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.