“Hi, baba,” I heard a student say on his phone while we were in line for coffee. I turned my head carefully to check out who the Arabic speaker was. That’s how it is with me: When I hear Arabic I absolutely have to see who’s talking, catch a quick glimpse – because that way I can classify the person by country of origin, economic status, religion and sexual preference. To hear Arabic is a kind of marvel, but I’m pretty sure I’d turn my head if I heard Hebrew, too. There’s something bewitching about hearing familiar languages in unexpected places.
The Arab student, who looked more like an American high-school kid, spoke only the word “baba” in Arabic. The rest of the conversation was in the fluent English of someone who was born and raised in the United States of America. Children of immigrants have this thing where they only address their parents in the language of their country of origin, and all the rest is spoken in the local lingo. But what caught my eye about the student was the pendant dangling from the chain he wore around his neck. I had to look again to make sure: It was in fact a pendant in the shape of Israel.
“Excuse me,” I said in English to the student, who by now had completed his call. “Can I please ask what that pendant is?” (Naturally I didn’t know the word “pendant” in English, so I pointed to it and instead of “that pendant” said “this”.)
“Oh,” the student replied. “This is the map of Palestine.” Smiling, he rotated the pendant-map to show the other side. It was painted in the colors of the Palestinian flag.
I’d never before seen a map-shaped pendant. I know people who express their national feelings by wearing old Palestinian house keys as around their necks, or pendants in the form of Handala, the Palestinian child refugee who looks at the world with his hands crossed behind his back – he’s a regular figure in the illustrations of the late cartoonist Naji al-Ali.
When I got to the office, I did a search for “map of Palestine + jewelry” and found an abundance of sites that offer maps of Palestine in the form of pendants, earrings and bracelets in a range of sizes and prices. A search for “map of Israel + jewelry” turned up similar results, including a range of such jewelry on the same sites that sell the Palestine versions. The two maps are identical apart from one difference: The Israel-map-shaped jewelry has a protrusion on its upper-right section to represent the Golan Heights.
For a moment I thought about how I would draw the contours of the country’s map if I had to. Immediately there came to mind the unmistakable shape that’s engraved in my memory: the shoreline, the Haifa protrusion, the curvature below, the straight line of the Negev-Sinai border and the pointed tip of Eilat, and on the other side Lake Kinneret, the Jordan River and the Dead Sea – which no longer resembles its standard image on maps. When I actually tried to draw the map quickly without thinking, that’s what I got, and I was happy to discover that I hadn’t included the Golan Heights.
Although I am familiar with the shapes of a few countries, such as the Italian boot, and with the African continent and even Jordan – from watching so much Jordanian television in my childhood – it’s only the map of this land that I can draw accurately, with such details as the lakes and the Haifa protrusion.
In the past, all the maps we saw in primary school had a broken red line to demarcate the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; over the years that line gradually disappeared from both maps and consciousness. It’s a reasonable assumption that a Palestinian child, if asked to sketch the map, would produce one that’s amazingly similar to what a Jewish Israeli child would come up with. And both of them will do it naturally, without thinking about the political implications, the UN partition plan or the two-state solution versus the one-state idea.
I can’t imagine a Palestinian, even at the height of the Oslo era, succeeding in drawing an accurate map of the West Bank, together with another small, separate part representing Gaza. And it’s hard to make a piece of jewelry out of a two-part map; that’s a shape that would never be engraved in the national consciousness.
I scrolled through the sites that came up when i searched for map jewelry, and laughed when I came to a photograph of Eyal Golan, the popular Mizrahi singer, who was wearing a pendant amazingly similar to the one worn by the young student of Palestinian origin. A close-up showed that his pendant includes the heights whose name he bears.
While the single state does not yet formally exist, on the maps – as in the images and the consciousness of Israelis and Palestinians – there is in fact one entity that is ruled by one state.
I don’t always understand left-wing Israelis who talk about the dangers that will arise in the event the one-state solution is realized. It’s one state now – ask any jeweler. Left-wingers who are fearful for the future of democratic Israel once the partition plan is shelved – as though it hasn’t already been shelved – and Israel becomes an apartheid state, are ignoring reality. They prefer to go on drawing in their consciousness the broken red line that no longer exists. They talk about the abyss into which the country is sliding because of the government’s policy, as though we aren’t already deeply mired inside that abyss. They are afraid of the day when privileged, sane people will become fed up with that policy and choose to abandon the country, if they have that option, leaving it in the hands of the extreme messianics, who will eradicate democracy, as if democracy hasn’t already been eradicated. They still prefer to think that you can rule another people and also be a democracy.
But there is one state, of rulers and ruled; one state in which there are different degrees of freedom and of human and civil rights, according to your ethnic origins. There’s no point talking about the fear of the day when one state will be established. It’s already one state. Ask any jeweler.
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