Fri. & Sat. July 26-27 at 8pm, Sunday July 28 at 4pm
Written and performed by DEBÓRAH ELIEZER
Directed by BEN YALOM
Video Design: KEDAR LAWRENCE
Lighting Design: SABRINA HAMILTON
In (dis)Place[d], foolsFURY Co-Artistic Director Debórah Eliezer cracks open the assumptions of her own identity through the story of her father, Edward Ben-Eliezer, an Iraqi Jew born in 1930, a member of the Zionist underground, refugee, Israeli spy, and immigrant to America.
Eliezer brings twenty years’ experience as an acclaimed physical performer to create a dozen different characters, including her father at three different ages, her great grandmother, their Iraqi neighbors, an ethereal embodiment of the Tigris Euphrates valley itself, refugees, immigrants, and more.
First generation immigrants have often hidden the stories of their past, sometimes to keep painful memories from their children, sometimes to enthusiastically embrace their new countries. The children are caught between cultures, with no way of acknowledging a multi-national, multi-ethnic identity. It was not until Eliezer’s father had begun his descent into dementia that she began to glimpse his past.
“We kept cyanide in our socks,” he said out of the blue one day. And she learned that her peace-loving father had been a spy for the Israeli Defense Forces. Other stories trickled out:
- as a child he hid for days on a rooftop as Baghdadi Jews were slaughtered during the Farhoud, a Nazi-inspired “pogrom”;
- at 11 he joined the Zionist underground, smuggling weapons;
- at 19 he was targeted for assassination, fled Baghdad, crossed the desert on foot, and lived in a refugee camp on the Iraq/Iran border for two years;
- he managed to bring 8 of his 9 siblings to Israel, unable to save the eldest, who stayed behind and was killed.
Bit by bit Debórah uncovered her roots, and the remarkable history of the Iraqi Jewish Diaspora. Remarkable because Jews had been deeply integrated into Iraqi life for over 2500 years, and made up a third of Baghdad’s population in 1940. And because, within a decade, all 130,000 were gone, expelled, escaped, or killed. Today fewer than 10 Jews remain in Iraq.
(DIS)PLACE[D] follows her exploration of these stories, and asks hard questions: Who has the right to tell the story of a people? What is the significance of borders versus land and culture? What is the relationship of nationality to identity? The work aims to open a space for community dialogue around these issues in general, and specifically within the diaspora of Mizrahi Jews. Through this journey, the artist also finds a missing part of herself, “a song sung in a language I can’t understand” as she puts it. “A dream I can’t remember.”
“Luminous…So beautifully written, performed and directed that you might wish it were longer.” (SF Examiner)