chapter  14
10 Pages

Mixed as in Pidgin: The Vanishing Arabic of a “Bilingual” City

WithAnton Shammas

The six years I lived in the “mixed” city of Haifa, in the ‘sixties, were the most miserable years of my life. It took me two decades of life in Jerusalem, afterwards, to conceal those years under piles of reconfi gured and reinvented memories and, eventually, to rename my brief Haifawi past, with the sheer power of language. Such games of concealment seem to be perfectly all right in a country where certain Arab neighborhood-and street-names in certain cities, especially in Haifa, where changed after 1948 into Hebrew names, while others were not; where certain villages and towns were “given back,” as it were, their biblical or Talmudic names (often seemingly so), while other villages were saved the insult; where certain “deserted” Arab villages were razed to the ground, while the ruins of others remain to this day out there against the landscape, as a silent, concealed monument for the defunct Palestinian presence. This discourse of the “network of ambivalence” is constructed, as Homi Bhabha puts it, “at the crossroads of what is known and permissible and that which though known must be kept concealed” (Bhabha 1994:89).