Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life

Near the end of Sayed Kashua’s book of essays, Native, he produces a list: ‘A Revolutionary Peace Plan’. His list is specifically relating to the proposal to annex the Israeli Arab communities in Wadi Ara and the Triangle to the West Bank, under Palestinian sovereignty.

But it is a list that no doubt would resolve many issues all over the world. For example, point 13: There will be zero tolerance for every manifestation of racism. Or 13: Belief is permitted. Or 14: Heresy is permitted. Or 21: Arabs and Jews will be permitted to love. Or 22: Citizens will be able to marry person of either sex. Point 30: The social workers will start to get real salaries.

Other points are more specific to the area in question. Point 7: the Jews will ask for forgiveness wholeheartedly. Point 8: The Arabs will forgive wholeheartedly. Point 9: The Arabs will ask for forgiveness, mainly from one another.

There is much to be extrapolated and applied from this list.

Having never met Kashua, I can only assume he is as wry, and possibly as tired and weepy, as his writing makes him out to be. Maybe read this article in the New Yorker? He’s writing from a place of conflict. He is an Israeli-Palestinian who has lived in Jerusalem most his life, until recently relocating with his family to Illinois, of all places. The essays in Native: Dispatches from an Israeli-Palestinian Life are from his weekly newspaper column for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Because he is clearly someone in the know, as much as one can be, I guess, I am reminded that I barely understand the situation in the sliver of the world Kashua is from. I seriously am reading through a Vox article to try and slide some puzzle pieces together. Because the more books I read, the more confused I become.

Kashua’s book is mostly made up of amusing, touching, sad (or all three at once) anecdotes and the context is less critical because he has a great storytelling voice, but I am person who enjoys context or at least is distracted by not having one.

I am amused by his visit to New York, of which he writes: “Just like in America, women strode by quickly, a Starbucks coffee in one hand and a newspaper in the other. Nearly all the Americans were carrying a Starbucks cup. On the opposite sidewalk was a fire hydrant of a kind I thought existed only in Spike Lee movies.”

I am tense while he goes through an airport checkpoint: “Generally I get through that checkpoint easily. And I even arrived in a Citroen, which I’d bought specifically for the checkpoints. God in heaven, who ever saw an Arab driving a Citroen?”

And I am saddened by what he writes about his grandmother and why he hasn’t told his children all her stories yet: “I haven’t told them about how you hunched over your baby son, my father, in the wheat fields, using your own body to protect him from the fire, and how you always used to say at that point, “As if my body would have really protected him …”

Context is rarely necessary to understand loss and trauma. These things are universal, even if they manifest in different ways to different people.

Sayed Kashua was at Events 55 (Life Drawing) and 68 (Our Home and Adopted Land) of the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival.

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