May 18


Palestinian Reading List #5: “The Passport”

An excerpt from a very funny short story called “The Passport” by author Ala Hlehel. In the story, a Palestinian author living in Israel desperately tries to retrieve his passport in time for a publicity trip to London. As he scrambles to find a way into the closed Ministry office, his mother calls:


… ‘I’ve made you some za’atar to take with you?’

Za’atar? Are we still living in 1948 here, mum, or what?’

‘For the relations. On your dad’s side.’

‘Dad’s relations? That’s a new one.’

‘You know that one of your dad’s cousins on his mom’s side’s a refugee in Wahdat refugee camp in Jordan?’


‘And her husband’s from Irbid.’


‘Well her husband’s cousin on his dad’s side is married to a man from the Gulf.’


‘And that Gulfie owns a big export company.’


‘Which your dad’s cousin on his mum’s side’s son works in.’

‘In London?’

‘No, in Abu Zabi.’

‘Abu Dhabi.’

‘Yeah, whatever it’s called.’

‘So where does London come in it?’

‘Well, his wife’s family are in Ain al-Helweh refugee camp in Lebanon.’


‘And one of her brothers works for UNRWA.’


‘He’s married to a Palestinian woman from Sweden.’


‘And her family were originally from Miron, near us.’


‘Well everyone from Miron was displaced by the occupation, weren’t they love?’

‘I know mum. I know.’

‘And the rest of her family are in Belgium. They’re our kin.’

‘And what’s that got to do with me?’

‘What do you mean love? You’re going to London and you’re not going to visit your dad’s relations and take them a nice bit of Palestinian za’atar?’

‘What makes them our relations, mum?’

‘They’re our in-laws.’

‘So you really think I am going to take za’atar with me to London so I can give it to the wife of one of my relations of my dad’s cousin on his mom’s side’s son’s wife?’

‘What’s wrong with that love? You can take some fatayer, too.’

‘What? Take za’atar and fatayer to London?’

‘No love. To Belgium. They’re in Belgium.’

‘But I am going to London mum!’

‘You can get from London to Belgium in the time it takes to smoke a fag, love.’