Lessons in Morphology

It was a strange but mutually beneficial arrangement. I needed to travel north through a number of checkpoints to visit a town that had borne the brunt of the occupation and I needed to get back to Ramallah at a decent hour so as to see friends before I left the next day. They had a service taxi for hire, but little business and few customers. I hired the taxi for a day, and the driver asked if his best friend and his best friend’s son could come along. I said, “The more the merrier.” As we left Ramallah, we passed by the PA’s headquarters, the place where Arafat had been confined for the last three years of his life. They showed me where the prison had been, where the television station was and so on. Much of it was still rubble, even though the Israeli attacks were now years old or more. We left al-Bira and the driver startled me by saying it was good to leave Ramallah. “It belongs to the Tunisians and the Americans who returned to build their villas and play.” He pointed north, offered me a cigarette and said, “Welcome to Palestine.”

This then was to be my “tour” of the occupied territories, and these three, my tour guides. I asked them question after question: What’s that? What’s the name of that village? Where does that dirt road lead to? What kind of trees are those? What kind of grain is that? What’s that building? What’s over there? Why is the asphalt so bad here, why is it better back on the road we were just on? I must have asked hundreds of questions, but my guides did not seem annoyed by them. They got a kick out of my linguistic struggles, I think. For me, it was my first time hearing the dialect of the villages, where, as everyone knows, the letter K disappears to be replaced by a CH sound. Though I came here to tour the landscape of the territories, I was now intrigued their idioms. (Read More)