehab and Tayseer were sitting on the edge of the roof, smoking and talking. Nurit stayed inside by herself. I think that I willed this situation, where she can have a chance to glimpse into my notebook, and... maybe... comment on the last lines.

You are reading me... me the ink. And Tayseer is outside on the roof. Walked out of me for a moment? Left me with you. Is he giving me a chance to be with you alone? Or does he want to see if I let you read me? And I thought this was going to be a night of making love to you... but it turned out to be much more than that.
Is a woman walking into my life? If she is reading me...

'Writing here feels as if I'm violating your sacred stream of consciousness... are you going to come here any minute now... the tension... help... you've seen me... writing in your notebook... I'm caught inside your net... it's frightening... I have to let go...'

The notebook is in my hands again.
She has to let go... her last sentence.
Is she telling me no? Is this rejection? The ultimate loss of any chance?
I have loosened a piece of thread for her, and she has let go of it...
I let her read my feelings! I let her read... me!
Now she sees everything.

'I am drawn to her words like a magnet. Her words are so powerful. Can anyone write such beautiful words...? She is a true artist, because she writes herself into the paper.'

I don't understand sometimes... anything... do people ever let go of their shackles?
Do they let themselves be who they truly are? Or do they have to be what they want to be?

I am just I.
I cannot be not I.
This is who I am.
What you see is me.
I am glass...
You can see through my body and into my soul...
I don't hide my desires towards him,
I don't hide them towards you.

And now you are playing music... for yourself? Or to seduce me... again?

Or is all this seducing happening only in my mind? Maybe to her it is only music... maybe she doesn't see the colors... or feel the sounds... maybe she is oblivious of all this. Unaware?

I let the notebook lay close to her, but she only read it... didn't pick up the pen to write anything.

So you have nothing to say. You go back to the music in order to avoid writing down your feelings.
Because if you see them on paper – your feelings – that will mean they are out of you.
That means you can't control them anymore. They are out there. It might mean that I will know...
But I do know!
Maybe you don't know yet.
You are not letting go of your feelings.
Maybe that is the smart thing to do.
But I don't think when it comes to my feelings. They are there, inside, and I let them be.
I let them out, because they desire to escape.
Oh, woman! How much more you make me feel than a man. He couldn't make me feel what I feel with you!
So... what is this feeling? I only know it exists... but I don't know what it is...
Are you again seducing me with music? And with your body moving to the rhythm of your music?...
I don't know where this is going. Tomorrow, you will not be here. But that doesn't mean anything. You have entered my soul and given me new experiences and new emotions that I will carry with me always...
Tomorrow you will not be here, and I will stay with Tayseer.

I feel like making love with you... Tayseer... now...
I leaned toward him and let him read this last line.
This line is...me. This is the real me. The me who never hesitates to express desires or feelings.

I saw Nurit on a few more occasions after that, but I never felt those intense emotions with her again. Maybe it was a one-time experience... or maybe just the influence of marijuana. But nevertheless, I am glad I experienced those emotions, for I discovered new things about myself.

One night, and a lifetime of feelings... this is what I live for – complete freedom of feelings... complete freedom of thoughts.


After that night, I discovered – for the first time – that writing can be dangerous.
I also found out that just as I hide behind my words and my writing, he hides behind his music. But, like Nurit, some people decide to ignore the emotions boiling inside them and screaming to be let out. Instead, they repress them even deeper. But not us. We are aware of them, and release them. I on the paper, with my words; he into his passion for music. And this is the very reason why he is so hypnotizing when he plays... because his soul gets tangled up in it as well, not just his fingers. This is the secret of great artists. That they express their emotions, desires, and fears in their art.


how can i tell my feelings
not to,
when they do
how can i ask my heart
not to,
when it so desires to?

1 March 2010

To my Invisible Readers

Dear Invisible Readers,
we think there are some certainties in our lives that we can count on. small ones. like the fact that my two dogs will knock me down with their love every time I come home. or the fact that my daughter - at 15 - will still call me every night to cuddle up with her, hug her and stay by her bedside for a while. or the fact that the blog we enjoy reading will be there tomorrow as well.

Well, guess what? there are no certainties in life. the other day I came home and both of my dogs were sleeping on the sofa, neither of them jumping to greet me. they were just enjoying a lazy evening - and who can blame them, really? with my daughter, I'm sure a night will come when she won't call me, though I dread that night, because that will be the night that she will cease to be my little girl, and become her own person. but of course it's a most natural process, and I will embrace it when the moment arrives.

as for blogs - I received an email a week ago from a friend of mine asking me "what happened to your blog? It won't open." well, for private reasons, I decided to change the URL (the web address) of my blog. I didn't think much of it, as I thought I only had a handful of readers. well, guess again. Today another friend of mine asked me: "why did you delete your blog?" apparently, she received an email from a woman who reads my blog asking her how come I "closed my blog".

every now and then I meet a friend and she would refer to something I wrote on my blog, and I am taken aback each time to learn how many women (and men) read my blog.

- [I kinda' forgot the whole point of this post, so please bear with me]

anyway, now that I know I have many more readers than I thought, I feel more responsibility... for what, I have no idea.... maybe for the contents?? Or the frequency of posting?? Hey, I need help here...

for those who are not that familiar with the format of the blog - it allows you to post comments at the end of each post, and you can post the comments anonymously or through your google account. I'd really like to read your comments and feedback, what you would like to read more about, what you don't like, or if you have any ideas. because it's true that first and foremost I write because writing is my life. But for that, I have my own personal journal where I write all my personal thoughts - my own desires, fears, lusts, grievances. but here, in this public format, I write because I think it's important to make my voice heard. though I write about personal issues, they are also political.

- [ok I'm writing this at 3:25 in the morning, and have no idea whether I'm making any sense]

In short, just leave me your comments and let me know your thoughts. for more personal thoughts, you're more than welcome to send me a personal email to khulud.kh@gmail.com.


22 February 2010

Haifa - the city of co-existence

Haifa is considered to be a city of peaceful co-existence by many. But is it indeed?
(1) I've lived most of my life in Jewish neighborhoods, and still I am annoyed when people give me a second look when I speak Arabic on the phone.
(2) Spending time with my daughter at the neighborhood public parks when she was little, the other kids would either play with her or ignore her. She would be treated like any other kid. Nothing about her would betray the fact that she is part Arab, her being blond with blue eyes, with a non-Arabic name. Until she'd call me "mama" and ask me something in Arabic. Then all the heads - those of children, parents and grandparents would shoot all in perfect harmony and accusation towards me. How dare I (dirty up their neat little lives)?
(3) Teenagers sitting in the back of the bus usually play songs on their mobile phones. Back when I didn't have a car I'd ride the bus everyday and just listen to people's conversations. I've noticed that whenever a song in English or Hebrew would play from the back seats, the passengers would be content. However, every time, and I mean every single time, that a song in Arabic would come from those back seats, there would always be one passenger who'd ask them to turn the music off, as it was annoying. And when the kids would ignore the passenger, she/he would then ask the bus driver to make them turn it off. A verbal argument would follow.
(4) My partner was once asked by a bus driver NOT to speak in Arabic on his phone.

This is only a tiny fragment of the co-existence of Haifa.
Think again!

unfastening, unlacing an identity

a detached procession of vieled figures in black.
all marching in silence, to drop their identities into one great box.
the box of lost people.
swallowing the fabrics - scintillating yellows and oranges, deep reds and greens, shimmering blues, and all the rest of them.
leaving them naked.
leaving them all dressed in black.

In the Name of.

20 February 2010

Leaving Part of my Identity Behind

I love winter.
I love it for private reasons, but I also love it because I like to wear my scarves. I have scarves of every color imaginable.
But the scarves I love most are forbidden to me.
If I wear the red-and-white Kafiyya I get suspicious looks. I feel like people stare at me like I'm a strange kind of cheese and they try to figure me out. But it's not that bad - I can manage with that.
The problem arises when I walk out of the house with the black-and-white Kafiyya. It has long lost its meaning.
It has been politicized and then de-politicized.
Politicized when the west has turned it into a symbol of terrorism.
De-politicized when it started being mass-manufactured by brand labels in all colors of the rainbow and become a fashion statement.
So before I leave the house in the winter, I put on my black-and-white Kafiyya, wrap it around my neck, and contemplate the woman with the olive skin in the mirror for a few moments.
Then, with a thread of sadness unspooling from a corner of my heart, I take it off and hang it back, leaving a part of my very identity at home.

17 February 2010

I've shared some fragments of my new novel in progress here with you lately, and I'd like to thank you for the invaluable comments you made. They've helped me reflect on the writing and to see things I've been blind to.
But for now I think I will stop posting fragments of the novel, as the novel has taken a life of its own, and it would be difficult to figure out the meaning from decapitated fragments.
So far, I've got almost 8,000 words, and lately I've been writing at the pace of 300-500 words a night, which is really good.
A tip for writers: many times I find myself thinking of a phrase, making up a metaphor, and I make a mental note to write it down later. But often "later" means that I forget the phrase, idea, metaphor. So I got in the habit of carrying with me AT ALL TIMES AND EVERYWHERE I GO a "Writer's Notebook."
It's an artist's sketchbook - if you like. Into it I drop all those unusual word pairs I think up, metaphors, ideas, fragments of overheard conversations in the street, and what not. Mine is a sturdy one - one that withstands just about anything, as I tend to play rough. Many ideas that I write there never make it into any of my writing, but rereading old notebooks, I sometimes come across an idea that at the time seemed not to fit in anywhere, but now fits neatly into something I'm working on now. A writer's notebook is a writer's toolbox - a treasure box.

Anyway, I was saying that I will not share anymore of my novel here for now. Maybe at a later stage I will come back to sharing, or if there is a specific part I need feedback on.

For now, I am going back to my "political comments of the day" - that's how I call them for now. Those incidents that enrage me. Or make me smile. Although I am completely immersed in Maisoon and Ziyad's story at the moment, I do hope to find the time to write - at least once a week - a new insight into the life of Palestinians in Israel. I have ideas for at least five posts already - but just can't find the time to write them down. But I promise myself to dedicate at least one hour a week (sounds manageable) to these insights, as I feel they are important and there is need to share them.

25 January 2010

The Darkest Night

I have a knot in my throat, a knot in my stomach, and something really heavy pressing against my heart. My strength is put to the test in impossible ways. Things I cannot cope with are hurled at me with no mercy. Life can be cruel at times, and right now what I see is a long and dark night ahead of me, praying to my Goddess to light the way - in vain...

16 January 2010

Fresh resolutions & fresh perspectives lead to change

Image taken from the Kong Kong Institute of Technology website

Ok. I don't know what it is, maybe the fact that winter has been cancelled here in Haifa this year, or the fact that my house is inhabited by women only lately, or just my constant need for change. Anyway, the reason doesn't really matter. What matters is that I am making changes - again. And not just changes - but commitments and personal resolutions. Significant ones.

The first one you're already familiar with: my commitment to finish the first draft of my novel by March 8th 2011 (my 36th birthday).

The second one came while I was doing some inventory of my closet and realized that I have everything (even too much of everything). Though I don't shop much for myself, I buy 1-2 items every 2-3 months, but still, the amount of material things tend to accumulate. Thus my second resolution: limit my consummerism. By this I mean NO SHOPPING for clothes, shoes, bags, or any othr accessories until March 8th 2011. So far, I'm doing good. This of course excludes books - my very expensive love. But 90% of the books I buy are second-hand, most bought from the Better World Books, where part of my money goes to fund literacy around the world. So this is OK.

Now, to my third commitment: my best friend just quit smoking - cold turkey. I've had numerous attempts at quitting smoking, all of which failed. I think now I'm ready to stop - for good. Today (January 16th, 2010) will be my last day to smoke. I will wake up tomorrow, January 17th, 2010, to a brand new, smoke-free day. I know it will be difficult, but I am concentrating on all the good, positive things I will gain from quitting smoking. I'm going now to prepare a motivation list to reproduce and hang in different places throughout the house to remind me of all what I will be gaining. I'll of course keep you updated, and if any of you want to join me on this journey, feel free to write to me, either in a comment or to my personal email.


10 January 2010

Sitting on the Fence

so you've left - again.
the house is heavy with silence. emptiness.
I walk around - picking up the remains.
so what's left of five years?
not much.
some dictionaries (useless to me, German, Italian)
some documents (not too important, I guess, otherwise you'd have taken them with you)
and one pair of yellow shorts (can't wear them)
and that's it.
all of five years - in one box.
not too heavy, either.

In a frenzy of need, I cut my hair.
for a new beginning.
and I climbed a fence.
with a thermos of tea, a sweater and a pillow
and a ladder from a friend to help me climb (thank you Yali).

I'm new on this fence... waiting, rethinking my... [fill in the blanks].
on the other side of the fence, a completely new universe.
something I've thought of before,
but never dared.

I will need my thermos of tea, and the sweater,
and the pillow.
I have a feeling I'll be sitting here for a while.
thinking about the possibilities.

and maybe...
just maybe...

[to be continued when I figure out on which side of the fence the wind will land me]


Three kinds of thoughts enter my mind.
My mind is the water – ready to accept in all its fluidity.
Some thoughts are like salt; they enter the mind and they melt in it.
Some thoughts feel like the earth; they enter the mind, yet refuse to melt. Together with the waters of the mind, they create mud, mingling with the mind. Some are like the thirsty earth of dry summer days of khamseeny weather of Haifa, drinking in the water with insatiable thirst.

And then there are thoughts of oil. These are the strange thoughts that the mind just cannot accept, for they are made of a foreign material. Foreign to the mind. These thoughts remain separate from the mind, refusing to intermingle with anything of familiarity. Like the dark, homemade olive oil we bring from the village by the gallons every year. It tastes thick and it's the best olive oil on earth, but it feels foreign in the city; it just does not belong there. People are always amazed at its dark, rich color. And like this olive oil, the thoughts that are most foreign to the mind are the purest ones – the ones that are the most natural...

7 January 2010

dissonant writing

She said my language needs more variety. That my writing is lacking. That it's flat. It lacks volume. It needs innovative use of words.
But the words are right here, beside me… stacked all neatly. According to parts of speech: unused adjectives, effective and uncommon adverbs, difficult verbs. Others are classified according to the alphabet. All I have to do is dip into them and take my pick. Choose from among the words the most powerful and momentous, the least expected word.

But what she doesn't get is that sometimes—most times—it feels more like me just to be softly gliding along the page, listening to the whisper of the pencil as it draws the letters and adds the dots. It fills me up with energy. I no longer feel empty when I see the page being colored in black on a white landscape. It is a sketch of words. And it doesn't have to be perfect. Like when an artist makes a sketch of a face—the face has its wrinkles and creases. Life lines… and so does my writing. I want to keep my writing imperfect, maybe even un-perfect. Let it be true to me and true to itself. I don't want to be a commander of metaphors. I don't want to be in total control of my paragraphs. My sentences may be awkward, but I faithfully surrender to the offbeat, syncopated rhythm of my own words… and let them dance their own dance across the page. I let my metaphors be a bit slippery and unpolished. Let them be lacking in precision. Let them be somewhat dissonant. After all, my writing is not about accuracy. It's about fluidity, my words fall onto the page like soft drops of rain on a dry summer ground. There is no order to the rain drops… they just fall…

(c) All rights reserved to Khulud Khamis (2008)

6 January 2010

Struggling with Words

Struggling with words... I got the characters, they walk inside my mind, struggling to get out. Yearning to have their lives - histories, experiences, fears, loves, hopes, frustrations - molded into something solid. Something real.

While they struggle inside my mind, I am struggling to let them free. Struggling with the words. Failing, deleting, starting again.

Who said writing was easy? Well - it's difficult. Very!
At the same time - it gives so much pleasure. Electrifying.

I get high just from writing a good sentence.

I am no longer me. I am becoming my writing.

My life has expanded to make room for Maisoon, Ziyad, Tayseer, Nisreen, Sima, Um Muhammad, and others. They are all here with me - at my dinner table, with me drinking coffee and smoking a late-night cigarette, they even go with me to bed. We talk into the small hours of the night, sometimes we even hear the first song of the birds in the morning. We go shopping together. Maisoon likes za'atar and home-made olive oil. Ziyad likes Arabic coffee, which is always too bitter for me. Sima whispers in my ear something about a checkpoint. Um Muhammad waves from her balcony while hanging laundry.

So you see - I have to stick to it. Not for me, but for them. Because I created them, and now I owe it to them to give them a full life.

I have no idea if any of you, my blog readers, are interested in my writing hallucinations or the progress of my novel, so forgive me please. I will now go back to writing. So far, got 3,297 words neatly typed up. 6 single-spaced pages. Dozen pages scribbled at odd moments with ideas for various incidents. I think I've made good progress so far.

And I have a deadline. March 8th, 2011. My 36th birthday. My birthday present to myself. The first draft will be finished by March 8th 2011. This is my promise to myself.

Ok, I'm gone back to writing my "Life in Fragments."