The Most Important Verb in Gaza

After a day of olive picking near the buffer zone, I ran home, took a shower, and got out my flashcards.  All attempts at studying on the field had failed.  My Arabic tutor informed me today that Wednesday would be day of the verb.  I already knew “to have,” “to want” and “to go,” and so we continued with the most important verbs, practicing present and past tense simultaneously: to take, to cook, to open, to close, to sleep, to hear, to wait ,  to make/do and then of course, came the most important verb.

“How do you say resist?” he asked.

“Um mookowama?” I answered.

“No, that is resistance.  Resist as a command is kowam.  But I don’t think we need to learn the past tense.” My tutor smiled, to make sure I understood what he was saying. I did.  “Okay, ‘I resist the occupation,” he commanded.

Ana bkowam al ahtilal,” I said.

“Great!” My teacher said. We went through all the different forms: you resist (feminine), you resist (masculine), she resists, he resists, we resist, they resist, you resist (plural).  “Okay, I was just joking about the past tense. Maybe someone they died while resisting.”  There was no escaping the past.

I thought of all the Palestinians that had shot and killed over the past few years while nonviolently protesting Israel’s confiscation of their land.  And then of course, there had been Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall. I must say, I look forward to the day when the present tense is no longer relevant.


The Most Important Words in Gaza

I had my second Arabic class in Gaza today.  We started off with present and past tense verbs, and then turned to vocabulary.  My teacher, a first year college student, was trying to gauge my level.  “Let’s start off with important words around the house,” he said. We hadn’t yet obtained copies of the Palestinian colloquial Arabic book so he just looked around our apartment and pointed to things.

“Chair,” he said.

Kursi,” I answered.


Tawleh.”  He went on to window, door, bed, room, pen, paper, refrigerator, washing machine, glass, knife, spoon. I got most of them.

“Okay, now we learn the most important words outside the house,” he said.  I was sure I would ace these as well. I had recently taken an intensive Arabic class outside of Gaza, and  I had memorized a whole bunch of vocab like car, building, bridge, traffic, etc.

“Buffer zone,” he said.

“Uh. . . mantiqa . . . . ” I knew the word for neighborhood or area, but “buffer zone?”

Mantiqa azleh,” he answered.

“Sniper.” I didn’t know that one either.  Ganas.

“Injured.”  I shrugged. “Jareeah or you can say mosab. Mosab is easier for you I think.”

“Tank.” Finally,  a word that I  knew from my time in the West Bank.

Dababe!” I exclaimed. Finally, a point for me! I even knew the plural, should he choose to ask. Dababat.

Turns out my accent was all wrong.  “Here in Gaza we say dababah. Remember I told you ‘a’ instead of ‘e.’  Like in the West Bank they say jiraffe, here its jiraffa.”

“Bulldozer!” I said, before he even asked.  I hated being a bad student.