Hawiyya

Oct. 27th, 2015 04:00 pm
ajnabieh: Protesters in Times Square, holding a banner reading "New York To Gaza" in front of a neon McDonalds. (gaza)
هوية - hawiyya (n): essence, nature; co-essentiality, consubstantiality; identity; identity card


(From the Hans Wehr dictionary of modern Arabic)


Bethlehem in August.  Marhaba, I say to the man in the cell phone store.  Hal 'aindak SIM card?

Yes, I have, he says.  Passport?

Oh.  I left it in my hotel.  So I can come back.

Yes, he says, then, wait.  You have…he struggles for the word.  Hawiyya?

Eh, I say, yes, I have hawiyya.  Min Kanada, eh?

Eh, he says, and takes my drivers' license to be copied.

***

We used to travel on our hawiyya, my research assistant says, as we lock our passports (hers Canadian, mine American) into the hotel safe in Beirut.  Once, we were coming here to see family, and the Syrians--it was the Syrians at the airport then--the Syrians stopped us as we were passing through.  They argued and shouted with my father and then, the soldier, he threw the hawiyya across the floor, away from us, to go pick them up.  I was young.  I just remember the shouting.

We traveled on our Canadian passports after that,
she says, and laughs, because it isn't funny.

***

You know, I had limits on what I can do, says the professor, screening her film footage, working through theory for us.  When I was collecting the data.  I still have the hawiyya, you know.

***

At the activist meeting, I am listening to two members of the group I study talking.  An older woman recounts being shouted at by someone attending the event she was protesting.  The first thing he asked you is where you're from, the other activist said.  Like a solider! Hawiyya!

She shrugged.  He doesn't need to know the whole story.

***

I am twenty three and in a service between Bethlehem and Qalandiya checkpoint.  A knot of soldiers appear on the road, stop the service.  Hawiyya, they say.  When I and the other women in the service reach for our purses, they say, bas al-shabaab.  Seeing I'm unclear, seeing the blue passport between my fingers, they say, just the young men.  My passport stays in my bag.  We all stay in the service.  We continue to Bethlehem. 

***

It takes three tries for the scanner in the cell phone shop to copy my license.  The owner cuts the card to fit my iPhone, puts the credit on, takes my forty shekels.  He hands me back the extra copies at the end.  For you, he says, and puts my hawiyya in my hands. 

***

(eh - 'yes' in colloquial Arabic.  Any puns with the Canadian 'eh' are accidental but hilarious.)

(service - shared taxi, pronounced ser-VEES.)

***

(hello yes, this is me trying to get back into blogging, how ya doin')

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