28 April 2012

Excluded from Women's World Boxing Championship

This is the kind of news that makes me angry. The cover news of the local Friday paper features a picture of a young woman boxer, with the headline “7,000 shekel, baby.” It caught my attention, partly because of the all too common chauvinistic culture-made connection between the words and the image of the woman. If it were a man boxer, the word “baby” would never have been used. But this is just an aside comment.

The young woman is Yelena Shelkovin (ילנה שלקובין), three times Israel champion in boxing (in three different weights). She’s been qualified to participate in the 2012 Women’s World Boxing Championship in Qinhuangdao, China, to take place in May. However, Yelena will probably not make it. Why? She can’t afford to pay the 7,000 NIS (about $1,900 or 1,400 EUR) for the round-trip ticket and accommodation. In her interview, Yelena says that Sports Associations around the world usually fund participations of athletes in world championships. Of course, she received a letter from the Israeli Boxing Association that she will participate in the world championship, but that she has to fund her own ticket and accommodation. The interviewer quotes the response of William Shehada, chair and general director of the Israeli Boxing Association: “No need to make a big tragedy. This is a very expensive championship and the Association cannot fund it. She’s not someone who’s going to take the world championship, she’s not ready for it and she’s not worth the money, so she’s not going. She’s only Israel champion.”

I was quite surprised to read his response. She’s been Israel champion three years in a row. How can he say that she’s not ready? And what’s this “she’s not worth the money?”

I think there is exclusion and marginalization here on several layers: first, she’s a woman. So of course “she’s not worth the money.” Then, she’s a Russian immigrant, and she comes from a low socio-economic background. Yelena has made it on hew own. She immigrated to Israel all by herself at the age of 19, leaving her family behind. During the day, she cleans hotel rooms. She practices boxing after work.

I bet that if she were a man, there would be no funding issues. I bet that if she were born in Israel to Ashkenazi parents, there would be no funding issues. This is just another “small” example of the inequalities in Israel, and the rift between the different groups – women and men, ethnic groups, national groups, immigrants and those who were born here, different socio-economic backgrounds, etc.

No. There are no equal opportunities in Israel. Not if you don’t belong to the elite hegemony.

25 April 2012

reason, will and desire

This is not a "serious" blog-post. Just playing around tonight.
Can't really do any "serious" writing with all the noise outside. Anyway...

According to Plato, the human mind is composed of REASON, WILL, and DESIRE.
This sentence caught me by surprise. Surprise about how simple and logical this is.
Although I do think there are other components to the human mind, like memories and madness, but that's another point.

Anyhow. Since I decided to study jewelry designing, I really can't wait to start, so I've been playing around with the primitive materials we have at home, and this ring is what I came up with. I think I like it - it's quite rough, asymmetrical, but still. I made it, using those parts of the mind labelled by Plato as "will" and "desire."

Yes, I believe that if you have the WILL and the DESIRE to achieve something, I mean if you TRULY desire it, there's nothing that can stop you from achieving it.

15 April 2012

the memory of you

The connection to the body.

Writing a script onto the body.

Although in pencil, it will not be erased.

To remember always… all that was.

The pain, the grief, the agony of you.

I feel you walking inside my body, just right here, underneath the skin.


Mocking me.

And I demand my memories back.

To reverse the flow of my blood.

To retrace my steps to before…

Before the pain, the grief, the agony.

To a time when sunflowers made me shiver.

To a time when butterflies landed in my palms.

And you were there to cup them in your hands.

If I try hard enough, I can still remember

The gentle brush of the butterfly’s wings on my arms.

And that’s the memory of you –

I am taking

To the grave.

(c) khulud kh (2012)

12 April 2012

Give a Stranger a Smile – Small Acts of Kindness (or: on becoming a runner)

She didn’t really mean to do it. All she was after was some paper for the printer. She had to buy some today because she needed to print the manuscript and otherwise she’d be stuck without paper for the whole weekend. So after she got her paper (just the regular kind, as the small store didn’t have any recycled paper), she wandered to the newly opened bookstore nearby. Instinctively she walked over to the English fiction section, her eyes swiftly sweeping the titles, all the way to the letter M. She didn’t anticipate it. She’s been waiting for this book for over a year, searching for it on every occasion. But some books just don’t make it here that fast. She’d all but forgotten about it. And now, on this day, there it was. And in hardcover! Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84. All three books. Almost a thousand pages of magic realism. Her favorite author and her favorite genre. Ecstatic, elated, she immediately picked it up, and as an afterthought grabbed also the very thin paperback What I Talk about when I Talk about Running, a Memoir, also by Murakami.

At the counter, one of the young saleswomen exclaimed: “What beautiful earring you have!” Without thinking, her left hand went up to her left ear to feel the earring. She remembered vaguely slipping it on in the morning. Her very first wire-wrapped earring she made, just two days before. Right after arranging a little mini-studio for jewelry designing in one corner of her apartment. After she decided to study jewelry designing. It was a primitively made earring, with no skill whatsoever. She just wanted to see if she has any potential. If she had any creativity potential, that is. And also to explore if the process of working with her hands gave her any delight. It did. The feeling after completing that one, single earring was similar to the feeling she got after completing a good session of writing. In a much smaller intensity, but it was there. She could sense its essence.

As she felt the earring at the bookstore, her fingers – on their own – took the earring off her ear, a shy smile slipped on and, handing the earring to the young woman, she said: “Do you like it? Here, it’s yours. Sorry I only have one.”

The Young woman was speechless. She held the earring in her open palm, looked at her disbelievingly, then at the saleswoman standing next to her, and said: “She gave me an earring!” There was great happiness in that small sentence. A gratitude.

She said, “Enjoy the earring,” smiled, and walked out of the bookstore with her 1Q84 and What I Talk about when I Talk about Running. Yes, got potential there. Very first earring and already given away, a small act of kindness.

That evening, after reading the first two chapters of What I Talk about When I Talk about Running, she decided to become a runner too. An extremely good day it was. The small act of kindness did her good. She made a stranger smile. For free. She got stronger motivation about her choice to study jewelry design, and decided to become a runner. All in one day. A good day, indeed.

10 April 2012

new beginnings

Meet Maria, a spicy and fresh new character of my new novel in progress. Just a short fragment, the very beginning of the unraveling of her identity:

“Maria,” I pronounce my name in a casual way, having the privilege for a moment there to play with my identity. I never carry my I.D card with me on these trips. Because it gives me away. Only my driving license. My fair looks don’t betray it either. Only the accent. So I try to keep my mouth shut as much as I can – sometimes. When the soldier begins suspecting, he asks me what holidays we celebrate at home. But I got that down too. We don’t. I like playing these games with them. Today the checkpoint is quite crowded, and there’s a long line. I look at the side of the road and see the old woman at her usual spot with her shai. I throw a glance around – the soldiers are all out of earshot. I walk in her direction, she is bent down, her head low, stirring the na’ana into the shai. “Marhaba sitti,” she looks up, no surprise in her eyes. “Ahlan wasahlan, binti,” her voice is scratchy but clear. She smiles at me and pours some shai into a metal cup and hands it to me.

Layal’s family moved to Ramallah last year. It took baba a whole month before he allowed me to go and visit. I refused to do my homework, I refused to eat, I threatened to drop out of school. Until he gave in. He’s such a coward. Listens to the news and shakes his head. Ammo Hilal had to come all the way from Ramallah to pick me up. Baba didn’t even let me ride the bus to Jerusalem. “Too dangerous for a 19 year old girl.”

The language here is so different. No hybrid sentences. I have to watch myself when I’m out with Layal. My sentences get always mixed up with Hebrew. It’s a constant effort to search the brain for the right words in Arabic. And they always come out awkward. Like foreign words. Hasub instead of computer. I wonder how Layal changed her dictionary so fast.

At the checkpoint, it’s the other way around. I try to hide my language. In Ramallah, I try too hard to make it clear.

(c) khulud kh (2012)