Wajib & its Insights into Nazareth

by on 14/10/18 at 11:30 am

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.