checkpoints and metaphors
18 years old Nadim Bidan, three days after his birthday, put on a belt
with twenty kilos of explosive imbedded with pieces of glass, brushed
his teeth, shaved, washed meticulously, and thought that he needs a
haircut, wore a white shirt and brown trousers and a coat although it
was spring, and got on bus no 29 in Tel Aviv, sat next to a bent, gray
haired man, who has no children, and ten minutes later when the bus
reached the corner of Dizengof street and Gordon, and the traffic had just changed, he
blew himself up, and the bus, and turned into fragments of dust, and
murdered ten people who he didn't know or know their names, and scores
of body pieces dispersed all over, and the smell of burnt hair and
scorched flesh that will never leave all who were there on that morning,
that Wednesday, a year and eight months ago, dispersed in the
Nadim, they will say afterwards, went to kill Jews.
Went to take revenge.
Not to kill those ten murdered. He didn't know it was them he was going
to kill. He went to kill a symbol that they were its representatives. He
went to kill what the word a Jew symbolized for him that is represented
in any Jew just by being a Jew.
For him, the word Jew, was occupation. Was his life. The lack of his
life, His life's annulment. It meant no childhood, and his nine years
old sister who since they broke into their house in the night, in order
to go up on the roof, and locked all of them in one room for a few
hours, who still wets her pants, and it was his father, humiliated in
Beit Ibba checkpoint half a year ago. A dignified elderly man, dressed
in a suit, a good father, an ordinary father, that twenty three and
three months old Mati Dekel decided that he had crossed the line.
What is the line? it is an imaginary line on the narrow concrete path
where Palestinians must scramble and squeeze a few times a day anywhere
they want to go to, or come from. On the way to the clinic, and to work,
and to visit the grandmother, or to go to the fields or to the mall, or
to give birth, or to receive dialysis. The concrete path in every
checkpoint. The concrete path with the same, constant, similar
principles: all Palestinians, because they are Palestinians are
forbidden to move within their living space. Guilty, until proven
Deep in the occupied territories, the entrance to Nablus, the way home.
Nadim and his father visited his father's sick older sister in Tzara
probably for the last time, they arrived there easily, the soldiers when
leaving Nablus didn't detain them, they stood in line, the soldier
didn't even look, because exactly then he was giggling with the girl
soldier, and because the rules are arbitrary and change, so they passed,
transparent, and on the way back, because this is how the system works,
each time different rules and regulations, one time all who are fifty
and have brown hair are allowed, and another time not, one time everyone
can, another time it is a stopping life procedure, and mostly and always
it is an enhancement of the built-in, of the ingrained, which is
prevention, and the specific harassment is according to the personal
imagination of the on duty brute. This time Mati Dekel. A soldier as any
soldier, a soldier in the occupation and oppression army, IOF, standing
there with the sole purpose of making all Palestinians' life miserable
just for being Palestinians. Mati said "you crossed the line. irj'ah,
rooh, yalla... "I didn't cross it, I'm on my way home", said Nadim's
father. "Are you being cheeky", said twenty three and three months old
Mati Dekel, "go to the jorra (a name for the place soldiers 'stuff' the
detained)". And he went. And Nadim went with him. And they sat there for
a few hours, until night came, and then until the next morning, when new
soldiers arrived and said "yalla, ruchoo", and they went. And Nadim
swore that he will do to the Jews what Jews had done to his father.
Nadim didn't see the individual Mati Dekel, he saw a soldier, he saw a
Jew, and when he decided to take revenge he didn't search for Mati Dekel,
he looked for a representative, a symbol, someone who is a Jew like Mati,
and as a Jew he is necessarily Mati, inherently malicious, abusive,
guilty. A Jew.
What Nadim had done: a boy under occupation that never knew if he would
ever arrive home at the end of the day, if he won't be killed because
(always in retrospect) he held a Molotov, or threw stones... never knew
if he will be detained for hours, in the lime, in the cold, in the heat,
with his back turned, handcuffed or not, forced to crouch or not, if he
will not arrive to school in time because today all, for instance, who
have Nablus ids can't pass. Why? Because.
He, whose life isn't worthy, not perceived, not seen, Nadim, who every
Jew just by being a Jew can (and more so, blessed and praised) stamp
him, literally, just because he is a Palestinian, just for being a
Palestinian, didn't perceive or see who he had killed. He didn't see
Katia, a hard working woman, who has a five years old autistic child who
would now be put in an institution where no one will care about her, he
didn't see Haim, a boy like himself, who was about to refuse going into
the army because he thought Israel was committing a crime against the
Palestinian people and would not participate in doing so, he didn't see
anyone, he didn't sieve them out or choose them, they were not human
beings for him, they were Jews.
Israel does not see their faces. Israel is a terrorist state. What the
one Nadim had done, a boy under occupation, desperate and cruel, whose
life is no more than crumbs of dust, crushed and stamped on while still alive, who
came and killed, and revenged those who did nothing to him, only because
for him they were guilty because they carry the identity of the one who
hurt him, and others like him, who hurt him day after day. What Nadim
the individual had done, not the whole Palestinian people, only him,
Israel, with all of her soldiers, and soldiers' parents, and those who
are silent, does as a method. Israel upholds an oppression and terror
regime of a whole nation. A nation who stamps on another nation. Who
murders another people. What Nadim did, Israel does from morning to night
as a system. She does not sieve out the guilty. Everyone is guilty.
Guilty a-priori. Palestinians, this is their guilt,their crime, this is
their essence, this is their fate.
The policy of the army in the territories is to hurt and strike the symbol,
each Palestinian because he is a Palestinian. A priori to him, the
particular, with no regard or relevance to his particularity, to his
individuality, his personal name, his deeds, he is guilty, he is
forbidden. At the very best he does not exist, but mostly he is an
enemy, he is garbage, his life isn't worthy, isn't seen, his life and
Israel does not look for those who are guilty.
Because all the Palestinian people are guilty, because they are
Nadim, and each and every one of his neighbors and friends and family
members are not truly human beings for Israel, because had they been she
wouldn't have put them in 'pens', denying them the right for living and
health, and daily life, and their water resources, as a system, and
killing them either with rifles, or by forbidding patients to arrive to
the hospital, or because of imposing mal nutrition, and the rest trampling into
crumbs of dust. Had they were human in her eyes she wouldn't have been
there, in their lives, in between, with inner checkpoints and roads for
Jews only. Palestinians for formal Israel are a symbol, a symbol
representing in-humans, an enemy, or something in between.
A Palestinian is a metaphor.
Michal jumped from a twelve story building ten years ago. Rina said she
had thought she was a bird. Dani had said it was because of him, although
he hadn't known her and was in fact tied to a bed in a mental hospital
up north. Mati who had been her boyfriend said she went to meet Jim
Morrison. She was so beautiful it stung. Hurt. She spoke a lot of
nonsense and I thought she was terribly superficial, but everyone always
looked at her. In the university once, she got up on the table, just
like that. All the boys followed her, the lecturer too. Maybe it all
began with a "trip" she took when staying in Rina Shani's commune, but
it was obvious that since a certain day she couldn't contain herself any
more. It was as if she wanted to peel herself off herself. As if she
can't (anymore) and there is no reason. I knew that she will die. It is
difficult to explain but her fate was expected.
I want to tell what happened. We had an older one in the gang, it wasn't
his age, more mature, his name was Meir. He used to say "there is no
reality just interpretation", he told us about Rashumon before anyone
had heard of Kurasawas or Chapek. He also really read Kant and
Wittgenstein and not only chosen excerpts. "But reality exists, even if
beyond reach, doesn't it?" I begged him, I literally begged.
He told me a story then.
"A brilliant young man, renowned in the village, for his unique wisdom,
wanted to find out what was the meaning of life. So he learned and
studied and wisened but didn't receive the answer to his question, so he
left the village and studied further in other places, so maybe he would
find out an answer to his question. He mastered many subjects, a Ph.D.
in Philosophy, Psychology, Biology, Literature, Biochemistry, he wrote
and taught and his name and merit were known everywhere as a learned
man, one of his kind, a prodigy, a scholar. Many years had passed. His
name was carried by all. Known and admired all over the world.
At the dawn of his life it was said that he was going to return to the
village he had left so many years before.
On the day of his arrival some gathered to wait for him on the path
leading to the village. Those left, who knew him once, old and wrinkled,
some barely standing, with heated, eager faces, full of expectation. He
was the one who knows. When they saw him at the distance they stumbled
towards him, and surrounded him. And with a trembling voice barely
mustering his excitement one asked for all: "so what is the meaning of
For a long moment the wise man was silent.
Then he answered: "A tree".
"A tree?" the man said with astonishment.
"Or not" answered the wise man".
I sometimes thought Meir's intelligence was a form of violence, of
conceit, a big dark hole that he clutched with his mind's jaws. I also
think he was in love with her and it confused him, because it was
outside his controlled logic. His eyes drawn in spite of himself to her
body lines, to her convexity, to the blood pounding underneath her
greenish brown skin. Her cursed beauty.
Yes Meir, desire mellowed you, disheartened you, made your pride rigid,
tightened to its utmost force, so to crumble into obedience. How little
effect is left for reason against the quivering flesh on the raw nerves,
against the nectar, the marrow...... Meir repent and became an orthodox
Jew, and maybe he wasn't that smart. Michal is buried in a graveyard in
Everyone liked metaphors in those days. 'His look is silky', and 'she is
flowing underneath the skin gnawing me with her honey teeth', 'these
demons are surrounding me and gulping me with their foxy skin and
immaculate breath'. We incessantly dandified ourselves with the
intoxicating winding of language. We read poetry, and most of us were
seeing psychologists already. Even then it was different with her.
I had a fascination then with inversion of word roots. I told them that
like in the case of onomatopoeias, for instance, were there is a
distinct relation between the words' physical essence and their tonal
identity, that they are words especially in Hebrew, that has stayed very
much the same as it were in the beginning, and very few other languages
assimilated, that are close to the reason from which they were created,
maybe the word and its meaning are wrapped in one another. Michal wrote
the words all the time. She had a notebook and desperation had become
brown painted circles around her eyes that just deepened her beauty. I
now understand that her condition deteriorated all the time though we
didn't notice. "I want to climb out of the word", she told me and burst
out crying. There was so much desperation in her voice. But my heart was
closed (to her) then. Not much after that she jumped off the roof.
I have a friend who is writing a story. In his story he walks down the
street. His boots clicking, tapping. He would have wanted to be he who
was walking, the sound of his boots, he who tells. He wanted to be a
shape and contents, together. He wanted what she didn't want, what she
dreaded, that the naming will be the essence, with no gap, but he only
wanted and could not succeed, because he is strong, because his skin
isn't perforated. She – as if didn't have any skin, no wisdom. And maybe
she was too beautiful.
"Maybe her beauty confined her to an impossible fantasy, people imposed
upon her powers she didn't understand, didn't possess, that depended on
the frightening fragility of time" Meir said when we left the graveyard.
"I won't become ugly?" She used to howl at the corner of the observation
room. Yes, sweetheart, you shall become ugly, don't depend on what you
have no control over. You are all murderers I thought after Mati read
the poem 'Pride' by the poetess Dalya Rabikovitz at her funeral and
everyone cried. I dread the dwindling of memory. I want to carve her out
of forgetfulness. Yes Meir, I know, to mould, to sculpt not to carve.
Meir, who doesn't let me even for a moment, to forget – that I only have
the words I tell myself, the representation I impose from within, and
that what I believe to be Michal, is only a possible angle, a point of
view, a presentation in the brain of what is subject to the laws of the
observing organism and its characteristics, and ways of sieving and
encoding; one possible sculpture amongst others. And even if she exists,
in some total way, independent, my interpretation – is my only
possession. My only reality. What is certain, is that when I knew Michal,
the prism through which I told her to myself was woven out of jealousy
and bitterness and other such feelings. I saw her the way it was
necessary for me to see her. Now, the prism is undoubtedly different,
and missing her seems so meaningless. Maybe I want her to live in order
to be able to love her but I think that even had she lived again I would
have felt towards her exactly the same. The future just doesn't have
power over the past, and that's that. I think a lot about what Meir had
said. That she was too beautiful. Maybe that is how it all connects. She
definitely had an obsession with her beauty, and in that sense I blame
the metaphors. My theory is that she committed suicide because of this.
Two days after she was hospitalized in the mental hospital Shalvata I
came to visit her. Her face was swollen, and there was a strange
rigidness in her limbs that later I was explained that was a parkinsonic
condition which is a side affect of the medication she was taking. But
other than that she was the same. Or so I thought. She introduced me to
the other girls in her room. Nava was a very fat girl with a sewed smile
on her face, like a twitch. Michal said that Nava sees the poetess Yona
Volach above the clouds, there, she pointed at the corner of the room
and giggled with happiness which seemed somehow distorted. Frida was a
forty years old woman whose fingers were already black from cigarette
smoking. Now and then she would burst out laughing and Michal had
explained with enthusiasm that she hears voices who tell her jokes.
Although it all sounded like lines from a poem, somehow all I felt was
despondency. When I left, I thought, that the difference was, that
unlike in poetry, the metaphors for the inmates were concrete. She who
saw Yona Volach at the corner of the room which she called clouds, saw
it in the same way which I now see that man with the sack full of
oranges at the end of the bus, and when Nava told me how she walks down
the street and becomes longer and shorter, and at the first moment I
though to myself what an amazing existential metaphor. However from her
point of view she was describing an objective reality, which wasn't more
symbolic than the hideous scrapes the children carved on the seat in
front of me.
The strongest thing that happened to me from all of this, is that I
stopped loving poetry.
It isn't easy to explain the connection between her suicide and
Or what is the connection between 18 years old Nadim who blew himself up
in a bus and died and murdered ten people, and 20 and something years
old Mati standing in Beit Ibba checkpoint day after day preventing
people who did nothing to him from the simplest life possibilities like
arriving to school, or work, or the hospital, just because they are
Palestinians – and metaphors.
The metaphor, is a possibility, a cognitive thinking possibility for
dealing with reality, it evolved and sprung in the gap between stimulus
and response, the space, that was refined through evolution, and is
another facet of the immense flexibility of the human brain, which is
expressed and manifested in the ability to find equivalences even in the
most different phenomenon, and to place them one instead of the other.
And this flexibility has an important survival role in dealing with
unexpected situations. That is why it was refined and fixed in the
evolution process. This ability has a role in a changing unfixed world,
for which a rigid response cannot give a good enough survival answer.
There is a wide spectrum of places that reveal this flexibility;
phenomena like sucking the thumb as a substitute for sucking the breast,
because there must be a flexibility in the baby's brain in order to
(discern and 'notice') that the thumb can be a substitute to what the
breast means, and is. This is in some ways similar to our ability to
create sentences like 'he has dark thoughts' or 'a fried idea'..... to
But this possibility holds the edges, the pathological outcome like in
Chaplin's 'Gold Rush' when the hero sees his friend as a turkey. The
extent of his desire for food, his hunger, enhances to the absurd that
congenital, built in capacity to identify and recognize similarity in
such supposedly different things. To impose on his friend the inner
mould of his desire.
Isn't like a metaphor? One thing which represents another, as a
substitute, and requires some ability to recognize and see similarity in
very different things. We call this ability symbolizing, or abstracting,
or in the words of Psychoanalysts – projection.
And language, culture, art and evil are derivatives of constant
processes of substituting one thing for another.
It is the capability to see similarity which makes language a tool, that
gives validity and meaning to art, and that enables genocide.
Warmth, sweetness and light for instance are an early powerful
experience of satisfaction, ingrained in out biological nature. That is
why they are so convenient to be used as ready made metaphors for
experiences that carry a positive nature. 'A warm friendship'.... 'a
sweet child'.... 'a bright mind'.... 'a brilliant deed'.....
The importance of desire for sweetness as an innate inclination and
tendency is partly explained by sugar being immediate energy for the
brain, and essential in stressful situations when immediate energy is
The love of light, too, in rooted deep in our biological nature. Light
represents and is, in the most universal wide spread way, the source of
life, and all living creatures seem to have some built in, congenital
relation to it.
'Black' for instance represents mostly metaphors carrying a negative
value, negative meaning, echoing danger, or disaster. Is may be because
black represents the night – the inability to see, danger, lack of
control, and the inversion and opposite of light which represents life,
and is a symbol of life. It may be why black is used for metaphors
carrying a negative value like 'dark thoughts'..... 'I had a black
day'..... 'a shady dark personality'.... 'a black soul'.
Height too is used as a metaphor carrying positive value. Man forever
depends on nature in order to live, and is helpless in front of its
dangers. Nature 'begot' the first identities of the gods, and the
hierarchy of the gods in all cultures has connection to the natural
conditions they live in. Nature, mostly, comes from above..... and maybe
the same innate relation to light is also manifested in the fact that
the sun god or the sky god everywhere, in all cultures, will stand high,
prominent, in the ladder of importance, and was also the first
Is that why blond hair and blue eyes seem to be considered beauty
symbols, or is it all culture oriented depending who has the power, who
are those in power who determine what prototype the world will revolve
and unfold according to, and its inclination and taste and
physiognomical features become the ultimate beauty, the prototype
beauty, not in the eyes of the beholder but as if by a deeper objective
The western religions it seems sprung from this religious magical world,
and absorbed the high and low coordinators as having bearing upon value,
(while low may have been imbued with negativity also for being the
inversion and opposite of high, and not necessarily because of anything
deriving from its nature itself). This way 'supreme, upper power'....
'the nether world'...
This is what I read somewhere....
And what between all this and Michal? that this possible tendency to
experience a visual quality as equivalent to a moral quality is not only
as a result of improper upbringing, it isn't only because of some
behavioral flaw or limitation, it expresses what is natural.
That what is natural can be horrible.... on the same continuity line...
what is a surviving tool with wonders at its end, it, in itself, enables
people to be nothing to each other....
For an animal, a cockroach is always a cockroach, no more no less, and a
man just a man.... For a man and only for a man, only for he who exists
in language, a man can be a cockroach.
Why do certain features, certain convexities a synonyms for 'beauty',
and why on earth is 'beauty' a metaphor for positive value?
What is Michal's road of death made of?
Is it this rotten culture and the interwoven connections between beauty
and value, woven in the fabric of language. With fairytales you grow on
where the beautiful are wise and good and the ugly are bad, as if their
physical characteristics express their moral value.
With many mammals, an instinctive preference was imprinted through
evolution towards features, and characteristics that will make sure, of
the birth, of stronger healthier offspring, with better potential to
survive. In the case of humans, an instinctive inclination and
preference for the visual appearance of characteristics with biological
Like healthy, durable, young, symmetrical, that are contained in what we
call beauty, no? So it could be that beauty as a metaphor for positive
value is rooted in this congenital preference for characteristics with
potential biological positive value (positive not in terms of morality
but evolutionary wise).
Does 'black' however carry an inherent meaning, value, or is it culture
dependent, is the word beauty as a synonym for something 'good', with
moral quality, inherent or learned - are not the questions I can answer
nor am I putting them forth for discussion.
All that I care to do is to show the presence of visual symbols of value
in the lingo, in common language, and beauty in particular - as inherent
to language, to thinking, as inseparable to the congenital structure of
the human mind, and as a result in man's sense of reality – and the
horrible implications that derive from this. The danger that lurks in
the automatic and natural linking between physical reality and value.
Because on a person whose skin is black one might assume and project
characteristics which carry a negative nature, just because black is
used as a negative metaphor of value.
There is a manipulative use in all sectors of life, of the instinctive
inclination towards visual characteristics, which acts subversively
underneath consciousness: in advertising, propaganda, brain washing,
art, psychology and in the other daily manipulation in the media...
It was a few years ago, when I worked in the bookstore Keter, when I met
Mati who was her boyfriend, again, who still looked like Jim Morrison
although it seemed rather pathetic. "She loved you" he told me and my
heart twinged. "She was a beautiful girl who wanted to be somebody
else's story. She wanted something"... We spoke a little, there wasn't
much to say. "Hey seller, are you willing to stop lecturing and give me
a good book". That was all I needed. "A good book?" I turned to him with
ridicule and anger that confused him for a moment. "You want a book with
characteristics of generosity and love of the other... is 'good' any
particular information, or maybe, let me dare say, what you are asking
me for a book that critics said is 'good', and you of course don't even
consider the possibility that it is nothing but their personal, private,
taste, rendered as universal". "Babe, do you have a good book or I'm
going to Steimatzki?" It is hard to explain what happened to me at that
moment. Maybe what frightened me the most was that in spite of my
judgemental condescending aggression towards him I knew exactly what he
wanted. It wasn't that I didn't know that I was talking like a mad
woman, that everyone is staring at me, that there is no justification
for my hysteria but I suddenly became very concentrated, with a kind of
peace, emptiness in my stomach, my mind crystal clear, and I felt my
thinking like a sharp fine chisel. "You understand, that is why she
died, you murdered her, you and this language, you and the metaphors".
Tears were pouring and wetting my shirt. From the corner of my eye I saw
Mati felt uncomfortable and ashamed that he was with me but I didn't
care. I think that up to that moment I hadn't realized how much pain was
left with me since then. What void her death had left in me. I had to
speak and they were standing there. So I spoke to them. I think my voice
didn't stop trembling. It isn't as if I was exactly thinking of Michal.
It just that everything was connected all of a sudden, and got a new and
precise meaning. They are moments like that. It is hard to explain.
"You understand", I went on talking to all the astonished customers, but
maybe I was really just looking at Mati. "It's like children-soldiers
who will die 'a heroe's death' on the alter of death metaphors, where
every dead becomes special here, distinguished, wonderful and holy, you
can be quite ordinary, not liked, or popular or wise or anything, but
after you died you have become a hero.... it is you and I who murdered
her, like the poets murder so many poor children who are trapped, and
have no choice but to be trapped, because language doesn't only
interpret, or mediates between us and life. It is in itself life,
And I am quite sure that when the tangibility of death changes from
poetry to prose, when it really is close to the threshold, when it
really happens, not only intellectually, when dying begins and the body
is screaming with pain of the flesh, no metaphor will hug the one who
suffers and is about to die with a last hug. This is what happened to
Michal. She was trapped in the fetters of the metaphor. She suffocated
under the terrible meaning they 'read' in her beauty. She didn't have
means to break out to release herself. People linked her beauty with
meaning, inherent, and wove quality in her beauty which wasn't eternal,
that probably existed only as concept, in the eyes of those who saw it.
You understand, she who I was jealous of, she that people always wanted,
suffocated and perished from the attention given to her through this
treacherous route, that of her beauty. She was scared – the walls
crumbled, there was no floor, no skin, only the sound of the approaching
axe. The brittle nature of time, how right you were, Meir. She didn't
have enough confidence, enough wisdom not to be drawn into these death
traps. To develop an independent personality, which the sense of
worthiness that accompanies it, is not subordinated to time which cannot
be clutched, or controlled or trusted... she wanted to break out of the
word, I didn't understand it then. She wanted to be released from the
I saw he was shocked, embarrassment was welded in his face but I had no
compassion for him, no mercy. "I haven't thought about her in a long
time" he stuttered, blushing, "and I have a girlfriend for the last nine
years". God, how stupid he is I thought before I stopped seeing him. I
think by then I just stood and cried when Nitza the bookstore manager
hugged me gently and led me to the office.
And why am telling, speaking, now, about Michal. I can't explain, only
that all these lurking metaphors, 'purity of arms', 'killing for
family-honor's sake', a man as a synonym for character, a woman as a
synonym for weakness, I don't know, maybe because of the checkpoints,
maybe because what Israel does to the Palestinians and because I feel it
cannot be stopped, and that it is happening a breath away but they
aren't eyes that see.... or they are, but choose not to....
Do you remember the murder of the taxi driver from Herzelia, it was
already many years ago, three fifteen year old's 'of a good family'
murdered a taxi driver, was then published. If it had been a Palestinian
taxi driver then they would not have murdered but killed. 'Of a good
family', how many undertones are folded in this sentence. How many
assumptions, and preconceptions. 'Good', a word which represents a moral
value, is a synonym to an economic ethnic class, to the extent that no
clarification is needed. Them being Ashkenazi is welded and imbued with
their being 'of a good family'. If they were from another ethnic group
or class they wouldn't have been 'of a good family' any more? The word
is used as a preposition. 'Of a good family' is of a better family. Is
the 'higher' (height as a value metaphor) race, economically speaking,
does the white Ashkenazi ethnic group, represent necessarily,
inherently, congenitally, superiority of moral value? By the way, I'm
not looking at the crime but the debate about it, and at the language
with which the incident was chosen to be depicted. About the reality
revealed through the words that tell it. And about the a priori
interpretation and outlook on life and the layers of information which
aren't relevant, that are exposed in this talk.
The discussion is about Michal and me and about the brute and bully Mati
Dekel who serves in Beit Ibba checkpoint, and the problem when a very
laden terminology like this, when blurring between physical descriptions
like – color or beauty, or characteristics like race or economic state –
and values, not only represents reality but also creates it. The term
'of a good family' is equivalent to the term Jew once, and Palestinian
today, or Black once and today as an abusive term, representing a moral
inclination according to race. That way different groups are born to a
priori identities with different imbued assumed value characteristics
which are not determined by and don't derive from them as individuals.
And that - as we heard years ago in the conversations after the massacre
that was committed by the Jew Baruch Goldstein in Hebron towards
Palestinians, that a Jew is always a victim, as an identity, as an
inherent characteristic not depending on his actions. Whether the abuser
or the abused, the chaser or the chased, the murderer or the murdered.
And if he is a victim he isn't the attacker. And if territories are
'released' and not 'occupied', and settlers are 'pioneers', and the
occupying army is the 'defense army', and checkpoints are 'passages' and
Palestinian is not an individual with a private name and a personal
identity, an who he is and what he is derives from it, a Palestinian
isn't a who but a what, he is a concept who represents the enemy, a
principle of a man, his identity and inclination are unrelated to his
particularity, because he isn't particular, he isn't a private person,
he is a concept, which comes prior to his individual identity, he is an
essence which is a priori to him - is the evidence and testimony. The
testimony and evidence of the existence of the evasive and elusive
killer within us.
This gap between stimulus and response, the delay mechanism, the
flexibility, the possibility of finding substitutes for the automatic
rigid procedures in an unpredictable, un fixed changing world, and in a
world of language (sublimation and search for meaning and metaphors), at
one end is art and poetry and at the other end it is what emerged one
day on an evening of a Wednesday at Qalandiya checkpoint about a year
ago. One man, not old, not young, arrived with a big new samovar. They
just put in the revolving obstacles, the turnstiles.
He arrived and couldn't pass with the samovar through the contraption.
And there was this one soldier with soft, tender eyes and long lashes,
whose long hands are woven with veins and with bright affability said
'I'll take the Samovar for you'.
We were all stunned. That a soldier will agree to pass the samovar
through a convenient doorway. And won't purposely (if the chance is
given) deny, anything that the Palestinian wants, and won't allow
someone to be squashed and crushed inside the turnstile – the revolving
obstruction if chance occurs. That was beyond belief.
And the man stood in line, and it took time, like always, and he crossed
and passed to the other side and asked for his samovar.
"I gave it" explained the soldier affably.
"You gave it?"
"Yes", the soldier looked bewildered and slightly surprised, young,
innocent and cruel.
The soldier received the samovar from a Palestinian and gave it to a
He didn't realize there was a problem. Because he didn't see a private
person in front of him, he saw a caption, an ethnic identity, and when
he took the samovar he took away from a Palestinian and returned it to
another Palestinian, that from his angle is identical to the one he
received the samovar from, because his identity is his race... because
for the soldier a Palestinian isn't a person, a particular one, who was
born and has a name. A Palestinian is a symbol, and all Palestinians are
representatives of the symbol. A Palestinian is an essence. He isn't an
A Palestinian isn't a private person, a Palestinian is a metaphor.
The metaphor which is part of our biological nature, part of our ability
to deal with unexpected situations, means for survival developed and
refined through evolution, is also sometimes our moral grave.
My aunt told me that according to Judaism god created the world with a
word. There was chaos which is like saying there was everything, then
god said: Let there be light. And there was light and there was the
world. The word didn't create the light, god didn't create the light, he
gave it a name, because the demarcation creates the reality. One cannot
separate reality from the word, the naming. Maybe when Michal wrote the
words, incessantly, it was as if she was trying to pin herself into
something. As if the concreteness of the pen, pressed on and into the
sheet of paper, was a wedge, in her world which started crumbling. The
inevitable distance between the name and the object, the inaccessibility
of life, for her wasn't a philosophy. When she wanted to 'extract'
herself out of the word, it wasn't yet another metaphor.
Our preoccupation with words which gave us a sense of uniqueness, for
her was only chaos. Bricks on the path upon which she was pounding along
right in front of us to her ruin.
It would not have helped Michal to know that her existence was carved
into me, that I cannot undo her. She lies in wait for me in bookstores,
lurks in the words I say, or write, she lights up meaningless and the
meaningless of the preoccupation with it, she cries out of the poem 'you
have chosen us of all'.... or 'don't say your essence is from the earth,
it is from he who died instead of you'.... from the massacre in Hebron,
from damn Qalandiya checkpoint, and from the prevalent sentence commonly
reiterated by the soldiers, the oppression, and occupation soldiers:
"they" know... Michal, to me, is a metaphor. The word Michal binds the
sense of no way out, the need to break out, the staleness, the edges of
the past, the lack of choice but to live without answers, the ambiguity
between taste and value. Her hangman, is my walls, my protection. And
she, she isn't anything. I didn't love her, and I wouldn't of loved her
more, had she been alive. I create her in a way which makes her
meaningful, however, she could have been like that as well as different,
depending who tells, depending who listens.