Of all the stories that Khalid told me, I was most touched by how much he wants to get out of the laundry and begin a new career as a tour-guide. His father brought him to the kibbutz in 1979, when he was 15, and after working in the dining hall for 10 years, from 1984 – 1994 ("I took special courses to be a cook"), he moved over to the laundry, which he now manages.
In 2011, Khalid started taking the intensive two-year tour-guide course. The course is taught in Hebrew, which he had learned at work and from reading the newspaper ("Every morning at six-thirty I have to read the 'Yediot Aharonot' Hebrew newspaper. If I don't read the paper, my day is ruined."). He passed the written exam but failed the oral exam. "In the oral exam I had to choose a topic and give lecture about it. I chose to talk about the monument to the fighters who died defending Kibbutz Kiryat Anavim."
"Out of all the topics in the world – why would you choose a story about the Zionist ethos?" I asked incredulously.
"I wanted to be tested on a subject that didn’t come to me naturally. To show that I could be a guide anywhere, about anything. I failed. I have another exam coming up and I'll pass this time. You'll see."
Khalid patiently showed the young Arab workers from the neighboring villages how to use the large, industrial irons and how to maintain the washing machines. He proudly talked about his daughter and the math exam she had recently passed and about his second daughter, who is about to marry Muhammad Abu Tir (they're not really close relatives) who's studying biology in Bethlehem. Then he excused himself, washed his face and hands, took off his shoes, and bowed down on his knees and prayed to his god in the narrow space between the noisy washing machines.