21 December 2013

this hand with three fingers

this dark hand with only
three fingers
caressing her naked 
with soft sadness
in a downtown hotel
this smile of his
when he runs his hand
with the two fingers lost
along her body
in a downtown hotel
the way he holds her
his three fingers intertwined
with her
in a downtown hotel
with a view of the Haifa bay.

- khulud خلود

20 December 2013

herstory - mystory - ourstory

changing history to –
Changing words
power * oppression * conquering * wars * control
replace with –
make new spaces
in herstory books
for ourstories
retrieve ourstories from the past
document ourstories of the present
create ourstories for the future.   

- khulud خلود

13 December 2013

history of Haifa's last battle - Maisoon's grandmother

(c) photos by khulud khamis, 2012

This is the history of Haifa's last battle as Maisoon knew it from her grandmother. She didn't read any books on it – no book can contain the grief and pain in her grandmother's voice as she narrated her own history. 

"I was seven… no, maybe eight months pregnant. Seedo was away with the rest of the young men. I don't know what he did exactly, because he refused to carry a weapon. This I know for sure. The night the first barrels were rolled down from Share'a El-Jabal… I remember this night fakat. The Yahud lived up the mountain, and we were down here. I was alone at the house, only with Majid. I heard some screaming outside, and I saw our neighbour Haneen running out – up and up the mountain. I don’t know if she wanted to stop the barrels, or if she ran towards them in desperation. She had six small children in the house. Haneen the majnouni we called her. Her husband was among the first ones to be killed, and she just lost her mind. After that, we never slept at night. She would wail for hours every night. It was like the sound of an animal, more like a howl. I don't think she ever slept. Someone from the church came and tried to take her children. She said she'd take them with her to Lubnan until it was safe to come back. Ya rab! I never saw a mother fight like Haneen for her children. For her house. Haneen's whole world was her family… on that night, she wanted to stop the barrels with her bare body… when I saw her running up, I took little Majid in my arms and ran after her… but Haneen was fast and I was pregnant… or maybe I should have left Majid at home but I couldn't how could I… I knew I would have to pay a price even as I held Majid and ran but it wasn't going to be Majid so I gave up the baby it was still unborn and I had my Majid and I ran and prayed please God don't please God don't please God don't but he did…

"That night the woman from the church came and took all six children. That night I lay down on the kitchen floor and bled. I bled and I looked up and I saw through the window the sky it was red there were sparks flying I thought is there a celebration someone getting married how could they at this time or is the sky bleeding Haneen's death. I didn't understand. I thought I must be losing too much blood to see the sky sparkling like that. That night Seedo didn't come home. And again I prayed please God don't, please God don't, please God don't and he didn't. Seedo came back in the morning after I had bled and I thought his clothes had my blood on them but how could they he wasn't with me to hold my bleeding body it was not my blood Abu Majid what happened and he only looked down at me and my bloody clothes and he laid down next to me and he wept and I wept. The next morning the woman from the church came again and told us there's a ship to take refugees to Lubnan and we could go with Haneen's six children Seedo told her to go away we already lost one and we will not leave our home and I held on to little Majid so tight that he started screaming and the woman saw me with my wild eyes after losing so much blood and Seedo buried the little one in the garden outside and I just couldn't bear leaving her there all alone so we couldn't leave see because of her how could I just leave her in the earth there alone Maisoon do you understand and when Majid was fifteen and came to me demanding his history I told him about this night and he asked me if she had a name I told him yes of course I named her but don't tell Seedo because he doesn't know and he asked what was her name Mama and I told him Maisoon. He gave her back to me when you were born but he made me promise never to tell you this so that you don't carry her history his history our history in your name but Maisoon you came to me and you demanded it and I don't have the right to take this with me to the grave. Majid will understand one day why he will be angry with me so please don't tell him you know until after I am underneath way under deep there with my Maisoon."

- edited from Haifa Fragments, novel, khulud khamis, 2013

another note on belonging

the meaning of belonging
this constant search, need, thirst for – recognition, legitimization, most seek.
Incongruence here.
Boundaries of belonging –
For me are:
liquid *** ever-changing *** soft *** flexible *** non-existent *** existent *** real *** fabricated *** illusionary *** slippery *** elusive *** not definable *** incongruent.

- khulud خلود

7 December 2013


Oh, it begins. The happy, perfect families Christmasing videos and photos on my Facebook newsfeed. Not that I have anything against it –
So you’re nearing forty
Spent most of your twenties building a career
Most of your thirties building a nice family –
You know – the whole works:
A nice house with a garden
Two kids – preferably a boy and a girl.
Your wife’s most important attributes to you –
Her beauty, housekeeping abilities, and exquisite taste in fashion.
So why not parade your happy, perfect family Christmasing on Facebook?
Somewhere – along the way,
Something snapped.
Something went wrong.
You followed all the rest.
Because that’s how things are done
And this is how you’re supposed to live your life.
So –
Why is that spark in your eyes extinguished?
Why can I see a smile on your lips,

Not in your eyes?
- khulud خلود

30 November 2013

Against the Prawer Plan برافر لن يمر

Some photos I took from the demonstration in Haifa this evening against the Prawer Plan.

Demonstration against the Prawer Plan - photos by khulud khamis

Needless to say, the police came prepared and they got violent.

Facebook pages against the Prawer Plan:
Prawer won't Pass Campaign - International Page

More useful links: article on the US Palestinian Community Network website

Adalah website: Demolition and Eviction of Bedouin Citizens of Israel in the Naqab (Negev) - The Prawer Plan

Discriminatory Prawer Plan to evict tens of thousands of Bedouins from their communities in the Negev - article on the website of the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine.

Prawer Plan: Facts and Figures - From the Prawer Won't Pass Campaign Blog

Video: Unrecognized Bedouin Villages in the Negev

This is just a sample of the plethora of information on the web.

29 November 2013

Anood of the desert

Anood of the Desert 

Tayseer had literally stumbled upon Anood on one of his music-hasheesh trips to Al-Naqab desert. She was a fierce woman, black with sharp, pronounced features – deep wrinkles adorning her once beautiful face. What had immediately caught Tayseer’s attention were the unique – primitively made – jewellery she was wearing. She was a Bedouin, shunned by her hamula for refusing to marry the man chosen for her by her father. A story of a young woman, beautiful as the night, was carried by the sand of the desert, changing over the years. As a young girl, Anood’s hand had been promised to a much older cousin. But her father never imagined that the desert, with its vast expanses and freedoms, would settle in Anood’s heart and refuse to depart. She demanded the freedom of the desert for herself by refusing to be married. Here, the story branches into several versions. According to one, she fell in love with a Bedouin on a white horse who came to her tent at night. Another story has her father take her to the deep of the desert and leave her there with no water to die. Yet a third version has her rolled up in a carpet after she soiled her family’s honour and her brothers driving over the rolled up carpet in their jeep.

There are as many versions of the story as there are waves of sand in the desert. Anood was always on the move, surviving by selling her hand-made jewellery to tourists on their way to Eilat and Sinai. Where she got her raw materials and the Malachite Azurite Turquoise stones was a mystery.

It took Tayseer a whole week to locate her again, and a long desert evening of convincing and sand grains in the eyes until she finally agreed to meet Maisoon and teach her secrets of the desert jewellery. But it had to be done on her terms: Tayseer would drive her almost the whole length of the country to stay in Maisoon’s apartment in Haifa for five days.

At the end of the five days, during which neither Maisoon nor Anood emerged from the apartment, Tayseer made the trip of almost the whole length of the country again, to return the woman to her desert. Two days later, Anood was found dead by a young Bedouin boy; no trace of physical attack or injury on the body, no trace of jewellery in the dilapidated tent. No post-mortem was performed – Anood wasn’t important enough; however the coronary report noted the probable cause of death by dehydration. Anood must have known she was getting dehydrated; she’d been living, breathing the desert all her life.

Devastated by the news, Maisoon wouldn’t touch her work for days, the excitement of discovering an almost lost tradition of art fading in significance in the face of a tragic, lonely death. More legends would circulate through the sand dunes for years now – cruel Bedouin revenge angry lover broken heart destitution madness.

أربعون يوما من الحداد - forty days of mourning
After Anood's death, Maisoon refused to see anyone. For forty days, Maisoon was the only person who mourned the desert night beauty. Covering her worktable with a black cloth, she spent the day in bed in a blurry state of grief. For seven days, she was wholly invested in mourning, her days becoming indistinguishable from nights. On the eighth day, she was awakened at dawn by a disturbing dream. A black woman standing at the edge of water, smiling at her. A disembodied voice ran through the dream I gave you the art of the desert, now it is yours to take. Take it. Don’t let it get lost in the desert. It was an inhuman effort for her to crawl out of bed, her body not complying with her will. Uncovering her worktable, she gazed at the opened sketchbook where she drew the designs from Anood’s mind. Leafing through the pages, she saw the history of the desert spread before her and knew it couldn’t be kept on paper. Anood wanted her to take it.

- khulud خلود

Palestinian dirty laundry

Gone way underground
To meet the most courageous Palestinian women.
Not the activists, not the human rights defenders, not the feminists.
But those who are breaking the strongest taboos in our society.
Those who cannot come forward and expose themselves –
For the result will be definite and immediate murder.
But they are not voiceless.
They are everywhere around us – walking, living, breathing among us.
Living parallel lives.
I say they are not voiceless –
Although they can’t speak in first person,
There are ways to make their voices heard.
Making their voices heard is dangerous –
Because it will collapse many notions our society has about its morals and ethics.
Notions carefully constructed but which many know are false.
I am engaged in very intimate dialogue with several of these women
The issue is not an issue of “dirty laundry” – as the title may connote
The issue is an issue of telling the truth
Through the experiences of these women.
And it’s about giving them the voice they have been disenfranchised of.
- khulud خلود

25 November 2013

The recent case of the Israeli singer Eyal Golan reflects the sickening ease with which men use their power and fame to sexually exploit young girls. It is not the case of one individual, but a case of a whole patriarchal culture based on dehumanizing, oppressing, and controlling women.

24 November 2013

25 November - International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

25 November - International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Because we women have the right to live in dignity
Because we have the right over our bodies
Because we have the right to chose our partner
And we have the right to walk away from a relationship without fear of being murdered
It is our duty to raise our voice,
because there are millions of women caught in the vicious cycle of violence – 
violently silenced, unable to raise their voice.
Because it is our right to live securely and safely, and not fear any kind of violence – be it physical, emotional, psychological, economic, social, political, sexual, or personal.


17 November 2013

clean a poem

17 November 2013 – clean a poem

sweep the stairs
begin from the third floor,
descend all the way to the 
ground floor.
monotonous movement of the arms.
moving backward

now the water.
a whole bucketful of –
clear water.
now climb again to –
the third floor.
and begin all over –

make up a poem
on the way –

khulud - خلود

2 November 2013

changing paradigms

Throughout my six years of experience in program and resource development in civil society organizations, I have often come across international donors who refuse funding programs that benefit Palestinian citizens of Israel. Their refusal is usually based on a conscious decision to focus their funding on projects directly working towards ending the occupation, or programs benefiting Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPt).

The rationale behind the refusal to fund programs benefiting Palestinian citizens of Israel is, in my belief, false. It lies in the “either / or” paradigm and in comparing the oppression of Palestinians inside Israel with that of Palestinians in the oPt.

International donors must change their basis for decision-making in their grantmaking process, which requires a change in perceptions. I believe this change will not come unless we raise a clear voice and facilitate their understanding of the situation. Until then, we Palestinian citizens of Israel, will be further pushed into the margins, and our unique needs further ignored.

Donors who support the Palestinian cause and work towards ending the Israeli occupation must  understand that in order to build a strong and resilient Palestinian society and promote real conflict resolution, there is need to invest resources in all groups of the Palestinian society in the area: Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel. Prioritizing this or that group only further serves to fragment our already socially, economically, politically and geographically fragmented society.

It is not an issue of who is oppressed more. Comparison is irrelevant. When I discuss my oppression as a Palestinian citizen of Israel, I do not compare myself with Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank or Gaza, because this is not the point. It is not an issue of who is oppressed more or who is suffering more.

It is rather an issue of investing resources in empowering and supporting all groups of Palestinians – each group according to its unique characteristics and specific social, economic and political needs. The current trend in grantmaking only serves to marginalize the specific needs of the already disenfranchised Palestinian society inside Israel.

28 October 2013

ديوان الجنون

some words come to me naturally in Arabic

الجنون لم يبدأ بعد 

فكانت قصيدة
واحدةٌ فقط 
من ديوان اللهفة
سنتمتع بمسار الإبداع 
في تكوين كل قصيدة 
بعد سطر 
ليكونَ جنون 
أنت وأنا نكتبهُ 
سطراً بعد سطر 
حتى يصبح ديوان الجنون الكامل

خلوديات الجنون, حيفا تشرين أول

17 October 2013

not "exotic" enough

(c) photo by khulud 

It’s not right.
my sexuality is not – 
an exotic exhibit 
for you
feed your 

I refuse to – 
only for your –

This is me
With all complexities
And this is the –

and if the margins are just not
or are too much for you,

then you need to
drop the

(c) khulud khamis, haifa 

16 October 2013

on the art of escaping

I panic
I freeze
Then -
all I want is
A trapped animal
logic -

carrying the -
like a turtle carries her
can't escape.
no matter -

(c) khulud khamis, haifa 2013

13 October 2013

untitled october [1]

(c) photo by khulud

vesti – bular
rea – lity
                                move to the side
just a bit

neuro – nitis
                                move differently in my brain
Making up
New structure –
Unthought-of form
                                A bit off to the side of – logic
fresh rhythm

learn to –

9 October 2013

the Carpe Diem shoes

(c) photographs by Claudia Levin

Browsing my Facebook feed this morning, I was stopped at the sight of these two photographs, taken by Claudia Levin, with the short text: “I left the house and in front of the door... shoes that tell a story.”

Associatively, intuitively, I saw violence, rape, exploitation, pain, tears, and sadness in my mind’s eye. I started to comment something in that direction, but then I stopped.

Yes, the shoes tell a story – but maybe it’s a story of midnight pleasure, of taking the shoes off with a loud laugh and walking barefoot home, feeling the cool asphalt.

Maybe she was alone, maybe on a pleasantly surprising first date which continued until dawn, maybe with a partner, or friends.

Maybe she was sad, maybe she lost her cat and couldn’t continue walking in those high heels, while searching for the cat. Or dog.

Or – maybe she finally understood the physical price she’s been paying for years for wearing such high heels and decided right then and there to just shed them off her forever.

And yes, maybe the story is that of my first association – of violence, of a woman in prostitution badly beaten, or a woman dragged to a corner to be viciously raped, losing her high heels while her feet scratched the sidewalk.

And maybe none of the above.

Why am I writing this post? Just a feeling that I wanted to put this in writing, to document. For some reason, after thinking about them all day, these particular shoes and the way they are positioned in the middle of the sidewalk, seem to tell a very special story. And my gut feeling is that the story has a good end as dawn breaks. A feeling that their owner whispered into the night, to no one in particular but herself, “carpe diem” as she was taking them off. Just a feeling.

6 October 2013

on diagnosis

There is –
not enough
Life has –
with one diagnosis
been surprised.
In a mess
a welter
of words
of scenes
of beginnings –
of stories.
time is short
time is fast
and I still have –
so many stories

to write.

(c) khulud khamis, October 2013 [Haifa]

26 September 2013

on National Civic Service for Palestinian Citizens of Israel

For two months now, I’ve been turning over the issue of National Civic Service in my mind. It’s not a coincidence, as in recent months there’s been a lot going on about this issue, and now that I work in Hirakuna, I’m much closer to this issue, as National Civic Service is one of the issues Hirakuna deals with, although it’s by no means the main area of the Forum’s work.[i]
Usually, I write in a free style and from my own personal perspective, providing my thoughts on issues, rather than giving analysis and a broad reading. Usually I take my own personal experiences, and reflect on the wider socio-political reality. However, with National Civic Service, it’s much more complex, as there are quite too many layers to the issue and several perspectives. So I am taking my time with it.
I’m in the initial stages of writing an article about it. I will make an attempt to raise my voice and present one perspective among many about the issue of National Civic Service for Palestinian citizens of Israel. I’d like to stress from the start that this will be a personal yet political reading of the reality, and in no way will it exhaust the issue, nor will it present all perspectives. This being said, and although not representative in a collective way, it will however represent some of the voices. And since the collective voice is made up of many individual voices, then it follows that this voice has its place in the composition of the collective voice.
National Civic Service is a very complex issue in Israel and cannot be dealt with in any linear mode. It has several layers of complexity interacting and affecting one another.
Hopefully I will complete the article within the next two or three weeks. Please follow up to read it.

[i] Hirakuna’s mission is to enable safe spaces and create volunteerism and leadership opportunities to empower young women and men to take active responsibility and become engaged in their communities and beyond, ultimately becoming active agents for social change. Hirakuna’s main objective is to create a vibrant and resilient civil community with the social, organizational and professional infrastructure to promote reciprocal social responsibility, volunteerism and leadership throughout the Palestinian society in Israel.
Hirakuna’s vision is a flourishing and advanced democratic society based on the values of equality, human dignity and liberty, and maintaining a combination of individual and collective rights; a society that emphasizes mutual solidarity and responsibility; a society where individuals can realize their potential and influence the general good. Website: www.hirakuna.org | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Hirakuna?fref=ts

24 September 2013

A very personal experience and a call for help

My fingers are slightly shaking as I type these words. Initially, I thought of writing this experience in a form of fiction. But integrity demands otherwise. Although it’s about something that happened to me, this story is not about me.

At the end, you will realize that it’s not only about one young man, but it’s about all of us. It’s a story about integrity and the capacity to lend a helping hand, no matter what your situation is.

My daughter called me to ask if a friend of hers and his boyfriend could stay at our house for two nights. The 20 year old young man, let’s call him Sami, has come out to his family and told them he was gay. His family threw him out of the house, and harassed him over the phone, threatening with police. Of course I immediately agreed.

When I arrived home, Sami and his boyfriend, let’s call the boyfriend Roni, were already at our apartment. Sami was in a terrible state. He couldn’t eat, and he was very anxious and scared. Throughout the evening, he was on the phone with  different people, and from what I understood, his family told him that they called the police and that the police were at his boyfriend’s house, which turned out not to be true. I tried to calm him down, telling him that he has done nothing wrong. Love isn’t a crime.

Much went on during that night, as other friends of my daughter were staying over. I didn’t ask too many questions, as I didn’t want to invade their privacy, and the details of the story didn’t seem significant to me at that moment. What was important to me was to make both of them feel safe and loved. To let them know that they didn’t do anything wrong and that they have nothing to fear. To give them warmth.

My home is very humble, and we live a simple life. But this experience taught me that even when you have very little, there is no limit to what you can offer. That night, I gave them warmth and tried to calm them down. I offered to wash their clothes – such a simple thing, which didn’t really require any extra effort on my part, since I planned to wash clothes anyway. But it was welcomed by them with a huge smile. It made them feel that someone does care about them.

That night I had trouble falling asleep. I kept thinking about Sami. I knew he was 20, that he has a job, that he needs to find an apartment, and that he is in a very sensitive state and needs all the support he can get.
The following morning I waited until after he had his coffee and breakfast and invited him outside to smoke a cigarette. I didn’t have a speech prepared. I didn’t know what I would say, but I knew I had to give him support.

I told him I knew he has to go through the painful process all the way and feel it, but at the same time also be practical about his life so that he can pull through it. That he has to surround himself with positive and supportive people. That he has to learn to accept help without any feelings of guilt.

Mid-way through our conversation, the real-estate agent called him to inform him that the deal for an apartment was final. He could move that very same day. My mind immediately zoomed in on that. I asked him if he had stuff for the apartment – sheets, blankets, stuff for the kitchen. He said he had cups and plates, but he didn’t have any sheets or pillows or towels. Without thinking twice, I told him I will see what I have and prepare a bag for him. He told me I didn’t have to do this. And I said of course I don’t have to do this. I am offering this to you because I want to, and I can offer it to you. If I couldn’t give you these things, I wouldn’t offer them. I prepared a bag with sheets, a blanket, a pillow, a towel, some kitchen towels, some rags for cleaning, two bars of soap, and a cutting board for the kitchen. I listed these items for you to see that even when you think you don’t have anything to give, you will always find some things. Even the most basic things. You will always find that you can manage with one less towel, and you probably have a stock of soap bars and you can give away two bars without worrying about it.

Before leaving, Sami thanked me and told me I was one of the most amazing people he knew. I said, no. I am not amazing. I am an ordinary person, and everyone should act like this. I didn’t do anything extraordinary. But to him, it was. Because he has a towel and soap to shower with and dry himself with. Because he has a pillow to lay his head on. He has a cutting board to cut his vegetables on. Yes, he still needs lots of stuff for the apartment, but this was a start. I didn’t want him to enter the apartment with nothing.

Before they left, I gave him my phone number and made it clear that he can call me anytime. I didn’t promise to help with everything. But I did promise that if he needed help, and it was something that I could help with, I would help.

I know this might sound trivial to some. But it is not trivial at all. What I wanted to say with this story is that everyone has the capacity to help in one way or the other. All you have to do is be aware of people’s needs, and offer whatever you can and whatever is in your capacity. And never expect the person you help to give you something in return. Because when you do a good deed, it will come back to you in another form, from another person, and in another time.

Sami is in a very difficult situation at the moment. He is only 20 years old, and already has to provide for himself financially. He didn’t plan for this, so his financial situation is difficult. He needs to buy things for the apartment. I have never asked friends to donate money for anyone. But now I am asking. I want to help Sami through this initial stage. On the left side of the blog, you will find a “donate” button, which is supposed to be for supporting my work, but which I would like to use now in order to raise money for Sami. Or contact me via email at khulud.kh@gmail.com to arrange the donation. I would very much appreciate if you can donate whatever you can afford. Thank you.


16 September 2013

Live through the storm

(c) photo by khulud khamis. Sunrise in Uganda, 2007.

Walk into the storm
do not be afraid
get wet -
all the way to
the bones.
feel the thunder beating against
your very essence.
For without a storm,
there can be no growth
no expansion
from within.
And after the storm –
the fog unblurs
and all becomes –
Tranquility reigns.

15 September 2013

“You are not a string. You are a qanun.” "انت مش وتر. انت قانون."

There comes a time in an artist’s life when she is faced with an ethical dilemma.

When creating a work of art that deals with the deepest and most intense emotions, and in order to reflect those emotions in their complete authenticity, the artist must herself know these emotions in all their depths and complexities.

The ethical dilemma arises when the artwork deals with an issue defined by society as taboo, and when, in order for the artist to feel these emotions herself, another person is involved who awakens these emotions in her.

It is not a secret that an artist breathes her artwork from her own experiences. She fuses reality with fiction until they blend and until a point is reached where she herself can no longer distinguish one from the other. It’s a magical game, most often harmless.

She is able to write about taboo issues without fear of being exposed. When asked, she always replies: “it’s all about art. It’s fiction. It’s a painting. It’s a poem. It’ a sculpture. It’s imagination in its most creative, intense mode.”

But, ultimately, as she is at the threshold to cross the boundary, when she is with that other person and an art piece begins making its way into her mind and body, she must ask herself some questions.

What is it she is after? If she wishes to reflect in her artwork the most raw, untainted form of the genuine authenticity of the emotions, then those emotions must be genuine to begin with. And if they are to be genuine, then she must abandon the idea of the artwork and immerse herself in the experience fully and wholly. Otherwise, she will fail – though only partly.

What is the ethical dilemma here? That although she did not initially intend to create an artwork from her experience, it is leading in that direction. And the moment she wishes to utilize that experience towards her creation, then she is faced with the most difficult dilemma. Does she share it with the person who awakens those emotions in her? Ethically, she must. In specific instances, it would be unethical not to. So where’s the dilemma? The moment she does, the whole process of the creation of the artwork becomes tainted and loses elements of its spontaneity and its natural beauty. Because the moment the other person becomes aware that s/he as well as her/his behavior, words, movements, are being closely watched and imprinted on the artist’s mind in all its smallest details, s/he begins to rationalize, think, and analyze his/her every movement and word. And thus the whole experience becomes tainted and distorted by this awareness.

What is the dilemma? After all, artists draw their artwork from reality, from their very own experiences and interactions with others. However, in very specific instances, when the issue they deal with entails taboo (only as defined by society, and not any immoral or unethical conduct in itself) and the whole art creation is broadly based on the process of a relationship with another person, that is when the dilemma arises.

I cannot provide an answer or a solution to this dilemma. It is a dilemma each artist must face on her own. And when she stands on the threshold, and before crossing it, she must ask herself the following questions: “Am I true to my values? Am I true to my art? Am I honest with with the other person? Am I honest with myself?” If the answer to all these questions is yes, then she knows her decision is ethical and moral.

28 August 2013

fragments cut from manuscript

(c) photo by khulud khamis. Manuscripting.

Editing my Haifa Fragments manuscript, I have to mercilessly delete some scenes. Here's one of them:

Half way up, Maisoon stopped. Turned around and started walking back down Share’a El-Jabal.Now what? Ziyad followed in silence. “Take me to that nargila place you go to sometimes.” She wasn’t asking him. She was making a statement. “Bas Maisoon! It’s just a small place full of white smoke and sweaty men. No women.” Great! Just mumtaz. “It’s… it’ssort of a closed club… and all they do is smoke, play Shesh Besh, talk politics and make up nonsense conspiracies.” His words were carried backward up the mountain. I want to feel it. I want to sit and smoke a nargila like Majid did. “And the chairs are really really uncomfortable!”
No response other than Maisoon’s scarf swooshing behind her.

It was nothing like what she thought it might be. It wasn’t even a nargila place. Jihad lived in a dilapidated stone house, with the original dark green wooden shutters, coming off their hinges. Ziyad opened the narrow heavy door and walked in without knocking. Maisoon had to will movement into her body to follow his shadow; even in the almost-darkness, her eyes were naturally drawn upwards to the high ceiling, lending the long, narrow entrance an illusory sense of spaciousness.“Yalla, ta’ali! What are you waiting for? A special uzumi?” Ziyad was already opening a door at the other end of this outer room; yellow-grey light escaping from beyond and landing on the cream tiles. Dense smoke swirling around in the light.She followed slowly, her courage discarded at the front door like shoes left at the entrance to a mosque. A cough, shaddi being thrown, shesh besh tiles moving around hectically, slapping down on the board. A sudden scratching of a chair and the movement of bodies as Ziyad walks in. “Ahlaaaaaan ya Abu El-Hasan! Shu hal honour! We thought…” Maisoon’s entrance caught the rest of the words in the man’s throat. The body turned into stone, the mouth remainedhalf-way open. Four heads raised, scanning the space between Ziyad and Maisoon. Drawing a line with their eyes. “Assalamu Alaikum, shabab,” Ziyad didn’t lose his balance and laughed. “Ya salam, one sabiyya and you’re off your tiles? And you call yourselves zlam!”
“You know this is no place for any sabaya, Abu El-Hasan,” Jihad threw his shaddi and played his black tiles, closing off Mu’atasem’s white. He looked at Maisoon sideways, his nod half an apology, half an acknowledgement of her boldness to enter this space reserved for men only. Maisoon accepted his apology with half of a crooked smile of her own.

When the men realised the invader was here to stay, they settled back into their shesh besh game, not without grumbling under their breath as a sign of protest. Maisoon found a frayed old smelly kanabai in one corner and settled down. Ziyad sat down in a wooden chair and watched the game of shesh besh, waiting for his turn to play. Soon Maisoon was forgotten in the corner, and Mu’atasem continued with his interrupted stories of his prison days. In the darkness, he looked almost as old as Majid, and for several minutes Maisoon thought that she would get something, a thread. But when he mentioned some dates, she realised he couldn’t be talking about the same period. She closed her eyes, absorbing the story which, all of a sudden – or so it seemed to her – turned into a tale of women and sexual journeys. She opened her eyes and looked at Ziyad – he was immersed in the game. She closed her eyes again, lowered her back on the kanabai, and dozed off. Dreamed of prisons and nymphs and desert. The persistent ringing of her phone jerked her back into the room.

From the corner of his eye, Ziyad saw Maisoon stepping outside to the back garden, the phone to her ear, an unsettled look on her face.He watched her intently from the window, but the darkness obscured the contents of her face. All he could see was her skirt pacing up and down, followed by the bluish smoke of a cigarette. And then another. Fifteen minutes and three cigarettes later, she walked back in. Sat on Ziyad’s knees. Drank from his beer. “Oh, I hate beer,” she said, making a sour face.
“What was that all about?” He drew back as much as he could from her warm body.
“Shu? El telefon?” she now moved to a free chair next to him, seeing how awkward he felt with her sitting on his knees. In front of other men. “Oh, hayati, it was Shahd. She was telling me about this cousin of hers from Khirbit Jbara. Some soldiers broke into his house last night.” Her voice was brimming with anger.“Just like that, for no reason. They broke some furniture. Searched the house. Didn’t give a reason. And they took all his research. He’s been working on it for months. His pregnant wife was terrified… she’s bleeding and he doesn’t know what to do.” Her face became clouded, weighed down with this new story. Too many stories.Too little space in the brain. “Let’s just go home, Ziyad. Min fadlak. I’mexhausted.”
Silently, he followed her in the dark.

Can’t have even one single night with you.
You alone.
Just give me one night, evening, I’ll even settle for a morning kahwa and cigarette on that crammed balkon of yours.
But without checkpoints, soldiers, ta’ashirat, crossing borders, the chasm between this world and theirs.
Is that too much to ask of you, Mais?
Will we never be alone – just the two of us?

“I’ll walk you home, but I’m not coming up.” She turned around, noticing only now that he was walking a few steps behind her. Looked away – knew a lie was forming on his lips.
“I promised Basel to help him with this project he needs to submit at the end of the month. Have to be at his place early in the morning.” Maisoon kept walking, increasing the distance between them. “But I can be at your place for lunch tomorrow… I’ll make you a nice shakshooka.” He caught up with her, touched the small of her back, but her body evaded him. The rest of the way to the souk passed in silence.

They parted in such incongruence with the building tension between them – could very possibly be physically touched. He kissed her lightly. Turned around, without salamat. She grabbed him by his shirt and pulled forcefully towards her. Collision of bodies.Cold stone against her back. Warmth spreading down her legs. His tongue on her neck.Fingers invading her belly. Feeling the muscles of his back tense at the touch of her palms. The very subtle groan – almost a whisper – released involuntarily with his outbreath.

Two teenage boys approaching, their laughter pushing the wind ahead of them. She cups his face in her palms, kisses him violently, pushes his body away, and disappears into the dark stairway. “No shakshooka tomorrow. I want a restaurant. Tisbah ‘ala alf kheir albi.” Her voice tumbled down from the top of the stairs with the same violence of her kiss.

(c) khulud khamis, deleted from Haifa Fragments, forthcoming by Spinifex Press in 2014.

25 August 2013

(c) photo by khulud khamis

She lay in bed, unable to sleep because of the air heavy with humidity. It seemed to her she could actually see it dripping from the air. Her body was melting – she traced the wetness between her breasts, slowly moving down – circling her belly. The softness of it felt nice now. But it wasn’t always like this. Her body used to be an unrelenting enemy. Until Shahd came and helped her become friends with her own body. It was a long process of getting to know different parts of her body, accepting each part as a friend.

Growing up, her aunt had drilled into her brain that a woman cannot – under any condition – have a belly. When she was 17, that same aunt had told her she had crooked legs and thus mustn’t wear skirts unless “they reach way below your knees.” So she gave up on skirts. She hadn’t realised how much these seemingly careless remarks shaped her relationship with her body until she met Shahd. Until then, she didn’t even give it a second thought.

A fleeting image disturbed her line of thoughts: she remembered a day, back when she was still living at her parents’ home. They were doing some construction work in the house right across from theirs. It was early in the morning, and she went out to buy some fresh bread. Dressed in loose sweat pants and her father’s warm coat. Five men were getting out of a jeep, taking their work tools with them. She was invisible, passing them by. Air. Glad to pass by unnoticed. Got the bread, went back – again invisible. A few hours later, dressed in tight jeans, knee-high boots, and a tweed jacket, she went out again. Getting closer. The five men were sitting down to have a coffee break and a cigarette. As she was passing them, from the corner of her eye, she noticed the abrupt halting of all activity. Bodies that were swinging in conversation became rigid. Five heads turning all in the same direction – at the same time.She was visible all of a sudden when before invisible. Five pairs of eyes following her all the way down the narrow alley, until she turned the corner. The following morning, with the same loose sweat pants, the same oversized coat, she walked out of the house to buy fresh bread. Smiling to herself at her protection from invaders.

The obsession with the body what to wear how long it should be what it should cover why and for whom. Always self-conscious. Sometimes invisible sometimes air sometimes – the object of their masturbation she would feel how they were taking away – stealing from her – parts of her body to take home with them so that late at night, in their bed, alone or with another woman what did it matter – they could release that image of her and masturbate or imagine her while they entered another body. The obsession with the body – what to wear how long it should be what it should cover why and for whom.

Shahd. Asal. Honey. Three short letters. She carried her beauty carelessly – like it didn’t even belong to her. Her hair was either loosely tied with a long colourful scarf – about the only colourful item she would allow herself to be caught in – at the nape of her neck, or else it was set loose to the capriciousness of the wind. Her only makeup was black kohl that made the violet dots in her eyes even more pronounced and mysterious-looking. Still, with all that beauty, there was something boyish about the way she carried herself. Maisoon couldn’t make up her mind if she was doing it unawares or if she was purposefully teasing those around her. 

(c) khulud khamis, cut from Haifa Fragments - forthcoming by Spinifex Press in 2014.

14 August 2013

We demand life

My stomach is turning. A father murdered his 17 year old daughter by burning her alive. The reason: she "sullied her family's honor" by being in touch with men on Facebook. After reading the article, my whole body trembled. When will our society realize that a family's honor has nothing to do with this?! My honor isn't between my legs. My honor lies in leading an honest life and in being true to my own values. Enough killing girls and women. Our gender is not an approval for murdering us. Nothing constitutes a reason to murder us! We demand life!

Links to the article: 
Ynet: "Indictment: Man set fire to daughter for meeting men online."
Haaretz: "East Jerusalem father charged with killing his daughter over 'family honor'."

22 July 2013

memories are like a drawer of socks

The fact that I live in a conflict zone and am a feminist activist does not mean that I should only write on political issues. So here's something not political in any way, unless you can politicize socks :)

The drawer has a finality to it. A limited number of socks can be stored in it. Once every few months, I go through the socks. It's a habit I picked up somewhere along the way, without ever being aware of its circularity, or the fact that it has become a habit. Tonight I went out for a run. It's my quiet time with my thoughts. What I love about it is the surprise element. I can plan on a certain idea I'm stuck with in writing, and then go for a run in the hope that it will facilitate the flow of a fresh perspective. Tonight I planned on thinking about the article I started writing last night about the "Politics of Identity." The first half a page free-flowed. Then it got stuck. When the writing resists, I don't force it. Anyway, I'm deviating from the subject. One kilometer into my run, an idea comes rushing at me from the opposite direction. I don't resist. I welcome it, and for the next four kilometers, it keeps me nice company.

Every so often, you do have to get rid of some socks in order to make space for new arrivals. There's no way around it. Unless you're planning never to buy new socks – for the rest of your life. It's the same with memories. The memory drawer – at least my memory drawer – is not infinite in its capacity. Yes, it's spacious enough to contain tens of thousands of memories. But it is still finite in its capacity.

The socks drawer. I have some thirty pairs. Some are way too old, with holes at the big toe, the fabric thinner at the heel. But I don't get rid of them. It's not beauty or perfection that count when I decide which socks to keep and which to discard. It's the feeling, the comfort and familiarity when I wear them. Not perfection. Some socks were bought years ago but are still brand new – worn maybe once or twice. No sentiments here – get rid of them, although they look quite perfect. I love socks. In different colors and different shapes. That's why my sock drawer should always be just about almost full. Full enough to give me enough choices on any given morning, but also have some spare space for new arrivals.

Same thing with memories. Some are imperfect, but I keep them because of their feeling, the comfortable way they fit into and under my skin, and their smooth flow in my blood, and the smile they draw onto my soul. But tonight I realized that I've been hanging on to some memories for no reason. Memories that are only taking up space like the perfectly-new-yet-never-worn socks. Not only they are useless, but they take up precious space, not making room for new memories to arrive and settle down comfortably. So tonight I am revisiting not the drawer of the socks, but a much more important drawer. That of memories. Sifting through, leaving most, but also not being afraid of discarding those that are unwanted. Taking them out with the trash, returning home, and closing the door behind them. This time, for good. Tomorrow morning I will wake up with a roomier drawer, ready to collect new memories.

9 July 2013

Institutionalized human trafficking

Ok, I usually don't post links to articles, but rather write my own thoughts about what goes on here and how it affects me personally. But this time, I am just so outraged that I'm left utterly speechless. All I can think of is - this is pure human trafficking.

You can read about it in the article published today (09 July, 2013) in YNet, "Israel to Trade Arms for Migrants with African Countries" by Itamar Eichner:

And for my Hebrew language readers, here's a photo of the article in the printed press

8 July 2013

experimenting with Poetry in Arabic

until now, this blog was primarily in English. Recently, I have begun experimenting with words in Arabic, writing some poetry.

التقط الضباب 
والندى يتألق 
بين اصابع الحشيش

وهذه اللغة
جديدة علي


عﻻقتي فيها
مثل عﻻقتي مع حيفا


عﻻقة مهاجرة غير-مهاجرة
بل ليست عفوية


أتعلم رسمك

(c) khulud khamis, June 2013 Haifa حيفا