חום קיץ

תרגום: עדו קונרד

בקיץ 2012 איש הצית את עצמו בתל אביב.

הלהבות יצאו מכלל שליטה והגיעו עד לאוטובוס בבולגריה, מקום בו אנשים יוצאים לחופשה כאשר הם לא יכולים להרשות לעצמם משהו נאה יותר.

ככזאת שידועה לפחד מדברים שכאלה, אני שמרתי את מסורתי הקבועה של לשבת קרוב ליציאת החירום מאחור, בעודי רושמת את שמות של המתים ומזהה משהו בהם שאף לא בנאדם אחד יומר בקול רם.

אני פותחת מסורת חדשה כדי להרגיע את עצמי: אם המושב לא פנוי, אני מדמיינת שמי שכבר יושב בו נזקק לו יותר ממני.

בינתיים אני גרה למרגלות ההר באוקלנד. לפעמים זה מרגיש כמו חיפה, אך אין זה כמו ואדי סאליב.

כשלמדתי שהאדם המתלקח שהה שם ביומיו האחרונים, תהיתי

אם הוא תפס איזה גץ מהעבר.

בילדותי למדתי שאבותיי מתו בתנורים. לא היה כל כך חשוב מאיפה הגיעו אבותיי, או איך הם חיו ומתו.

חשבתי על זה כשאמי אפתה לחם,

וכאשר עורי החיוור השחים מהשמש, דימיתי אותו ללחם. עורי הנאפה והנשחם בדומה לאבותיי המדומיינים.

בקיץ 2012 אני לא מורגלת לשמיים אפורים. כשהשמש עולה אני לובשת כמה שפחות ועומדת בחוץ, מתפללת שקרניי השמש יתפשו אותי, כך שלא יטעו ויחשבו שאני לבנה.

אני חושבת על קליפורניה, המקום הזה עם הנטייה לשריפות משתוללות. אני חושבת על השכונה שנשרפת ממערבה ומזרחה ממני ובכל מקום הנמצא בין לבין.

אני חושבת על מה שקורה לאנשים כאשר חירות פעולתם נשללת, לכודים בין גבולות וגדרות תיל. גטאות ובתי כלא וגופים ממוגדרים. מה עוד נותר לעשות?

אני מתפללת, ויושבת קרוב ליציאת החירום מאחור.

english

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summer heat

In the summer of 2012 a man set himself on fire in Tel Aviv.

The flames spun out of control and reached a bus in Bulgaria, where people go on vacation when they can’t afford something nicer.

Known to live in fear of such things, I kept my tradition of sitting near the emergency exit in the back, writing down the names of the dead and recognizing something about them no one would say aloud.

I begin a new tradition to calm myself: if that seat is taken, I imagine that the person there needs it more than I do.

Meanwhile I live at the foot of a hill in Oakland. Sometimes it feels like Haifa, but it’s no Wadi Salib.

When I learned that the flaming man had spent the last of his days there, I wondered

if he had caught a spark from the past.

In my early childhood I learned that my ancestors died in ovens. It didn’t matter where my ancestors were really from, or how they actually lived and died.

I thought of this when my mother made bread,

and when my pale skin became brown from the sun, I imagined it to be like bread. My skin baking and browning and dying like my imagined ancestors.

In summer 2012 I am not used to the grey skies. When the sun comes out, I wear as little as possible and stand outside, praying for its rays to catch me, so that I am no longer mistaken for white.

I think of California, this place that is prone to wildfires. I think of the hood burning to the west of me and far to the east of me and everywhere inbetween.

I think of what happens to people when their agency is taken away from them, trapped in by borders and barbed wire. Projects and prisons and gendered bodies. What is left to do?

I pray, and I sit near the emergency exit in the back.

עברית

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in salameh بسلمة

may 2012

refugee mamas gonna walk
down the street with baby in arms
no fear in their eyes only
hope for the future

market place gonna be full
of many language voices
fruits bread sweets
sacred kitsch ancient and
just manufactured
like always but with a new
confidence

sito’s picture gonna hang
on the wall of his old home while
his grand children recall
when he called out its name
from california exile

no one will go feeling
like moon folks living
in the wrong place wrong time
fearing police men’s mistaken identity
fearing land lord’s knocking
fearing self in mirror each day

no one ever gonna forget
what it’s like to miss home
and lack for one

and they will treat each other
accordingly.

Salameh is the Palestinian village outside Jaffa upon which the southeastern neighborhoods of Tel Aviv and Ramat Gan are built. You can read more about it (in English, Arabic, and Hebrew) here: http://www.zochrot.org/place/%D7%A1%D6%B7%D7%9C%D6%B7%D7%9E%D6%B8%D7%94

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my heart’s defense industry

lately i have been noticing
the electricity in the air when we speak and
the way it lingers in the silence between sentences and
thinking of how we could fill that silence
if we wanted with
kisses whispers and moans
but

i come from the land of walls you know
and i took a little with me when i came here
the gray concrete paving stones
in my chest
surround my heart and
security cameras watch it from all corners
of my body and

snipers are keeping watch
from my shoulders and
the blood in my veins doesn’t
always make it through because
of soldiers patrolling and
my arteries clogged
with road blocks while

my mouth
is a missile defense system
ready to fire on command to
neutralize passion
in the name of self-defense,

having forgotten
or never known
its capability
to roam lightly over your collarbone to
bring you inside to
speak words of desire
into the world to
transcend the space between borders
and our breaths.

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let me teach you how we do math where i am from:

29 feb 2012

let me teach you how we do math where i am from:

for example did you know
that a hunger striking prisoner
is cancelled out
by some kids throwing rocks
at praying people?

(don’t worry, nobody died this time).

when you divide the land
by everyone who claims it,
the answer is blood.

(and remember
that it is always the people
who have power
who draw the line
of the division symbol.)

here is your pop quiz,
like everything else it takes you by surprise.

(don’t worry too hard though,
here we always
round off the remainders).

how many walls
do you have to build
to feel safe
in your stolen house?

how many bombings
equal a wall?
how many night raids
curfews
and lost family members
equal a burning bus
on a busy street in tel aviv?

how many refugees?
how many refugees?
how many refugees?
how many more refugees?

what is the number worth of a screaming mother a farmer cut off from land a sister in prison?
how many days of hunger until you are free?
how many kilometers to the ocean in jaffa from ramallah?
how many minutes hours days years lifetimes in between?

how many bodies
did you count and
what kind were they
(civilian or militant) and
who gets to decide
if they matter or
cancel each other
out?

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on not feeling safe as a jew

written 28 february 2012

I want to preface this by saying that this isn’t an attempt to whitewash anti-Jewish racism that exists in the Palestine solidarity movement or anywhere. Like every single other form of racism, like sexism and queerphobia, like ableism and classism, anti-Jewish racism exists IN THE WORLD and it will exist in our movements until we specifically confront it, and as we continually confront it.

I don’t want to say that I never run into the occasional anti-Jewish comment doing this work. It happens. When it does happen, I deal with it like I’d deal with a sexist comment. I call the person out. If I’m really upset or feel like the space isn’t safe for me to call the person out, I ask a non-Jewish ally to support me. Sometimes I don’t even need to ask because people already have my back and they understand how racism works.

Anti-Jewish racism is not special. It is a form of oppression like all others that’s built historically into the structures of our societies and communities, and needs to be confronted in the same way.

Please note that I am an Israeli-American living in a settler-colonial state engaged in imperialist wars, which has a massive prison-industrial complex. I am already drastically safer than folks living in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Palestine, other places where US or Israeli intervention is murdering civilians on a daily basis, and drastically safer than folks living in poor black and brown communities under police occupation, those who are within the prison system, and immigrants who are undocumented, among many others.

I am an Arab Jew. In a vast majority of circumstances, being an Arab Jew means that part of my identity remains invisible to people who refuse to see it. People who reinforce that invisibility, who make statements about “the Arabs and the Jews,” even the need to make peace between “them,” who systematically (even with the best of intentions but the ignorance of privilege) exclude Jews of color from their spaces, make me feel, at the very least, not welcome.

Sometimes in “Arab” spaces I get this thing that’s, like, “well, you are one of the GOOD Jews, not like the European colonizing Jews,” but I feel way more capable of confronting comments like that than I do the overall structural exclusion and invisiblity that I feel in “safe” Jewish spaces on a regular basis.

Get this: ANTI-ARAB RACISM AFFECTS ME. Sure, because I am Jewish, and Israeli, and pass for white in some situations, it affects me a lot less. I can be pretty sure that the U.S. government is not spying on me solely because of my country of origin, for example. When I see Jewish people in Jewish spaces perpetuating anti-Arab racism, not only do I feel like my identity is not being respected, I feel betrayed and frightened, as if I am only waiting for the moment until my privileges do not protect me any longer.

When people use the histories of Jews from the Middle East in our families’ countries of origin as justification for US or Israeli colonialism and human rights offenses, it makes me feel like I am unable to share my family’s story or history, to be fully present in the space, without having my words become co-opted by a nationalist project. Again, this is something that happens to me predominatly in Jewish spaces and Jewish conversations.

With all of this going on in the background, I want to say that the moments when I feel most physically threatened as a Jew are when I see the systemic backlash of threats, state violence, individual violence, intimidation, and slander that anti-Zionist Jews and Jews who criticize Israel are subjected to.

When I am at a peaceful flash mob and I see Zionist counter-protestors use a stun gun and pepper spray against bystanders who confront them, I feel unsafe.

When a meeting (not a public event, a closed meeting) of Jews against the occupation is disrupted violently, I feel unsafe.

When my friend’s neck is injured by members of the audience as she disrupts the Israeli prime minister with nothing but her voice and a banner, I feel unsafe.

When my friends are shot at by the Israeli army and border police with tear gas, rubber bullets, and many other “less-than-lethal” weapons which are the same ones used by the US army, the Egyptian army, the OPD, and other police forces all around the country, week after week at peaceful demonstrations against the apartheid wall, I feel unsafe.

When my friends are injured at those demonstrations, I feel shaken by grief and rage and powerlessness, and yes, I feel unsafe.

When laws are passed in Israel that criminalize the work that I do, and make my friends in the country more vulnerable to state violence and incarceration, I feel unsafe. When American Jewish organizations support these laws or leave them uncriticized, I feel unsafe.

When counterprotestors shout racist and heterosexist comments at me at demonstrations (or send them to me in e-mails), such as “How many Arab cocks did you suck today?” I feel unsafe.

When people graphically describe queerphobic violence that they presume would be done to me in Palestine or in Palestinian spaces, such as “You would get stabbed if there was ever a Pride parade in Gaza,” this makes invisible Palestinian queers, and Israeli queers who WERE stabbed at a pride parade in Jerusalem, and I feel unsafe.

When photos of me, racial and sexual slurs, my phone number, and a quote about my mother (who has no involement with my work whatsoever), are placed on a hate website that specifically identifies Jews who criticize Israel, I feel unsafe.

When I fear that I may lose my job at a synagogue, or have my employment come under fire or scrutiny, because of the activism that I do outside of the workplace, I feel unsafe.

When what I feel after giving a passionate speech in solidarity with the Palestinian people in public is fear and shame, instead of pride and moral conviction, I AM unsafe.

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ritual before open mic

Read your poems over and over.
Try to banish self-hatred
by imagining it as a tiny monster
you can let outside for the night.
Try to banish self-hatred
by imagining it as sludge inside your body
that you can cough up, breathe out.

Look in the mirror and imagine
it coming up viscous slowly
haltingly out of your nose and mouth
while you take in sweet
bright glitter cloud air
to fortify.

Remember that you are wearing
great talismans of protection:
your cousin’s chai, your safta’s hamsa,
so many rainbow colored evil eyes
that you are invisible to haters.

If you still feel unsafe:
draw more on your body.
You posess ancient magical weapons.

When you cry over your own words, remember
that it is the ocean flowing through you.

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