he following September, Naim started school at St. Luke’s High School on the western slope of Mount Carmel. Saleh arranged to pay the hefty tuition in installments with the agreement that Naim would pay for his books and supplies using the money he earned at Saba & Co. Like the handful of other private schools in Haifa, St. Luke’s was a mixed school made up mostly of Arab students from wealthy Haifa families—a disproportionate number of them Orthodox Christians; sons of upper-middle class Jewish

he satin-sweaty trio watched from the road and made a mental list of everything that was being carried into the house in order to tell the other women in the village. These included a three-piece Damask-upholstered salon, a Persian carpet made of silk, another two made of wool, a Singer sewing machine, velvet curtains folded and tied together into parcels, a chest of drawers inlaid with mother-of-pearl, a matching mirror, wicker chairs, a kerosene cooking hob, an enameled baby’s bathtub, a crystal

overing the embroidered space between us were small, mismatched breakfast plates: a bowl of reddish hard boiled eggs; tiny pickled eggplants stuffed with walnuts, garlic and red pepper; a plate of creamy labaneh drizzled with fluorescent yellow olive oil; a pyramid of hard labaneh balls sitting in a pool of bright orange chili oil; store-bought hummus topped with homemade chili-and-garlic relish; three kinds of white cheeses: crumbling bricks of Akkawi, Nabulsi studded with nigella seeds, fried Halloumi; a trio of dipping bowls:

utside, it was much fresher: brightness, orange flesh, human flesh—then as the acrid smell of explosives faded, the sobering smell of death covered in the sweetest, stickiest orange juice that could be found anywhere in the world.

he Crow’s Wife was just one of the nicknames that Afifeh had coined for the people of Rafidia and its environs. She invented names for everyone based on their habits, appearance and eccentricities and used them so matter-of-factly that they became a local lexicon that replaced the original names. There was the Khoury family, who Afifeh called the House of the Pluckers because they plucked piles of chickens in front of their house on Sundays. There was the Soudah household which she renamed Bayt

couldn’t see the river as we drove over the bridge. The only indication of its presence were the dusty thickets of oleander, tamarisk and papyrus mushrooming from the banks a little ways from the concrete on either side.  I turned around to get a better view and spotted another bridge crossing in parallel, low and close to the water. It was an abandoned truss bridge with sides as tall as a truck, but only wide enough for one vehicle to cross at a time. It looked like a prop from an old war movie stored

in the shadow of the new bridge. As the mismatched pair receded, I saw the ghosts of the other bridges that crossed that shallow bend of water floating between them. I saw the mangled remains of a wide metal bridge, its belly sagging into the brown water. I saw it again in three other incarnations: whole, collapsed on one side, and newly finished. I saw the first Allenby Bridge built by the British before they divided the two banks into separate territories; above and below it, three emergency wartime constructions: suspension, trestle and pontoon. Tangled between the eight decades of bridges was the burning corpse of the first one built by the Ottomans, and behind the flames, the wooden bridge intact, with tax collecting stations on either side. Below them, I saw a raft floating on the water, the specter current higher than it was that morning and ropes sagging from bank to bank to pull the barge across. I blinked again and they were gone.



al-Asmar after the black and brown goats that they raised. There was Zachariya the farmer who lived in the wooden house and became Barbeesh because he was tall and skinny like a hose. Fuad her son was renamed the Inventor because he was always tinkering with broken machines; Henriette was called the Rabbit Slayer because of the enthusiasm she showed when her uncle taught her to trap and skin rabbits; Khamis was nicknamed Little Yuhanna because he was business-minded and loved the taste of ‘arak like his father; Jesus Christ was called Poor Jesus because he was crucified and everyone kept calling his name; the man who sold knafeh near Yuhanna’s office was called The Dealer; Yuhanna’s accountant was referred to as The Good Samaritan after the parable in the Bible; the priest’s wife was knighted Lady Short Thumbs; and Shafiqa’s father-in-law with the glass eye and compulsion for twos was known as Grandpa Two-Two-One.


immigrants from Germany whose families had left to escape Nazism rather than embrace Zionism; a cohort of boarding students from the wealthiest Jewish families in Lebanon and Syria; and a few European children of diplomats, government administrators and the school’s staff.


chandelier, a glass-and-metal hanging lamp, an engraved copper tray, a European coffee table that matched the legs of the salon set, stacks of cooking pots and metal trays, a crystal vase, two large armchairs, a framed print of The Last Supper with overly bright reds and blues, three glass water pipes, the gramophone, five round tins of sweets from Zalatimo of Jerusalem and a succession of trunks and suitcases, presumably full of clothes, tablecloths and linens.


dark green za’atar, red duqqa, green-gold olive oil; slices of fried sujuk sausage; a tomato sliced into wedges; a plate of whole, unpeeled cucumbers; and the ubiquitous bowl of olives that my grandfather brined in his kitchen. The plates on that morning’s breakfast table are not a specific memory, but rather an accumulation of memories of all the breakfasts I had in my grandparents’ kitchen. Even the kitchen is probably several kitchens, though the oak table has remained the same. Thinking about it now, a few plates are missing: wilted dandelion leaves covered in crispy onions; bowls of mashed fava beans dressed with oil, parsley, garlic and lemon; manakeesh baked on naan bread; meat pies made with ready-made Pillsbury biscuits; stuffed spinach pies folded in homemade dough; fried eggs cooked to order and seasoned with either sumac or lemon-pepper depending on the decade; and a jar of my grandmother’s bitter orange marmalade.