The Quiet Revelations Lost in the Loud Chatter About Israel and Iran

The Middle East, for its observers, is theater. A place of smoke and mirrors, as many a foreign journalist is fond of saying. It’s more sorry fate than cultural disposition. In coveted lands, conspiracies tend to thrive and, alas, everybody, inside and out, wants a piece of us.

So, we Arabs, from a very tender age, are conditioned to believe that what we see is almost always a lie, shadowplay, the purpose of which is to hide something sinister.

Your Jabalia Could Have Been Our Jambalaya

Joye Vailes Shepperd–Vailes to me since we were teenagers–is my best friend. We met in high school when I joined Holton-Arms in my junior year. She was an old timer and a senior, with all the comforts and familiarities that come with that; I was new, with all the discomforts and unease that attach to this.

Ever since those early days, she and I have been each other’s whisperers, editors, advocates, and critics–constant conversationalists across the spectrum of time and life.

Other People’s Voices

Every once in a while the heart falls silent and a pause imposes itself.

At such moments, I find respite in curating other people’s voices.

First, there is the fact that becomes truth:

In a Haaretz interview, Nathan Thrall, certainly one of the most astute and sensitive observers of Israel and Palestine, distilled the essence of the dilemma now–for both Israelis and Palestinians.

“We Miss White Bread”

Her name is Mariam. Why is she upset, the journalist asks. Life is very hard, she explains. Za’atar (thyme) is all they eat. Her father recently left for heaven, and they are stranded in a school, she and her brother.

And then the tears. “We have nothing. We miss bread…white bread.”

Who will rebuild life anew from the wreckage of Mariam’s childhood? From the ruins of her sisters’ and brothers’ in Palestine, in Syria, in Lebanon, Sudan, Yemen, Libya…?

The Gaza Syndrome

October! The usual change of seasons and its darting dizzy spells. A few days and they will dissipate, I said to myself. But they stayed for weeks, then months.

The doctor said it could be the crystals in my left ear. My sister’s problem since her teens, would you believe? What would make them misbehave with me now, I wondered?

Can This Israel Survive In the Glare of The Day?

Hagar Brodutch and her three children were among the Israelis who were taken hostage by Hamas on October 7, and later released in the exchange of captives in November. She and her kids were held in an apartment somewhere in the North of Gaza. As Israel pounded away all around her, she started to grapple with the twin-truths of the October attack:

In Lebanon, We Wait As We Watch

We hear it in whispers and see it everywhere in screaming headlines. In major crises, public news and the very quiet chatter in the corridors of power rarely agree. But this time, between them, there is hardly any daylight.

Dare We Look Forward?

As an excruciatingly painful 2023 folds, the unavoidable question: dare we look forward?

How can we not? And inevitably, for many of us, hand in hand with every private fear and aspiration comes the collective one. The private and public realms are just that intertwined in this Arab life.

Every time I see her, I am stricken by an all-engulfing sadness made even more unbearable by her helplessness and ours, her family, before afflictions that won’t abate. When we are together, most times there is hardly any emotion on display beside outward love–no tears and scenes, no curses and furies, no visible laments. But always, there’s the ever-present whisper: ya haram. Mercy! I know that my three siblings feel and whisper the same.

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