A journalist and novelist’s sharp-eyed take on his life as a Hebrew-speaking Palestinian in Jerusalem.
In this collection of columns for Haaretz, a weekly Israeli newspaper, Kashua (Israel Studies/Univ. of Illinois; Second Person Singular, 2012, etc.) illuminates the condition of Palestinians in Israel by offering humorous, and at times painful, anecdotes about his own life. In the opening essay, the author establishes the satiric tone that characterizes the text, poking fun at himself as “a chronic liar [and] gossip” by assuming the voice of his long-suffering wife. Kashua then goes on to detail the inconveniences that his family suffers as ethnic and religious minorities in Jerusalem. Believers in a bicultural, bilingual Israel, the author and his wife found their ideals under constant siege. In “High Tech,” for example, he describes an outing with his young daughter when he told her she could speak Arabic “everywhere, anytime [she] want[ed], but not at the entrance to a mall,” which was protected by heavily armed Israeli security guards. His deeper anxieties about being a minority are apparent in such essays as “Taking Notice.” There, he tells the story of a sign he put up at the all-Jewish apartment complex where he and his upwardly mobile family moved. The possibility of not being accepted by his neighbors bothered him so much that he worried incessantly about everything, including whether he was using proper Hebrew phrases and handwriting techniques. Yet the careful moderation he practiced while living in a country hostile to Palestinians offered him neither peace nor safety from either “Israelis who hurl accusations of betrayal and disloyalty…[or] Arabs who hurl accusations of betrayal and segregation.” Eventually, Kashua and his family moved to the United States, where they faced “another type of society and the inevitable acclimatization problems.” By turns funny, angry, and moving, Kashua’s "dispatches" offer revealing glimpses into the meanings of family and fatherhood and provide keen insight into the deeply rooted complexities of a tragic conflict.
A wickedly ironic but humane collection.