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Wajib & its Insights into Nazareth

Sunday, 14 October 2018

The film Jirga recently took me back to Afghanistan and now Wajib takes me on a quick return trip to Nazareth, the Palestinian centre in Israel. A wajib is an obligation, not an absolute necessity, that’s a fard, but something you should do. Like deliver invitations for your sister’s upcoming wedding.

▲ So architect Shadi (played by Saleh Bakri) takes a break from his job as an architect in Rome to return to Nazareth and drive around the city with his schoolteacher father Abu Shadi (Mohammad Bakri, the actor’s real life father) in dad’s battered old Volvo delivering the invites.

In Annemarie Jacir’s insightfully charming film – The Guardian’s review is just one of many enthusiastic critiques – father and son, chat, quibble, argue, reminisce and along the way highlight all the everyday annoyances, aggravations and humiliations that go with living under Israel’s thumb, even in a city with a clear Arab majority.

▲ I spent a few days in Nazareth back in 2011, working on my book Dark Lands which featured Israel-Palestine in its dark line up. I stayed in the wonderful old Fauzi Azar Inn. The guest house/hostel was run by Maoz Inon an enterprising Israeli working across the Israeli-Palestinan divide with the owners of house and, it seemed, doing an excellent job. Walking around the old town with Maoz he was repeatedly recognized – just like Abu Shadi in the film. He seemed to to know everybody and everybody knew him. More than once someone informed me before we continued ‘he’s a good man.’

▲ courtyard of the Fauzi Azar Inn

Nevertheless on the way to Nazareth I’d encountered the flipside of the equation. I was planning to take a bus from Jerusalem to Afula and a second bus on to Nazareth. Instead the taxi driver taking me from my hotel to the bus station convinced me to let him drive me all the way to Nazereth, a trip which soon featured some excellent diversions, particularly to ancient Jericho. We’d crossed from Israel into the West Bank/Palestine and then had to cross back into Israel en route to Nazareth. As we approached the checkpoint to leave the West Bank and enter Israel my taxi driver instructed me to say I was going to Tiberias, if I was asked.

‘Nazareth is an Arab town, we could get delayed if you say you’re going there,’ he explained. I do get asked and I do say Tiberias, ‘for a day or two,’ but we’re still pulled off to have the car searched and my bags put through an X-ray machine. Total delay, perhaps 15 or 20 minutes, but my driver, as calm and gentle as you could ask for, is furious over this, although he’s pleased I’m seeing what happens. This is the usual Arab or Israeli deal, my driver is Palestinian, but a Jerusalem resident. The car is Israeli registered of course.

During my Israel and West Bank travels I saw the worst – Hebron and the Wall – and the best – Nazareth – of those touchy relations. I also managed to do some walking on both sides of the Wall including the ‘Jesus Trail’ down to the Sea of Galilee.

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No, that’s not Donald Trump

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The Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh

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Pristina – Kosovo’s Capital City

8 April 2018 | Places

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Skopje – in what is that country called?

3 April 2018 | Places

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30 March 2018 | Places

There are only a handful (four in fact) of countries in continental Europe I’ve never visited and with a week to spare in late March I set out to visit three of them, starting with Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. In fact I’ve been to Czechoslovakia when it includ...

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Eritrea Summary

24 March 2018 | Living

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22 March 2018 | Places

Eritrea won’t go down as my favourite recent travel destination, I found the capital Asmara disappointingly quiet and subdued. You could multiply that by 10 for Massawa, the semi-deserted Red Sea port. Nevertheless my final Eritrean destination, the ancient Aksumite c...

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Massawa – the faded ‘Pearl of the Red Sea’

20 March 2018 | Places

It was the ‘Pearl of the Red Sea’ so a trip to the principal Eritrean port from Asmara, the capital, seemed like a good idea. I turned up at the bus station and waited – and waited some more. There was absolutely no indication when buses arrived or left and where to g...

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North Korean Design

18 March 2018 | Media

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