Thursday, April 3, 2014

Evictions and Occupations

   Every morning and night I think of checkpoints, of demolitions, of forced removals from generations old family homes, and there in the night sky or the afternoon sun flies the Israeli flag. I am haunted by the chilling irony of this, a people almost displaced unto death now become experts at disappearing communities. I want all my fellow feminist disaporic Jews to feel this deep sorrow, this fresh pain of enforced loss on those we  have never met but whose displacement we can touch.

    Then I remember the two times my mother, brother and I were evicted from our homes, apartments in poor sections of Brooklyn and Queens. I see a nine year old girl coming home from school whose whole body goes weak and over vigilant at the same time, when she sees a group of neighbors, talking to each other, pointing, in front of her apartment door. The women move out of the way as if she is already a pariah. First blurry, then  growing clearer with each approaching step, the legal sheet of paper with stamps of city approval plastered on the door, announces that this family is being evicted for none payment of rent. Now I knew what my mother had been stuffing into her pocket book all these months, the same furtive defiant movement that accompanied all her hidings from threatened legal action. I grew old early on words like "lien on my salary," "dispossession," "Household Finance Loans," "embezzlement" and finally, " on parole."

I pushed on with my life as one has to but I have never forgotten the public shaming, the men coming to move our furniture onto the street, the need to leave everything behind and just walk away, not sure where we would spend the next night or from where my next day of schooling would come. When I was older, working, living on my own, moving in different circles, I never spoke to others of my experience with evictions, but like so many other unwanted gifts Regina gave me, the memory lived in a political place within me, keeping alive a knowledge of what dispossession means, of what it feels like to be evicted, the sudden change of home to desert, the powerlessness to keep one's own door open to life as one has known it and the futility that comes to a child when a parent cries in the night.

The Dispossessed, Palestine, 1948

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