Syria: The Soap

The Soap
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Syria washes everything off my hands.
This block of olive oil, hard and smooth, glistens and makes no foam or bubbles.
It sits on the far side of the sink.
It washes everything off my hands.
The cat dander.
The bruised squished peach.
The to-do list I write in the space between my thumb and forefinger.
The scum of dishes.
The dirt from potting plants.
The chemical filth from cleaning the bathroom.
I wash my hands of this world like a guiltless MacBeth in Syrian soap.

My hands selected this bar of soap years ago in a Damascus market stall.
They still make it the same way --thousands of years the same way.
And the one bar has lasted years, day after day, cleaning me of the petty things in daily life.
5 million people!
5 million people, a country bled dry of its people, million, after million, after million.
And this soap, this hard little block of olive oil that I pulled from a stack of bars and exchanged for coins in the suok, sits on the far side of my kitchen sink while my president (whom I did not vote for) petitions to bomb a place so stunningly beautiful I was sure I’d have my honeymoon...
Things that last thousands of years should not be extinguished this way.
5 million people.

Syrian Olive Branches
So, Syria washes everything off my hands, because everything else is meaningless when the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world risks so much in these hours of debate...

Men in their suits, men who have never been to Al Shams, never addressed it by its many names, never stooped to touch the working hands of soap makers, and never washed their hands the way I do in my kitchen sink,

These men will decide to bomb something out of existence that they aren’t even aware exists in the first place.

If Damascus is bombed, this bar of soap on my kitchen sink will become an extraction from history, when for so many years it has been something more, something repetitious, mutual, and discursive.
For so many years it has been a material connection with a rhythm, a force more powerful and more timeless than my sink, or any sink, or sinks as a concept, or even the concept of indoor plumbing.
Soap that has been around before sinks. Imagine that.
5 million people. And 1 me. Continuity.

Syrian Gentleman

Am I only worried about bombs because if they fall from the Syria Sky, there will never be a way to wash my hands clean ever again?
Because that soap, and its thousands of years of being made the same way, are gone.
And the bar will run out and there will be no one left to make more.
I will be unforgiveable, unbaptizeable.
Because I have watched war after war the same way, every decade like clockwork.
And failed to stop a single one.
And now, 5 million people less, Syria is not Syria, and I can’t afford to not be religious.

Hands together, what do I say?, Dear God...

Syria washes everything off my hands.
Today is for the soap.


Kali_RubaiiKali Rubaii has a BA in International Relations and an MA in Anthropology. She is currently a Anthropology PhD candidate at University of California.

Here research interests include:
Time, Planning, and Imagination
Empathy, Indifference and Solidarity
Institutional Violence, Materiality, Home Demolition

She has spent time teaching, studying and living with displaced people in Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine and Rwanda.