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???

1 comment:

Comments are your footprints. I'll never know what impression you were left with if you don't leave any footprints behind you. Please share your thoughts. You're also welcome to drop me a personal line at khulud.kh@gmail.com