Sometimes I really struggle not to be political. But somehow, it feels as if this is something part of which I am, that eventually comes from where I am.
The whole issue of identity, remains, a cornerstone in what makes one a Palestinian. I often think if it is just us Palestinians, being under occupation and deprived from our own lands, and forced to live under different setups of what conforms our existence and living, but yet, not our identities.
In our first meeting in Washington DC, the hostess asked us to introduce ourselves wand suggested we suggest the way we liked to be called if any. It needed to be brief. As much as I am X from Y, and they call me EXY. I was looking at the file in front of me, and my name printed plate, and I was thinking. Nadia Nusseibah from Palestinian Territory. Aside from the fact that the pronunciation of the family name should have been in an e and not a before the h, something always a struggle in passports. Admittedly, the Jordanians made it look in a way that is directly translated into classical Arabic. It is Nussaibah not Nusseibeh. Israelis however, had a dictionary that could be discovered in the different names written in English on the travel documents that were translated from Hebrew, so Nusseibeh would be Nassibah, which could easily be confused with a Mussibah which upon hearing the word you would be reminded of the catastrophe of the name, since Mussibah is a catastrophe in Arabic. Having mentioned all that, I have to mention that Nusseibeh is not my name. After ten years of divorce I decided to identify this issue by saying, this is my children’s name. It was a long process of trying to go back to my maiden name (Harhash) from a level of not confusing all official registrations, children themselves at school etc.…. at the beginning. When the time came to change, I sent my Jordanian passport to renew, and when I submitted the documents, they miraculously made me a Nusseibeh, even though my name before was Harhash. At one point I decided… khalas (that’s it in Arabic), it is time to change, and I don’t care if the Jordanian passport has a name and the travel document has another and the identity card has one. I will just change it, to know that in order to do so I needed to get a letter from my family agreeing that I get the name back … of course getting the letter is not the issue, but going again to the ministry of interior office is definitely an issue.
That was the day I decided to reconcile with the name on my official documents. I cannot deny it is the best thing my ex husband gave to us. After all Nusseibeh remains a good fine name of Jerusalemites families. But something suddenly stroked me and I thought how unfair life of a mother could be. I go through all the hell of raising these children, and as if it is a reminder that I have no exclusivity on them, them and I carry different name. It is something I wouldn’t have thought of when I was married. I always kept my family name with pride, especially that my ex took it with so much pride not to use his name, and when I also reconciled with that idea I got divorced (I don’t know if me making the decision still makes me “got divorced”. another thought for a future exploration).
Well, to make this long story short. I finally decided that the minimum I should share with my kids was the name, since they cannot carry my maiden name.
If this part of my name wasn’t enough of a complex to the complexed me, the word “Palestinian Territories” of course bothered me even much more. But I thought, what should I say, should they have put Palestine? But the Palestine that is recognized and the U.S denied, is also a Palestine that I don’t want and I refuse to recognize.
And if this wasn’t enough, I looked into my name tagged on another form with the word Jordan as a country. Of course, what else can they put? I carry a Jordanian passport.
So while I am a Palestinian, who lives in Jerusalem, with an Israeli “ permanent residency” (this permanent is also a tricky business, because all the Jerusalemites with residency problems, and who were actually deprived from the residency rights inside Jerusalem), I carry a Jordanian temporarily passport (but it really looks like a permanent passport, one would only realize the difference when applying to some visas in the Schengen areas), and an Israel Travel document, which despite its new “red” diplomatic color doesn’t seem to attract anyone with a positive sense. The moment anyone holds it stirs it, flips it, shakes it upside down as if looking for something that will drop out of it with a certain sense of any logic. Sometimes people get it. Sometimes people are clueless, often people say: ok wait. And of course it exactly like when leaving the airport in ben gurion, this sense of exclusivity is not complimentary. It gives a feeling as if everyone is pointing at you with questioning and disgust. A suspected terrorist is in the area… Beware…
By the years I got over this or I try to. I confess it gets to me each time, but being a frequent traveller doesn’t give me the luxury of complaining or making a fight that could fulfill my smashed pride.
This time when I left, I was all prepared as usual for another striptease after the x-ray machine. The last times I failed to fulfill the Israeli checking mates satisfaction in only wearing a dress so I avoid peeping for any non-cloth item on me. After the last time insisting to body search me despite the no peeping, I decided not to put this issue on my agenda this time. I was preparing for a body search. I was even going through the idea of having to expose my extra fats that are stuck to my belly with the cellulites and I was thinking if I was going to squeeze in my stomach for a better scenery of just relax it completely and make them run. I went through all the disturbance of the feeling to be surprised not to striptease me this time. I walked thinking … what a pity.
So while I was waiting my turn to “identify “ myself , I found myself saying : My name is Nadia . and Nadia is the least complicated thing about me . So please just call me Nadia , and I am from Jerusalem , because Jerusalem is the only identifying word to where I come from .
It wasn’t a surprise that many didn’t understand , and it wasn’t a surprise as many found it a strong statement when they understood it