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

6 July 2013

Haifa Fragments

the time has come for cruel editing. The following piece is to be taken apart and integrated in parts somewhere in the manuscript. Still, it remains on of my favorite pieces of the original work:

And she danced ورقصت
Maisoon’s memory of their first meeting was in complete incongruence with Ziyad’s, but she let him hang on to his narrative nevertheless, keeping hers undisclosed. Maybe one day she will be able to share it with him, but not now – not yet. There were parts of her she wasn’t ready to expose, for fear of –. So when he would whisper in her ear after painful love-making about his toes feeling the rough grains of sand while he watched her dancing that night, she would just smile in the dark, whispering “ehkeeli kaman” –tell me more. But for her, it was a night of giving in.

Her body desperately converging with the sounds – becoming one with water. Yearning to find the slippery roots in the liquid. Land-less. Language-less. Only wet sand beneath her feet – unstable. Reaching out for something to hold on to – anything to keep her from shrinking into a crumpled piece of a discarded history book. Her image of herself fit perfectly with what was happening; the Ministry of Education pulling out the high school history books after the beginning of the school year only to erase her history, replacing it with one that fit the character of the state better; the Nakba bill, criminalizing anybody commemorating the Nakba day; deleting the Arabic names of cities.

That evening, she had connected the dots between all these events. Though she knew these things were not new – they have been going on for years. She didn’t know why these specific ones had such forceful effect on her. Maybe it was the act of permanent deletion that terrified her so. She was struck with a desolate feeling that they want to delete her personally – delete all signs of her memory. Of her ever being here. I am not wanted here – the place I call home. I am set to be deleted, just like that: by pressing “ctrl-alt-delete.” Do they want to erase the history of a whole people? My language? The memory of my footprints? Even that.

As Tayseer began to play the durbakki, she pushed these thoughts onto the edge of the water, demanding their drowning in the foaming waves. Then she renounced herself completely to the music. She hadn’t noticed Ziyad as he watched her mesmerized.

Abandoned to the music, her mind was becoming a tangle of thoughts. Suddenly, she was thinking of winter, that season she loved most. But it was a season of sadness for her also. She thought of all the colourful scarves she loved to wear in the winter. Her favourite ones were of course forbidden to her: the red-and-white and the black-and-white kafiyyas her father had given her.

The black-and-white kafiyyah wrapped around her shoulders, she feels like a strange kind of cheese people are trying to figure out. Long ago it had lost its meaning; politicized when the west had turned it into a symbol of terrorism, and then again de-politicized when it started being mass-manufactured by brand labels in all colours of the rainbow only to become a mere fashion statement. Before leaving her apartment in the winter, she puts her kafiyyah on, wrapping it around her shoulders, and stands in front of the mirror to contemplate the woman with the olive skin for a few moments. Then, with a thread of sadness unspooling from a corner of the kafiyya, she takes it off and hangs it back, leaving part of her very identity at home.

When Ziyad approached her, only small particles of her were with him – her other parts still immersed in the sizzling sensation she always experienced after dancing like that. Only Tayseer’s durbakki could make her body move like that, detaching itself from her will in the process.

(c) khulud khamis

4 July 2013

An Arab an the Pool

I buy a ticket to the pool, just like any other citizen, take a key and head to change into my black, one-piece bathing suit. After swimming ten pools, I decide I like it here and want to make a membership. I tie a towel around the upper part of my body, and walk to the reception desk. The woman at the desk smiles at me, how may I help you, young lady. I tell her I wish to subscribe to the center’s pool, get all the information—three month program, six month program, twelve-month program—and I settle on the twelve month membership. "I need your ID card please." So I hand her my ID card, knowing what to expect. She takes the ID card—at the bottom of which there is one word, the one word which always betrays. Not me, but the person studying it. Her reality slows down as she tries to figure out in her head—without being too conspicuous about it—how to react. Should she just ignore it? Should she comment? Say that some of her best friends are like that? Or that Mustafa is her favorite car mechanic?

Looking up at me in great surprise, and almost in a whisper, confessing, "You know, if it weren’t written down here, I would have never believed you were an Arab." What is there to react to such ignorance? The only thing I manage to do is come up with a faded smile, apologizing for not looking the part.


I wrote the piece above several years ago. Rereading it, it tickles me. These surprised looks used to trigger different emotions in me. But not anymore. Sadly, living in a place that is overflowing with racism, one gets immune to the more subtle forms of it. Otherwise, we couldn't function. Because it's everywhere, all the time, non-stop.