The Almond Tree: A peace proposal

Israel/Palestine
on 22 Comments

A spirited debate has followed Susan Abulhawa’s critical review of Michelle Corasanti’s book, The Almond Tree, originally posted on Aljazeera and reposted on Mondoweiss together with the author’s rebuttal.  Much of the seemingly endless debate relates to issues of my community, the Palestinian citizens of Israel, the group that Ms. Michelle Corasanti says she wanted to bring to the worlds attention through her novel. Let me then try and bring the discussion to some kind of amicable end: In fact I had intentionally stayed above the fray so as not to risk losing favor with either of the two writers that I admire so much. I had read the book and wrote a positive review with several reservations.

The Almond Tree

The Almond Tree

Basically I raised some of the same points that Ms. Susan Abulhawa did. But I did it in a less critical style and with much less intellectual and literary grounding. Let me be quick to admit that I truly admire Ms. Abulhawa both for her literary contributions and national fidelity. In fact I have decided on her newly published poetry collection, My Voice Sought The Wind, for my holiday season’s present to family members and close friends. Susan’s central point in her critique regarding the role of supremacist fiction in perpetuating oppression is, of course, incontestable. And its intellectual validity is independent of the author’s goodwill. Still, since I published my review I have had a chance to correspond with Ms. Corasanti and have no reason to doubt her honest solidarity with the Palestinian community in Israel. In fact, as an aspiring fiction writer myself, I was quick to take advantage of Corasanti’s successful novel in my approaching publishers in the following manner:

“The Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel, a minority of 20% within Israel, stand at the crossroads of hope for peace in the Middle East, their role uncelebrated and their promise untested. As a member of this indigenous group, in this, my first novel, I try to bring our existence to light, to sing out our pleasure and pain, to echo our sense of alienation and dispossession, and to hail our occasional successes and persistent striving for peace.

Michelle Cohen Corasanti’s first novel The Almond Tree (Garnet, 2012) alarmed me the moment I saw its first online review. Not only did I covet its subject matter and its peace, justice and reconciliation focus but also I noted its epic time span. I felt indignant. The good woman stole my thunder. I had been struggling for some dozen years with addressing in fiction form my community’s experience of loss and depravation that came on the heels of the Palestinian Nakba. I had been attempting to depict my lifelong struggle to break out of the dilemma of my schizophrenic identity as a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel (PACI). All through my career I had struggled to put my professional knowhow in the fields of public health and community development to use in the service of my own community and, through that, to promote peace and understanding in the Middle East and throughout the world.

Suddenly, Ms. Corasanti had done exactly that, I first thought. Only after speed-reading the gripping novel did I overcome my alarm and regain my balance: As a member of the community under discussion, I have the inside track, the real life experience, an advantage I should flaunt in my submission. With that I lulled myself back to tranquility. I highly respect Ms. Corasanti’s focus on human rights, her exposure of the suffering of the Palestinian people and her optimistic and reconciliatory outlook. The young author is my perfect enabler, I realized, not my competitor. As a Jewish woman who bears no ill will to her people, she had swept the field for me clean of anti-Semitic landmines. With my equally peace-and-equality-minded manuscript, I should be able to walk the turf safely.

In her novel, Ms. Corasanti scales the dramatic and violent peaks of my community’s experience since the day it came under Israel’s rule. In contrast, in my account, I scan the less confrontational but equally conflicted sociopolitical topography over the same period. And I accord the actual scenery a good amount of attention. The two accounts reinforce and complement each other.”

So, you’ll understand, I have a vested interest in an amicable resolution to the mounting feud between the two inspiring writers: I would love to have blurbs from both on the back of my novel. So, let me put forth my considered proposal for diminishing the tension and lowering the heat of the debate:

First the name of the protagonist, Ichmad. I hated it and took it in my review to be an intentional reference to our (Palestinian citizens of Israel) schizophrenic identity. It turns out that Michelle did not intend that. I can now see were the double mistake came from: The change of the first letter from ‘A’ to ‘I’ is very much village colloquial style that the author says she heard in the Triangle. People in our villages do say ‘Ihmad’ instead of ‘Ahmad.’ The second mistake is in changing the guttural ‘H,’ as in the first letter in my first name, to the German-like “CH” as in the infamous command of “Achtung.” That one is a strictly Ashkenazi problem because of their inability to pronounce the Arabic guttural sound (which is also the original eighth letter of the Hebrew alphabet.) I am not sure if Michelle even picks the acoustic difference because of her Ashkenazi roots. Fortunately, she had indicated that she stands corrected on the mispronounced name of the protagonist and had already rendered it as ‘Ahmad’ in the latest version of her book.

The second point I want to address is that of the orientalist trappings of the wedding scene: I know of a wedding in one of our villages attended by many Jewish bigwigs including Sharon and Peres in which the groom rode on stage on a white charger holding an unsheathed sword high in the air. I borrowed the scene for my own novel. I don’t think such infractions of Palestinian village decency are impossible to find in reality. Choosing them to present to the reader is the issue.

Perhaps this is the place to allude to the justifiably easy but highly significant mistake that Ms. Abulhawa makes in assuming that the protagonist and his family are from the West Bank. Many of the dramatic events in the novel do resemble what we have come to associate with the violence committed in the OPTs. We had similar violence committed against our community but this was mainly in the past and few ever heard of it. Still, putting the narrative in the right context may well soften the edge of the author’s colonialist burden in Abulhawa’s eyes. Who like me knows how compromised our minority community within the Green Line has become. For the uninformed reader, let me explain: In 1948 we were stuck through no choice of ours on the wrong side of the border, a leaderless peasant society one third of which displaced and dispossessed internal refugees. We were placed at the mercy of a draconian military administration and thoroughly infiltrated by an extensive network of informants. Mere survival levied a high price of compromise and subservience. Perhaps that plays into my own willingness to weigh the pros and cons of Ms. Corasanti’s few transgressions in her recounting of our life. As we all know, there are very few internationally audible literary voices speaking on our behalf. So, why risk loosing one such benefactor. I would add that it would be counter intuitive for our community, famed for its generosity in guest receiving and welcome to outsiders, to refuse a friendly gesture from a seemingly innocent outsider even at the risk of permitting her some slip-ups. See how far I would go for the sake of keeping peace in the family of Palestinians and their supporters! Doesn’t that remind you of Emil Habibi’s Pessoptomist?

Let me end by suggesting a way out of the second major objection to The Almond Tree, the fact that it didn’t benefit from the input of a Palestinian editor. I am not a professional editor. Still, I hereby declare my readiness to serve as a sounding board for Michelle’s next novel, which, I am sure, will be forthcoming soon. After all, Khaled Husseini didn’t stop at The Kite Runner.

About Hatim Kanaaneh

Dr. Hatim Kanaaneh is a Palestinian doctor who has worked for over 35 years to bring medical care to Palestinians in Galilee, against a culture of anti-Arab discrimination. He is the author of the book A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel. His collection of short stories entitled "Chief Complaint" will be published in the spring of 2015.

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22 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    December 5, 2013, 10:09 am

    Thanks Hatim. We need all the peace and reconciliation we can find.

    Abulhawa’s comments should be taken, I think, not as an attack on Corasanti herself but on the process Corasanti chose. As you have said. Authors need editors and proof-readers.

    Authors need editors for style, for spelling and grammar, and for more important things like “getting the historical, social, and political descriptions right”, the latter humorously indicated by the Ashkenazi (and, a surprise to me, not the Hebrew) business of spelling “H” words (like “Hamas”, which the American press writes as “Hamas”) with “CH” (like “Chamas” as many Israeli Jews spell it). Or, I suppose one might have used “KH” instead of “CH”.

    Off your topic, but I’ve seen many articles written in English with mistakes that an editor (or proof-reader) might have caught — where the error seems to have crept in because the writer used a computer-transcribed-speech-dictation system and the computer transcribed the speech into the wrong words (although the wrong words were, indeed, correctly spelled and survived “spell-check”).

    Many reasons for editors and proof-readers.

  2. Taxi
    December 5, 2013, 1:56 pm

    Oh come on Michelle, what better offer for an editor are you gonna get?

    Dr. Kanaaneh is one heck of a smart, honest and soulful man. He is your perfect golden shield.

    (Hey Phil – enough already with them Susan V Michelle articles!)

    • W.Jones
      December 5, 2013, 3:41 pm

      Oh come now, Taxi. It’s Rumble in Da Hood, Rock Til Ya Drop
      Michelle Corsanti v. Khatim K. v. Susan A. & Walid & Vlacy
      With all us guys and gals on the sidelines.

      At the end of the day, hopefully Corsanti will follow the advice in Dawud’s white privilege article and try to use and focus on the perspective of the oppressed without getting knocked over when they object, which it says should be foreseen too.

      Hugs for all.

      • Annie Robbins
        December 5, 2013, 7:27 pm

        With all us guys and gals on the sidelines.

        and you’re at the top of that list w.jones, w/over 40 comments on the topic thus far. from someone who has not read the book it’s…staggering!

      • W.Jones
        December 5, 2013, 8:56 pm

        Yes. In order to continue to discuss it, I will read the book at length. It sounds like a good read, no doubt.

  3. gamal
    December 5, 2013, 3:54 pm

    Dr Vlanza reads a book,

    “I became more determined than ever to get Abbas out of Gaza after finding a YouTube clip that showed an expert on white phosphorus explaining how it had been used in Gaza by the Israelis. The Israeli military had been air-blasting the white phosphorus shells, allegedly trying to create a smokescreen near the Jabaliyah camp, the most densely populated place on the planet. But the expert explained that the day on which they attempted this was so incredibly windy that a smokescreen couldn’t be created. Instead, the flaming pellets rained down on this highly populated civilian area.”

    Damn that wind.

    For all the author’s professions of sympathy and rights for the Palestinians, essentially The Almond Tree underscores Orwellian lessons: collaboration is advantageous and resistance is futile; collaboration is warm and fuzzy and resistance is hatred and terrorism; the Israeli soldiers are human beings and Palestinians should take war crimes and crimes against humanity on the chin; Israel is the victim of Palestinian threat to its security”

    link to palestinechronicle.com

    • Chu
      December 5, 2013, 5:12 pm

      from link:
      ‘The exemplary brother, for his compliance with the Israeli status quo, is rewarded with the fulfillment of the American dream; a prestigious university career, holidays on private beaches in Costa Brava and The Hamptons, shopping in Paris, buying convertible Mercedes for nephews, putting family through university and the ultimate reward- a Nobel prize. Just goes to show where collaboration with Israel can lead even if the price is one’s loss of soul.’

      great review. thanks for the link.

      • gamal
        December 5, 2013, 6:32 pm

        I liked that too, we are nothing if not aspirational, Esau is our forebear.

      • Annie Robbins
        December 5, 2013, 11:29 pm

        Just goes to show where collaboration with Israel can lead ….
        great review.

        except nowhere in the book did he did collaborate with israel. unless considering a palestinian citizen of israel in the 60’s attending college in israel qualifies as “collaboration.” and no where in the book does it ever imply resistance is hatred. his “prestigious university career” came in the US where he immigrated in his early 20’s.

        it’s been a while since i’ve read the book, but no where in the book does it ever imply he collaborated with the state. and here’s something else some people might not realize. it’s not uncommon in the least for immigrants in the US who reach success to support and pay for the education of their relatives back home, even when home is palestine. yes, he sent all his money home for years. and if you’re going to begrudge people who reach success to buy their relatives fancy cars are you ready to condemn them all as collaborators w/lost souls, or just the protaganist?

        there was one sentence (or maybe a short paragraph) in the final chapter (a 20 yrs later fast-forward chapter) that describes what he did when he got rich. it said (paraphrasing) ‘holidays on private beaches in Costa Brava and The Hamptons, shopping in Paris, buying convertible Mercedes for nephews, putting family through university’, that took up 3 sentences in the book at the most. and so what, why shouldn’t he do all those things? what’s wrong with a story about a successful palestinian? or are the only palestinians worth writing about the ones who are perpetually suffering? there are lots of successful palestinians in the US. lots of them. it doesn’t make them collaborators.

        there are ample horror stories in the book about israel, israel doesn’t get redeemed in the book.

  4. LeaNder
    December 5, 2013, 5:38 pm

    Almost missed this, Great!!!

    As a Jewish woman who bears no ill will to her people, she had swept the field for me clean of anti-Semitic landmines. With my equally peace-and-equality-minded manuscript, I should be able to walk the turf safely.

    and you are “so sweet”:)

    So, you’ll understand, I have a vested interest in an amicable resolution to the mounting feud between the two inspiring writers: I would love to have blurbs from both on the back of my novel.

    love this!

    The “Achtung” made me laugh out loud.

    One minor point, if I may:

    Perhaps this is the place to allude to the justifiably easy but highly significant mistake that Ms. Abulhawa makes in assuming that the protagonist and his family are from the West Bank. Many of the dramatic events in the novel do resemble what we have come to associate with the violence committed in the OPTs. We had similar violence committed against our community but this was mainly in the past and few ever heard of it.

    Since you know the Galilee and maybe even the 50’s, did Moshav’s indeed have swimming pools at that time? I would assume that at that time, a lot of people had to be integrated and the American type swimming pools may have had to wait for a while. But I do not really know. If I may just one more, what swamps are there, besides the Hula swamp? I found the idea interesting of planting trees into swamps and thus create fertile soil. The plenty of water also makes them grow very fast, if I remember correctly. ;)

  5. Hatim Kanaaneh
    December 6, 2013, 12:03 am

    Thanks so much LeaNder .
    I don’t get your drift about the swamps. But yes, I am from Galilee and I know the 50s. In those years, while attending high school in Nazareth, I spent two summers on different Kibbutzim. The unpaid sojourn was marketed to us as part of the peace and understanding efforts of the Mapam (Marxist Zionist) party. We worked our butts off picking fruit and tending the chicken coops in exchange for getting in those swimming pools with all the bikinied Jewish girls. And in the early 60s when Carmiel was established on our confiscated olive groves it had swimming pools and green lawns before my village had a drinking water network.
    I am a public health specialist and I know a thing or two about water. I spent about half of my career agitating to supply unrecognized Palestinian villages in Israel with it and the other half struggling with the issue of taking the water out from our towns and villages. The problem of disposing of the sewage water was even more difficult than the task of securing a water supply. You see, Jewish settlements were planned and built by the state and its para-statal Jewish organizations (The Jewish Agency, JNF and the like} with all the required infrastructure in place. On the other hand, existing Palestinian communities had to struggle on their own (and with much hindrance and ill will from the system) to graft such modern infrastructure on centuries-old spontaneously configured human habitation. The scene of Palestinian children in Gaza trudging in pools of sewage water on their way to school is not far from what I saw daily in Palestinian villages in Galilee. Except that in our villages the children trudged in puddles and rivulets of sewage. And I am talking about the 80s and 90s. If still unconvinced, order a copy of my book of memoirs.
    That should teach you to ask sensitive questions!

    • LeaNder
      December 6, 2013, 8:36 am

      Thanks Hatim, strictly I absolutely support your approach, not least since you put it so entertainingly. ;)

      And I am talking about the 80s and 90s. If still unconvinced, order a copy of my book of memoirs. That should teach you to ask sensitive questions!

      The discussion around “The Almond Tree” made me go back to your own review, which escaped my attention at the time it was posted. So in a way her book has pulled me back to yours, and I was aware of it, but had forgotten. From there I went back to read some of your articles, realizing a new one is in the works. Finished? I may have noticed that too before, but there you go. Interestingly at least as far as I am concerned her book draws my attention on yours.

      Concerning the swamps, it’s no wonder you couldn’t follow my train of thought, which this question triggered:

      Perhaps this is the place to allude to the justifiably easy but highly significant mistake that Ms. Abulhawa makes in assuming that the protagonist and his family are from the West Bank.

      Michelle doesn’t really help the reader too much to base the narrative mentally inside the “green lines”. Pamela Olson observed that too in her review, where she said a map wouldn’t have been bad, if I remember correctly. If she felt that need, what about the average reader? I knew before I started reading from her response that’s where it is located, I was reading about Palestinian Arab communities inside, the earlier military control system historically. The Galilee is mentioned only in the context of his father’s and uncle’s narratives from before 1948, but there are also quite a few towns mentioned in the larger context of travels. But the Galilee refers to the land and not the cities where he travels, thus i mentally put it there. But strictly refugees anywhere, even the ones in Gaza and the West Bank could tell these type of narratives about the land they had to leave. Why did I mentally situate it in the Galilee? Maybe since I seem to have read somewhere there are quite a few “Arab” communities there.

      But as Pamela has observed you are not given much help to situate the narrative:

      I saw their swimming pool. I moved my telescope to the left and could see across the Jordanian border. Thousands of tents with the letters UN littered the otherwise empty desert. I handed the telescope to Abbas so he could see too. One day I hoped to get a stronger lens so that I could see the refugees faces. But I’d have to wait.

      If you combine the images of refugees and the Jordanian border with swimming pools what do you trigger associatively in people’s mind depending on the their information, may well be the West Bank since that is something you may have heard about. I guess that is why the swimming pools popped up in my mind and since the swimming pools immediately follow the swamps there were in my mind related. I wasn’t even aware that one passage leads straight into the other, when I wrote it.

      When he drives to the Negev to visit his father in prison, Michelle takes great care to not tell us from where he comes from and why and where he has to change the bus several times. I somewhat doubt that the average reader gets the setting and I guess I made a mental leap, since I don’t feel comfortable suggesting that this is deliberate, but yes it has been on my mind. Or if I may, if there are some type of more or less conscious attempts to avoid to clearly situate the tale in a specific place apart from setting it in a specific time.

      Concerning the swamps, this passage admittedly puzzled me:

      They brought strange trees and planted them in the swamps. Right before our eyes, the trees grew fat from drinking the fetid juices. The swamps disappeared and in its place rich black topsoil appeared.

      I saw their swimming pool. I moved my telescope …

      As you see the image immediately changes into the image of the swimming pools, thus enforcing the “making the dessert bloom” imagery. The swamp part is a bit like in a fairytale, isn’t it? If you look into it you could discover that the rich black topsoil may be partly an illusion. Also they don’t even need to drain it? But strictly this is the type of information one would need to look into more closely. But what reader does, and what type of mental images does this type of information leave on people’s minds?

      Also, he never talks with his father about his observations, from whom he learned so much otherwise? Draining was started earlier apparently in the Hula swamps. I don’t know enough about it, but strictly the way she tells it her, is quite in tune with the meta narrative of the enlightened settlers versus the Arab village. Where yes, she also drops the fact in the larger context that “the Arabs” aren’t allowed to dig wells.

      Thus, where she definitively moves a huge step forward is the dispossession*, but the average reader doesn’t have a chance to deal with the type of information she gives, and the average American may well come away with feeling that while it is unfortunate that these people are dispossessed, they are also dispossessed by some type of advanced culture, which he ultimately is allowed to enter.

      But even in this context, the mud houses of the poorer refugees sent me on a mental journey, later it is referred to as mud bricks, just like the woman carrying goods in baskets on their heads, to arbitrarily pick two other images on my mind.

      Oh, something else, the landmines, the fact that the mother knew about the energy of a little girl, twice as much power as both elder boys. But with a house with kids no one ever thought about preventing them from going there? That too leaves at least a trace of, why did they not block the passage for the kid there? Readers work like that. Where indeed landmines used to prevent the access of Palestinians to their fields or groves and that close to their house? (If they only cared about their children, as much as we do)

      OK, now I got a bit unfair again, maybe?

      Why don’t you publish a passage of your book here? I’d be curious. I also hope you’ll find a publisher, I will read it as soon as it is available.

      • Annie Robbins
        December 6, 2013, 9:19 am

        why did they not block the passage for the kid there?

        they had an enclosed courtyard where the rose garden was. that is why the mother gasps when she saw the door to the courtyard left open. the same way a mother who lives in a city might gasp if the front door to the house leading to a busy street was left open, or the gate to a swimming pool. the land mines were planted in their stolen fields beyond the meadow.

      • LeaNder
        December 6, 2013, 10:36 am

        Thanks Annie, I didn’t register, that is why I usually read matters I analyze several times. And yes, I approached it with a certain amount of prejudice maybe? Dramatic opening strictly. Easy to see I am no mother?

        I sent you a fixed link somewhere else. And I now I seriously have to shut up for a while again.

      • Annie Robbins
        December 6, 2013, 12:37 pm

        you don’t have to shut up ;)

  6. Pamela Olson
    December 6, 2013, 2:25 pm

    The only swamp I’m aware of that Israel drained was the Hula Swamp. And it was such a disaster (causing environmental degradation and even some extinctions and damaging an important stopover point for migrating birds) that they ended up filling it in again.

    Has anyone else heard of any other swamp drained by Israel? Or is that simply pure propaganda?

    • Annie Robbins
      December 6, 2013, 5:57 pm

      pam, there’s an article in haaretz ’09 that references ‘swamps’ and specifically “Kabbara Swamp” (i think this is near Jisr Az-Zarka link to en.wikipedia.org )

      link to haaretz.com

      Swamps to be reflooded, 80 years later

      Though the draining of swamps in Israel has long been recalled with fondness, only a few nature activists and scientists have been aware that when Israel’s wetlands disappeared, so did a rich world of flora and fauna.

      …..According to experts, development in Israel has led to the disappearance of more than 90 percent of the country’s lakes, wetlands and seasonal rain pools that are an important source of biodiversity in plant and animal life.

      here’s more about Kabbara swamp (pdf) link to citcem.org

      The inhabitants of Jisr Az-Zarka lived in the Kabbara swamp area for 400 years. They were Bedouin tribes. They knew how to live on water. They earned their living by weaving baskets and breeding buffalos. The swamp, similar to many other places in the world, served as a refuge for the landless. They came to the place over the years from close by; but also from far away, from the Hawran, Egypt, Trans-Jordan and Turkey. The Kabbarah Plain is part of the drainage basin of the Mediterranean. This plain is rich in water springs and high ground water. The streams coalesce together, and bend westward into the sea. At the heart of the plain is the Roman aqueduct, which was part of the water system of neighboring Caesarea. Part of the aqueduct is a tunnel in the belly of Jisr.

      The elongated geomorphologic strips can well be seen also on the surface. This is one of the wettest regions on the coastal plain and many water-sources are present here. It is assumed that also the stratum of the Tethys Sea is locked at the depth of the cross-section. In 1923 the inhabitants of the swamp experienced an unexpected change. As part of the Zionist project of reclaiming swamps, the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (PICA) proposed the inhabitants to evacuate the swamp. In return there were given privately owned lands – the remains of the Roman quarry on the sand stone hill. PICA employed them in the reclamation of the swamp because of their alleged resistance to malaria mosquitoes, and as a replacement of the Jews who got Malaria. Turning from swamp inhabitants into land owners was a dramatic change. They were also employed now as laborers in the fields of the Jewish plantations nearby.

      ….On the north, parallel to the development of the river reserve, fences were built around the reserve, and the fish pools of the neighboring Kibbutz Maagan Michael. The land between the village and the beech was declared a reserve, partly a national park. That meant that the area belongs to the state, and the inhabitants cannot use it. Their linkage to the sea is blocked to them by law. In 2003 another 8 meters high fence was built on the south of the village, between the inhabitants and Caesarea – the richest villas area in the country. The argument is that the music which is played in wedding festivities disturbs the inhabitants of Caesarea. The separation-wall is made of layers of huge quantities of red loam, which was spread on the dunes.
      Jisr Az-Zarka is imprisoned by all the possible known techniques and the main entry is under the by-passing road and is too narrow for buses to enter. The village’s 13,000 inhabitants organize their own transportation to the rest of the country.

      • LeaNder
        December 7, 2013, 6:30 am

        Annie, here is the larger context.

        State Lands and Rural Developments in Mandatory Palestine, 1920-1948. The Athlit, Kabbara and Caesarea Concessions. Words and contexts.

        I have arrived at the encounter with Nora by now. But this also means I passed a passage which alludes to the fact that the military control system that was abolished for Palestinians in Israel in 1966, when he doesn’t need permits anymore, shifted to the West Bank after the war. Thus I was wrong in the above. Although the place still remains slightly floating:

        The military rule over our village has ended in 1966 and we were no longer subject to curfews. Now, the military ruled the West Bank and Gaza. The tents across the border in the refugee camp in the West Bank were gradually being converted into a warren of concrete walls and corrugated tin roofs. We could hear bulldozers and gunfire during the day. The nights were quiet, as the people were locked down by the curfew.

        Notice above he observed the camps “to the left “across the Jordanian border”, now he seems to observe the camps in the West Bank. How heavy was the destruction in the West Bank, Gaza and inside the green lines?

        I have arrived in the America by now. Nora is as Susan suggested an interesting, and as Michelle admits hyper-idealized character. Associatively indeed brings the treatment of gender to mind. The portrayal of the mother and Amani for instance.

      • LeaNder
        December 7, 2013, 6:42 am

        I don’t correct the link, you have to scroll back to page 117 or access it via the contents page.

        So now, I today I finish reading it. And then Susan’s, Hatim will follow, so I will indeed shut up for a while.

  7. Kate
    December 6, 2013, 4:53 pm

    Pabelmont: ‘Authors need editors for style, for spelling and grammar, and for more important things like “getting the historical, social, and political descriptions right”, the latter humorously indicated by the Ashkenazi (and, a surprise to me, not the Hebrew) business of spelling “H” words (like “Hamas”, which the American press writes as “Hamas”) with “CH” (like “Chamas” as many Israeli Jews spell it). Or, I suppose one might have used “KH” instead of “CH”. ‘

    The ‘h’ situation is a bit more complicated than that. Arabic has three separate consonants that could be loosely considered a kind of H. English has one; Modern Hebrew, to my knowledge, has two.

    All three languages have the kind used in English, as in ‘here’, ‘house’, or ‘ahead’. Examples of Arabic words with that ‘h’, known as haa’ ه, are ‘huwa’, “he”, ‘hunaa’ “here”, ‘Allaah’ “God”, and ‘nahr’ “river’. This ‘h’ is not particularly common in Arabic.

    Much more common is Haa’ ح , which does not exist in English, or as far as I know, in modern Hebrew either. Examples of Haa’ words: ‘Hubb’ “love”, ‘MuHammad’, masiiH “messiah”, as well as ‘Hamas’, mentioned above.

    The third h-like sound in Arabic is khaa’ خ , as in ‘khubz’ “bread’, ‘intikhaab’ “election’, ‘shaykh’ “sheikh”. That is the one closest to the ‘ch’ in Scottish ‘loch’, or, I think, to the Hebrew ‘ch’ in Chanukkah.

    Note that the Arabic Haa’, as in Hamas or MuHammad, is not like any sound in either English or Modern Hebrew. For this reason, English pronounces these words with its only ‘h’, as in ‘house’. Hebrew uses its ‘ch’ sound. Neither sounds remotely like the Arabic sound.

    • LeaNder
      December 7, 2013, 6:46 am

      Kate, wouldn’t it be great we could use phonetic symbols in comments? I had that problem in the context of African American Vernacular, which an astonishing amount of enlightened Americans pretended to not understand, that was before they started to hear words they wanted to hear. In that context I had trouble to do what I could have done with these symbols much more easily.

      But thanks, although pretty hard to remember maybe for nitwits like me. ;)

    • MahaneYehude1
      December 7, 2013, 7:02 am

      @Kate:

      Few corrections, please:

      This ‘h’ (like in “Hunna” is not particularly common in Arabic

      This ‘h’ is common in Arabic, it is the letter ة like in the word هي (She).

      Much more common is Haa’ ح , which does not exist in English, or as far as I know, in modern Hebrew either.

      This letter (ח) does exist in modern Hebrew as well as in ancient Hebrew like in חבר (“Haver” – “friend”).

      …or, I think, to the Hebrew ‘ch’ in Chanukkah

      No, Hanukkah is written and sound like the H in MuHammad or in Ana BaHibek (“I love you”), not like the Kh in SheiKH or Ch in Scottish Loch. if you want Hebrew example with خ, you can use the words מכונית (car) or מכון (Institution).

      Note that the Arabic Haa’, as in Hamas or MuHammad, is not like any sound in either English or Modern Hebrew. Hebrew uses its ‘ch’ sound.

      No, in modern Hebrew we say the Haa’ like in Hamas or MuHammad exactly like the Arabs. Indeed, there are very old Jewish Ashkenazi people that use the Ch and say Chamas, for instance. Most Israelis don’t use it anymore.

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