29 September 2012

Narjis and Omar at the checkpoint - erotic writing

here's another new character popping up at the checkpoint: young Narjis. So far, we've had Um Maysara, Maria, Omar and Suhad. To read previous parts, go to the label "Shai at the checkpoint - novel in progress".

Again, this is still only raw writing, and I'm just playing around with some new characters, experimenting to see where they lead me to.

It’s him! From the chat! La hawl wala quwata… what a small world. Ya’ani…
She panics, glances at her father in the driver seat, shifts in her chair, adjusting her head cover. Narjis felt her cheeks redden and something lightly tickling her inner thighs as she remembered the video chat with this Zuzu. Zuheir Zidan, Zahi, Zeid, Zakariya, Ziyad, Zaki. She let the names roam in her mind while she shifted in her chair again. She felt her cheeks now like two burning balls set on fire as their car moved forward. Closer to him. No, he can’t recognize me. Not with the hijab. He was standing at the side of the dirt road, sipping steaming shai from a tin cup, eyes glazed over, fixed on some point in mid-distance. Their car came to a stop right beside him. Narjis couldn’t face the temptation and she looked straight at him, studying his now-clothed body. In her mind, she saw his tight abdomen with its curly black hairs. Then further down. As she played the video back in her mind, the fire in her cheeks spread, moving down, down and into between her legs. It was warm and wet now down there, with a tingle. Narjis knew now she was housing a terrible secret inside her body, which flowered and burnt and made her whole body turn into embers.

Omar sipped his shai as he listened to Um Maysara telling him about this young girl, Maria. From Haifa, too. Maybe he knew her? He’d been with many girls her age, but couldn’t remember all their names. Now what is that one with the hijab staring at?! When their eyes met, he thought he recognized something familiar in them. Huge, round eyes like the eyes of a reem. Thick, long eyelashes and a very thin line of kohol. He’d seen these eyes somewhere. Only recently. With all the women he’s been with in the past year, he couldn’t put a name to the eyes. She held his gaze, her eyes frozen. When she saw recognition on his face, she withdrew from the window, plastering her back to the vinyl of the seat, looking away.

When they reached the checkpoint, it was the usual. Ahmad, her father, a hajj, was always suspect. They had to get out of the car and let the soldiers to a thorough search. Ahmad’s wife, Hiyam, would joke and say that he could be a model for a terrorist commercial. Ahmad was a big man with strong arms. Before becoming the Imam of their small village Salem, he had been an arms trader. As such, and since he dealt with the Triangle’s under-world, he took great care of his body. He ran ten kilometers every day –  religiously. Even during Ramadan. He lifted weights every other day. Twice a week, he did fifty four laps in Um El-Fahem swimming pool. Then, one early morning during the last days of Ramadan six years ago, he turned away from his life. One small praying mat and one single prayer – it’s all it took.  

12 September 2012

On the deletion of the Arabic language

(c) photo by khulud kh, Haifa (2012)

It seems that I’ve been out of touch with the politics of television for quite some time, since I don’t own a television and only get to watch it sporadically when I’m at my parents’. I remember when I was young, there were always subtitles in Arabic on the Israeli channels. Or am I imagining things? I’m quite sure there were. In my memory, they ran in two black lines on a yellowish background – one line in Hebrew and the other in Arabic.

In recent years, I’ve noticed the Arabic disappeared, to be replaced by Russian. I think it’s very important to add Russian subtitles, as there are is a large Russian-speaking immigrant community here, and many of this community’s members do not speak or understand Hebrew. Making television programs accessible to this community is of course of great significance to facilitate their integration and their sense of belonging.

But why replace? Why not add? Why delete the Arabic? Replacing it by the Russian is an extremely strong political statement. Our language is being deleted. Television programs are not accessible anymore to many Palestinians who do not speak or understand the Hebrew language. It’s yet another step in making us feel unwanted here. Another step in this systematic deletion of our language. And language is one component of history and culture.

One wouldn’t even pay attention to such a “trivial” issue as replacing one language by another in the subtitles. Not if you understand the language being spoken. But in some cases, it gets really ridiculous – ironically sad I would even say. I noticed this on a cooking program, where the hosting woman is a Palestinian, and she was hosting a Palestinian chef, Haitham from Taybeh. They are both Arabic speakers, yet the program was in Hebrew, so they spoke in Hebrew. They cooked in Hebrew and they laughed in Hebrew. The subtitles ran in Hebrew and Russian.

The Arabic language, an official language in Israel – was completely absent.

On the same issue of deleting languages, I remember an incident several years ago, which also made an unforgettable impression on me. I had been waiting with my mom for an X-Ray examination. Forgetting to bring a book along, I studied the walls. There was quite a big sign with a cigarette in a red crossed circle, and below it written in both Arabic and Hebrew that smoking is prohibited in this building. A few meters away, a sign in Hebrew for pregnant mothers. It said that if you’re pregnant, you should inform the technician before having the examination. Realization was slow to come. How come the sign was only in Hebrew? What about the Ethiopian, Russian and Arab women who can’t read Hebrew?! Is the protection of their unborn babies less important than that of Jewish women’s?! The very least one could expect is that the sign be written in at least the official state languages, since the hospital is a state institution.

The sign prohibiting smoking struck me as ironic. That this sign, which clearly doesn’t need any words to accompany the image of the cigarette, was in both languages. It is also ironic that this is something prohibited by the hospital, so they want to make sure everybody understands it, whereas the sign about pregnant women is there to protect the women, so it’s perceived as less important.

These are but two very insignificant examples. But this is done systematically and strategically. The most prominent and known example is probably the deletion of the Arabic from signs of city names. The deletion of language is symbolic. It is not something solid like the deletion and destruction of whole villages. But it is fundamental in its symbolism. Language roots us and binds us, makes us feel we belong. It is the means for human communication. Deletion of a language is an undoable act.

10 September 2012

another lynch in Jerusalem

Yet another lynch of a young Palestinian man in Jerusalem. Only about three weeks ago, in the impossible heat of mid-August in this forsaken place, three young Palestinians were brutally attacked. And now, another young man. In both instances, the attackers were young Jewish boys. Very young. In both instances, they were attacked because they are Palestinian. The media jumped on the hot news like vultures on prey and screamed “Lynch.” Actually almost everyone did: politicians, the president, educators, parents. They all rushed to criticize, to emphasize and to remove themselves from this raw hatred. They were surprised.

I am not surprised at all. A society that breeds blind hatred towards a whole people is bound to such extreme actions. But I am not here to write any “op-ed” article. As a writer of political fiction, among other genres, I had a strong sense of responsibility in writing down another story. Not the story of the attack. Not the story of the attackers, and not that of a society that has lost its way. No.

When I read about the lynch of Ibraheem AbuTa’ah on the night of September 5th, I felt an urge to write his story. Of before the lynch. Of a young man finishing his morning shift at the hotel, going home, taking a nap, preparing for the party. Was he going alone to the party or was he taking a partner? What were his hopes? What was going on through his mind when his friend told him she wasn’t feeling well and if he could help her get home? Was he disappointed to leave the party early? Did the lynch that occurred there three weeks earlier pass through his mind at all? Did he walk with full confidence or did he feel insecure? And then – and then, when she called his name, disclosing his nationality, and he saw the pure hatred in his attackers’ eyes? Yes, this is the story I feel the urge to write. Gone writing.

7 September 2012

احترق بنار طائر النار اليرموكي واعيش بنار طائر النار اليرموكي

it seems that – after all

the impossible is real.

to miss you before I even met you.

for you – also – to miss me before meeting me.

to hold long conversations with you in my head before seeing you.

to feel the explosion of energies when my fingers touched yours for the first time.

But how can it be possible to miss you before meeting you?

Even when I’m with you – I already miss you.

My phoenix –

That’s what you are.

and I will burn in your fire

and live in your fire

shhhh – no need to say it –

I know exactly what.

Because –

we both already know

that what you feel is exactly what I feel.

and we both have no – explanation

no need for words.

By the end of nine minutes – which haven’t started yet,

you will have a truckload of sand.

It was the first time for you in 45 years

the sound of the waves, the carpet that waited just for us

the stars – the wine.

all this, after the car sunk down – took us almost two hours

(and we forgot the jack, which remained there

and we picked it up – two nights later, at the same spot)

you, me – drunk not from wine.

there were stars in the sky – I didn’t see any

and yes – I have to admit: it is the first time for me in 37 years.

Because I am reborn in your fire – my phoenix.

And all of this – is forbidden

Not to me – but to you.

At the end of these – nine minutes

(which haven’t started yet, just to remind you)

I will burn – for the last time

and turn into the ashes of the khulud (no, not the name – the eternal)

but I knew this from the moment I heard the words “I miss you” from you

before you met me.

and I am ready to burn that last time.

Why? Why chose death by burning?

Because – I want to live within your fire.