RECOLLECTION

 


The corner where the blue car is parked

faces the house of my grandparents.

The car was the taxi owned by Ahmad Farraj

my grandmother’s relative.

It sits by the corner built of limestone

I liked leaning my back into it as a child.

It is where my grandfather sat

with his small transistor radio in the summer afternoon.

Above us the sand martins

would fly in and out of the windows

of the abandoned house on the second floor.

I still hear their sound filling the sweet air.

My uncle Mahmoud walking in Ajami neighborhood;

it was probably a Sunday morning

on his way back to the hospital.



The woman at the window is the neighbor, Emily Madbak.

She was born in Gaza to a family from Jaffa. 


The old man at the cafe door is Issa Khimel.

His father was hanged in the Clock Square

by the Turks for spying for the British

together with two other people;

one of them was a priest.

His daughter Labibe stands at the window above the cafe.

The man in the white jacket is a Polish barber.


The man with the sunglasses is

El Imam, who always sat in El Binni cafe.

He was married to Ane.

Her sister Karkura didn’t talk to her.


A group of men standing below a balcony.

The one in the yellow shirt

is Abu George Shibli.

His boat once grazed the rocks in Jaffa’s port.

The sea was high.


The girl with the schoolbag could have been my mother.


The grand red house overlooking the sea

is the house where Ibrahim Bilbesi

and his son Hussein, my grandfather,

sought shelter after the war.

They stayed there for two months

until the army came and forced them to leave.


My mother was born in the house

with the cement stairs.

Their neighbors were

Sasien

Rantisi

Qubti

Tamam

El Ashqar


Ahmad Farraj was a kind man, he always drove my mother to El Areesh.

He was married to Margo, a Kurdish Jew from Iraq.

They had two children, a son living in Tel Aviv and

a daughter living in Jaffa.

I never met them.

Ahmad had a brother in Lebanon

that he never saw again.


My uncle Mahmoud walking in Ajami neighbourhood;

it was probably a Sunday morning

on his way back to the hospital again.



There is another red house, with a balcony. 

I once made love on the first floor.

On my last day, during my last visit,

I walked by the house.

I stopped because I saw a German film crew

repeating a scene:

a young woman stands at the door,

she is received by a woman her age

who seems surprised to see her,

then a man comes out of the door

and walks towards her.

They kiss passionately.


It was 9 in the morning

a quiet Sunday morning,

I was walking back from the port.

I passed by my grandparents’ house

then walked across the street

and passed by Emily’s house

where the window is.

Now the room has no roof

and the window has metal bars.

She still lives in the house.


I passed by the street, passing several doors,

I could recognize them all from the picture.

I stopped and thought I should take a picture

to remember the names written on the doors:

Shibli Family

Samaan Kasasfe

The next door had no name

but only a poster of a springtime scene.

A man saw me stopping

and walking back to take a picture.


„A picture lasts longer than a human being“


The streets of my childhood

and my adolescence.

The street behind Angel Hamati’s house

where the mosque is.

The stairs leading to the water tower.


Zaki Khimel tells me it is he

who is standing at the window

and not his sister Labibe.

I remember it was 4 in the morning

when I looked out of the window

to see a film crew filming.

Raafat Tawash

Ahmad Shukarno

He worked at sea

and was married to Raafat’s sister.

Ali Hattab

Ahmad Levi

He called himself Levi to find work in Tel Aviv.


Tursina

He is the tallest man in Jaffa.


Ibrahim El Binni

A little girl, Diana or Rima.



------


AN UNUSUAL SUMMER 




Once there was a fig tree
that we cannot see
in front of a house
that is not our house
and there was a garden
with the giant fig tree

As a child I spent summers
climbing the fig tree
filling straw baskets with green figs
big as apples

My sister was more courageous
than me

Our bodies itching from the fig leaves


My uncle Issa came back one day
I overheard that the Red Cross

allowed him to visit his mother.

It was a hot summer
perhaps August
he spent every day in the garden
cleaning and digging

around the fig tree

Before he left, he engraved my name
on the fig tree

Years later the bulldozers came
uprooted the garden and the tree

I stood there
my father arrived in his car
It was too late

I never tasted figs again
...

I was coming back from school
A relative stood at our door
she didn’t want me to come in


I understood
my grandmother had passed away

A woman with short dyed blond hair
disappeared
she was a criminal;
she ran off

with my grandmother’s gold

and her son’s ring

Inscribed on the ring was his name

“Musa”
he was her eldest son
he went to Beirut

and later died there
This was before 1948

My grandmother lost her mind

when she lost her ring

She went to the local shop
several times a day
to buy bread

The shopkeeper loved to sing
he sang a song
every time someone came in

he was born in the Galilee,
and he loved his wife Marie

from Ramle.

In 2018 his grandson was shot
in front of him
by a gang

The entire town mourned him
...


In 1967 my father drove his car
to the refugee camp in Jericho
he was looking for his brother Issa
hoping to bring him back to Ramle.

He found the camp, he was not there

“I stayed there for 3 days
waiting, and waiting

hoping he will come back,
I ran after chickens to have

something to [TH1] eat”

He was six years old
when his country was occupied

his family was resettled

in this house
It’s unfinished to this day

His neighborhood was named
the Ghetto.

My father had strong arms,
he collected cactus

with his bare hands

He collected cactus

to make a living
as a child after the war
with his friend Hanna

I was born in the Ghetto.
When I visit
I don’t take taxis home
not even from the airport
I don’t want to say

“Take me to the Ghetto”

I don’t like my family taking me
to the airport either

Once we were stopped
at the airport checkpoint
armed men took our IDs
we waited endlessly for no reason

My father stayed in the car.

As we drove away he said
“It’s not our country anymore”
...


My father and my mother met

at the fair
just behind the fig tree

they married on the rooftop
overlooking the fig tree

The night of their wedding
the band played a song

for Palestine


My father was arrested


He was released the same night.

---

My father smoked cigarettes
and played magic tricks
he could chew and swallow lit buds
and pretend they were gone

He opened his mouth

the cigarette is gone
He opened his mouth again

the cigarette is between his teeth

A game he loved to play



-----