So this time, Michal introduces us to Yonatan Kunda, after she came across his play and was impressed by it. Yonatan’s play was published in a collection of plays about coexistence. It’s a fascinating monograph called “Jewish-Arab Encounters in Daily Life” consisting of plays that won a competition. Yonatan was born in 1986. He is a poet and a musician. A founding member of the Jaffa multilingual rap band ‘System Ali.’ He wrote his first book of poetry, ‘Preconditions’ with the poet Muhammad Aguani (2012, Mitan Publishing.) His second book of poems, ‘The Crack Will Shine,’ winner of the Akum and Goldberg awards, was published by Helicon-Afik (2018). Yonatan has written and performed in a few plays and spoken word performances. He also teaches poetry – spoken and written – to young people and I highly recommend you watch this ‘Kan 11’ video clip to understand who Yonatan is. The video is titled: The Languages of Peace

Michal brings us a snippet from Yonatan Kunda’s play, ‘The Orange Tree’ (written in Hebrew, Arabic and French, p. 9)

The play is about two friends, both born in Jaffa, who find themselves handcuffed to an orange tree in the yard of the old police station in the city and are questioned by the officer on duty, Eli, also born in Jaffa.

Eli: I was born in Tapuach. Tapuach street. That is, I was born in Baghdad. But…you can say that I was born, really born, in Jaffa, Tapuach street. Do you know it? Do you know what it is? We once had an outing in Jaffa on a Saturday, my wife and I, and we got to Yefet street. And suddenly my wife stops and says to me, “what’s this Eli?” let’s go back, I’m afraid. Who would believe that you grew up here?” she says to me.  Because you know what’s going on there these days? A ghetto. Seriously. Once we would’ve called it a safari. Harlem. Do you know what Harlem is? Worse. These days, I keep clear. There’s no way I’d go there. Maybe in uniform, with a weapon. But once…there wasn’t much there. Listen, we were the only Jewish family left there. All the Bulgarians lived on the other side in Sderot Yerushalaim. But us, they put in Tapuach. It was a big house. A long hall. And a kitchen. We all shared the kitchen, four families. Ourselves, and three Arab families. And there was a big yard. Where we used to play, all the kids. And the yard was surrounded by a stone fence. Sharp sandstone. And on the other side of the wall there was Yosef’s kiosk – Yosef, who no one knew if he was a Jew or an Arab. He sold candy in both languages.

One time, we wanted to go buy candy without our mothers finding out. All the kids climbed the fence and jumped to the other side. They called me to join them. Eli, ya abu-Eli – that’s what they used to call me – taal taal – you know what taal is in Arabic? Come on, come on. Like ‘get up’ for us…they were all bigger than me. I was the little one. And I was afraid to climb the fence. I wasn’t afraid of the height. I was afraid of my mother. That she’d catch me. But the kids shouted to me taal abu-Eli, taal. So I climbed. I reached the top, and was about to go down, but…it looks like one of the stones crumbled under my foot, and I slipped, with my face to the wall, all the way down. And when I got up I saw I was bleeding. I was bloody all over. My lip was cut deeply. My whole mouth was blood, and I remember how Ali, the neighbor’s boy, as soon as he saw me, took some dirt – a big chunk of sand – and put it on my lip where it was bleeding – ‘ashan el-dam’ he said. I remember like yesterday the fear in his eyes and the taste of blood. The blood and sand together became like a mud, bitter and salty. And I cried. I didn’t care about the kids. I cried, and the blood wouldn’t stop. I don’t remember what happened next. All I know is that after that day I stopped speaking Arabic. Like I forgot it all at once. Not with my father, not with my mother. Not with Yosef the candy seller, and not with Ali. And not with any of the neighbors’ kids. To this day.

Ran: What an all-time low. (The situation) I’ve never seen a jailhouse from the inside. Only in American movies. I love American movies. That is, I find them terrible, but you can’t not want to be in them…in any case, people like me aren’t supposed to see jailhouses from the inside, at least not in real life. Where I come from, according to ‘education tracking’ of someone like me, maybe you’d see a holding cell as a lawyer or doctor, or maybe a social worker…on the other hand, growing up in Jaffa ‘from a good family,’ that’s its own kind of jail. Believe me, a very large jail, comfortable enough to live in and forget that it’s a prison…but in fact, you are guarded day and night from…anything that isn’t you. What’s a ‘good family?’ So, not that we’re rich, that is, my parents have money, but…all my life I was a little embarrassed, I tried to hide it from the other kids…as though to prove that it says nothing about me…in any case, there’s no doubt that this is rock-bottom. I wasn’t expecting this. On the other hand, what’s wrong with a low point? That is to say, what’s so great about a high point? Being so rich that you have so much, and you can’t see what’s missing. You can drown in plenty. At least at your lowest, the bottom is uncovered. Like at sea – at low tide, the sea has nowhere to hide…you can see all the dead corals, the small pools with the seaweed and the crabs. Everything that the plenty swallows and conceals. So, what can I see now?

When a big wave comes towards you, there’s nowhere to run, you can only dive under it. I once ran away from home and left no message, I walked for hours on the beach, I didn’t go home for a week. I was with Yonas…he’s the only one who knows…my stormy depths. It’s like God put a black flag [signifying Do Not Swim] on my head and there’s no lifeguard. But Yonas, it’s enough for him to look me in the eyes, and he understands…he knows these vortexes. It’s like at sea, if you enter a vortex you can’t fight it – you must let it sweep you away and pray that it lets you out on the other side. And so, on my birthday, Yonas and I walked on the beach at night. Out of nowhere, someone came towards us…and suddenly…I don’t know what happened…here we are. That is to say, we drank a lot…all I remember is Yonas picking up a stone…the noise of the waves…I saw it coming. We were swept away. I was quiet…I just wanted to continue walking…but where would we go now? Tied to a tree. Who would look for me now? My father? My uncle? Who even knew that I was here? Who would even think to look for me at the jailhouse?

Yonas: When someone casually says to me ‘sababa’ [ok] it drives me crazy. It’s like they’re saying sababa but mean to stay leave me alone, not now. If only you knew what sababa means in Arabic.  Sababa is ‘huv shadid.’ Love, strong, deep…a love for someone so strong that your heart bursts from missing them…even when they’re right in front of you.

Once, Ran told me that in Hebrew you say ‘kisufim’ (yearning.) Is that what you mean officer, when we’re tied here to this tree and you go get yourself a cup of coffee and you say sababa to me? That you actually yearn for me? I’m sure that you’re longing to do all kinds of things to me (makes fists). I live in words. Since I was born. Inside them. In between words. In the chasm between words. In Arabic you say, ‘kalam fi kalam.’ Words within words. Which means to talk a lot, too much, and not say enough. That’s my problem. I hear words, and each word is a world. And I can’t ignore it. That’s what happened last night. We went down to the beach, beneath the old city. For the birthday, we drank a lot, and then we went for a swim. And then when…he came, I told him to leave us alone…and he said to me, ‘yinal dink.’ ‘di-nk.’ And I knew that the guy was toasted, that he didn’t understand what he was saying…but I couldn’t ignore it. In any case…people continue to say sababa. Maybe a hundred times a day. Maybe it means that everything here is full of longing…in Jaffa – there’s no room in the homes anymore, it’s all taken up by the yearning. People, without even knowing why, they yearn. Tied to trees in handcuffs of longing. When I’m quiet, I understand. I’m understood. Ran understands me…he understands me. The police is abandoning this crumbling station to put up a boutique hotel instead. I swear that it’s written: ‘exclusive boutique hotel in authentic Ottoman building.’ Picture this in a few years, this place is going to be full of French, Belgian, American and Japanese tourists…and they’ll be taking drinks out of the mini-bar and opening the window – as if it was never covered in rusty bars – and look straight to the sea. They’ll never know that we were here, tied to an orange tree. Here in Arabic is ‘hon.’ But ‘hon’ in Hebrew means a lot of money. And all my life I’m thirsty, and so I ask the officer for some water. And he says sababa.  And goes to make himself an cup of Arabian black coffee. 

مارشا: قصة عن المعاناة والكراهية والحب

خلفية القصة: مر ما يقارب العشرين عامًا منذ حدوث القصة، لكنها لا تزال تعيش بداخلي. في تلك الفترة، كنت ناشطةً في أنشطة السلام في نابلس وكنت شريكَةً في تأسيس منظمة “وجهًا لوجه” بدعم من المنظمة الدولية “الناس من أجل الناس”. أقمنا أنا ورويدة مجموعات للحوار بين الفلسطينيين واليهود. ولدت الفكرة من خلال محادثة أجريتها مع مدرس بوذي اقترح أن نقيم مجموعات تشاركية ونناقش قضية تحول المعاناة الإنسانية.

الموضوع الاساسي الذي طُرحَ كان عن معاناة الفلسطينيين واليهود من الاحتلال وكان هدفنا تحويل المعاناة إلى حب. قمنا بعمل مجموعات تضم 30 مشاركًا، نصفهم يهودي ونصفهم فلسطيني، وعقدنا دورات عبارة عن ورشات عمل، كل دورة منهم تستغرق ثلاثة ايام. كان اليهود يصلون بالحافلة ويتم استضافتهم في منازل المشاركين الفلسطينيين. كانت الضيافة العائلية عنصرًا أساسيًا للغاية خلال أيام ورشات العمل، عندما كان يسمع جيران المضيفين أن يهوديًا يقيم معهم، كانوا يأتون ويشاركون معاناتهم معهم، وأعربوا عن أملهم في السلام، حتى خارج قاعة الورشة.

في احدى ورش العمل حدث ما يلي: كان من بين المشاركين في المجموعة شاب يهودي خدم في نابلس أثناء خدمته العسكرية، وكان هناك أيضًا شاب فلسطيني (في نفس جيل الجنود) حيث كان ناشطًا في حماس. كان الرجلان يتحدثان معًا. تحدث كل منهم عن مغامراته في نابلس – روى الفلسطيني كيف ركض على الأسطح ورشق الجنود بالحجارة، وروى اليهودي كيف كان يطارد الأولاد كجندي … نحن كموجهين، شاهدنا كلاهما يرويان قصصهم بضحك وشغف. في نهاية المشاركة رأيناهم يتعانقون بحرارة …

في المرحلة الختامية عند تلخيص ورشة العمل، طلبنا من المشاركين مشاركتنا التجارب التي مروا بها. قال الفلسطيني المشارك إنه اكتشف مدى قوة ألم الكراهية. وأضاف أنه الآن لا يشعر بالكراهية تجاه شريكه اليهودي، هو يشعر بالحب وأنه لم يعد على استعداد للشعور بالكراهية، اليوم هو على استعداد للمحبة فقط. عندما روى قصته على المشاركين انفجر بالبكاء من الألم الذي كان مخزنا بداخله. كما كان المشارك اليهودي ايضا متأثرا ومتحمسًا وشارك مشاعر الصداقة والتفهم العميق تجاه شريكه في اللقاء، وتجاه كراهيته وكراهية أصدقائه.

واصل الشاب الفلسطيني المشاركة في ورشات العمل التالية، انفصل من حماس وعرّف نفسه بأنه رجل سلام وممثل سلام. وكان يكرر ويحكي عن التحول الذي مر به من الكراهية إلى المحبة.

بعد فترة، مع نشوب الانتفاضة الثانية (عام 2000)، لم نستمر في عقد ورشات العمل، خشينا أن تثار الكراهية مرة أخرى ويصبح من الصعب ان نلتقي. بعدها وصلت رسالة عبر البريد إلكتروني من الرجل الذي تحدثتُ عنه وكتب فيه لنا: لا تقلقوا، لم أنس المحبة.