This, to me, is Doikayt.

Doikayt: Yiddish for “hereness.”

A young british black woman sits on tribal lands surrounded by her ancestor’s people. They ask her for money. She says no. They say: Go away–we don’t need you anymore.

The necessity of her–the hole left by her ancestor’s disappearance–long since filled by others.

There comes a time when you can’t go home.

But you can –understand–.

how do i sit in this space:



I think this speaks to Zionism and Diaspora in ways too complex, and sometimes contradictory, for me to do justice to in a blog post.

On my mind lately:

Doikayt and Ottomanism were about wanting to be citizens, to have rights, to not worry about being shipped off at any moment where someone else thinks you do or don’t belong… Diasporism [a term the author coined] means embracing this minority status, leaving us with some tough questions: Does minority inevitably mean feeble? Can we embrace diaspora without accepting oppression? Do we choose to be marginal? Do we choose to transform the meaning of center and margins? Is this possible?

– Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, from The Colors of Jews

Self-Sufficiency Sundays: Wash Your Hair!

Did you know that a lot of shampoos contain the exact same cleaning agents as laundry detergent? Sulfates and other harsh cleaning agents work by stripping your hair of all its nutrients and oils. If you have curly hair, which is usually pretty dry, this leaves it brittle and exhausted. Then you have to put in loads of conditioner to undo the effects.

Screw that. Here’s a recipe for a homemade cleanser from Lorraine Massey’s Curly Girl, which I found out about from the lovely Whit. Simply take the juice of one large lemon, mix it with your usual amount of conditioner, and pour it through your hair. (I like to massage it in a tiny bit.) Then rinse it out.

“But wait!” you might be thinking. “You still have to use store-bought conditioner! That’s not self sufficient!” I’ll admit that I myself use store-bought conditioner on my hair. But you don’t have to! The Internet is full of conditioner recipes.

Curly Girl also contains instructions for using baking soda and water to clear out product buildup. I found the lemon recipe more effective, though. If your hair is really dry, you may only have to use the lemon rinse once or twice a month (although you should still cleanse your scalp every few days – see the book for details). And remember that your scalp produces natural oils for a reason. If the tiniest hint of oil around your roots is unacceptable, then that says more about your culture than your hair.

On Women, Friendship, and Abuse

Before dating the guy I’d eventually marry, I was involved in two long-term abusive heterosexual relationships. The first one was mildly abusive, the second one more explicit. The first one didn’t like women very much, and the second one liked them but saw them as interchangeable. Both of them profoundly influenced the way I view myself and interact with other people, especially men.

But my first and most enduring abusive relationships were with girls and young women. I don’t have a single close friend from K-12 left in my life because almost all of them were abusers. Those who weren’t abusers I broke off contact with anyway, because I never felt comfortable around them. There was one childhood friendship in particular in which, when she failed to abuse me, I abused her instead. (I’m so sorry, A. I still think about you.)

Because of that string of abusive relationships – and the very specific, almost eerie pattern of the abuse – I remain unable to really let my guard down around any woman. It’s taken me years to realize how deeply those childhood and adolescent relationships affected my sense of self. When the attendants at my wedding gave their speeches, every single one focused on my husband – not because few people like me, but because few people really know me (which isn’t to say that it didn’t hurt pretty badly. They could have made an effort, you know?). I literally do not know how to form strong bonds with other women. This is a skill I was never taught.

Divide and conquer.

How has abuse shaped your life and your sense of self? In what ways do you find yourself reenacting, or waiting to reenact, destructive behaviors you learned when you were young? (I’m sure I don’t need to say this, but anonymous comments are welcome.)

Two quotes from the Free Gaza movement

Many of you probably know that the passengers aboard the latest Free Gaza ship, the “Spirit of Humanity,” were kidnapped in international waters and sent to an Israeli jail to await deportation. During an interview from her cell, Adie Mormech gave this very salient quote:

Have you had access to a lawyer yet?

We have, and at the moment we’re discussing what to do about our deportation. They’ve taken our personal items – laptops, cameras, phones and many other valuables, and we want to find out where these are. They obviously want to deport us as quickly as possible, but some of us are thinking about fighting the deportation. Firstly on the basis that if we get deported we won’t be allowed into the occupied West Bank or Israel for another 10 years, but also, because we didn’t intend to come here to Israel – we intended to go to Gaza, and went directly from international waters into Palestinian waters. There is nothing legal about what Israel has done to us grabbing us like this. We’re considering fighting the deportation on the grounds that we shouldn’t accept and legitimize this barbaric military blockade of Gaza. (Emphasis mine.)

The only way to end the occupation and blockade is to strip it of its perceived legitimacy – and in that, I think Free Gaza is doing an admirable job. The Israeli administration is trying to juggle two contradictory narratives at once: 1) that the occupation of Gaza is over and Gazans are free to do what they like, and 2) only the Israeli military has the right to decide who or what enters and exits Gaza. Activists’ best strategy is to push against these narratives until one, and then the other, collapses.

But then a couple of days ago, I received an email from Free Gaza, linking to a video detailing conditions in Gaza, that included this line:

Israel outdoes the U.S. in torture, imprisonment and brutality. Where do you think the U.S. learned how to torture?

Reading this, I finally decided to unsubscribe myself from their updates.

As I and others have written numerous times before, claiming that the U.S. – the world’s most powerful nation with the world’s most powerful military – is taking orders from or being controlled by a small (albeit belligerent) nation like Israel is nothing but the current incarnation of the myth of Jewish domination. Shifting blame for the U.S.’s crimes (torture, imprisonment, brutality) onto Jews, or claiming that whatever white Americans do, Jews do it worse, is nothing but the current incarnation of the myth of Jewish evil. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then please go away and come back after you’ve educated yourself.) What stopped the author of this email from simply writing, “Israel is engaging in torture, unjustifiable imprisonment*, and brutality?” Why the need to compare? Which is worse: the imprisonment of civilians in Gaza, or the imprisonment of immigrant families and nonviolent drug offenders in the U.S.? Which is worse: Israeli assaults on Palestinians or American assaults on Iraqis? Which is worse? Which is worse? We need to decide which one’s worse – and fast! Your cause or my cause? Your country’s oppressor class or my country’s oppressor class? Why does it matter!? What in the world is gained by such a comparison, besides excusing that which is familiar in order to highlight that which is alien?

I suspect that it’s precisely anti-Semitic – yes, this is anti-Semitic – statements like these, made over and over again and never challenged, that turn many Jewish activists off from Palestinian liberation movements and make us decide to focus our energies elsewhere**. It’s the difference between building an inclusive movement that awakens in us a sense of responsibility for what’s being done ostensibly in our name, and working to alienate us by strengthening our preexisting internalized shame and self-hatred (shame not for what Jews in another country are doing at this moment in history, but rather for one’s own irrevocable Jewishness). It leads to very real physical consequences – although it’s pathetic that so many people think mental and cultural consequences don’t matter.

And for those of you who might be thinking, “who cares about some line that offended you when there’s genocide going on?” Well, first off, that kind of reasoning is often used as an excuse to avoid acknowledging problematic behavior. Will we only be allowed to call out anti-Semitism after Israel has fully retreated from the occupied territories and granted all Palestinian refugees their right of return to pre-1948 land? Assuming that that’s never going to happen, are Jews simply never allowed to call out anti-Semitism again? (And how do you feel when you hear that your ethnic/religious group is required to accept its oppression because some of its members have committed crimes?) Secondly, if one line isn’t that big a deal, then it must not be a big deal to refrain from saying it, right? To tell someone else not to say it? How much energy does it take to just say, “Hey, cool it, that’s not helpful?” If you feel uncomfortable saying that, then examine why. Are you afraid of getting in the way? Well, getting in the way of what, exactly? Sympathizing with “the enemy?” Who is the enemy, and who is being affected by such a statement? Benjamin Netanyahu? The U.S. and AIPAC? Boeing and Caterpillar? Or that woman in the yarmulke over there whom everyone is suddenly staring at?

Acting in solidarity with Jews, Israeli or Diaspora, is no more difficult than acting in solidarity with Palestinians. So where are our allies? Where are you?

* I hope readers who are prison abolitionists know what I mean here.

** Which isn’t to say that we don’t have plenty of reasons to focus our energies elsewhere. Diaspora Jews are not obligated to center Israel over other issues simply because we share a religion or ethnicity with Israelis.

Two examples of horizontal hostility

1) A feminist deciding that the main focus of her activism will be attacking women who she thinks are doing feminism wrong.

2) A Jew deciding that because anti-Semitism wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Israel, he or she will end anti-Semitism by attacking other Jews.

There’s a reason some targets are so easy.

These are the kinds of posts I write when lots of little things add up.

Sometimes I get very tired

of non-Jews assuming – in fact, never even thinking to question – that they know more about Zionism than Jews do.

This sense of entitlement to what’s in our heads is part of what led to the Jewish nationalist movement in the first place. And you all still don’t fucking get it.