Sad News In Brooklyn
On Thursday Night, July 24th, 1997, my wife was in the Kitchen preparing for
the Jewish Sabbath in our Flatbush Apartment. The landlords wife, a lovely
Iranian Jew who has lived in Brooklyn for over a decade, pulled my wife to
the side almost in tears. She says, "Do you know that man we talked about
before?" My wife stopped what she was doing in midstroke and turns to her
with great concern. She says to my Landlord "What about him." The two
pow-wowed together in the stairway, and I lean over saying, "what's going
on! Tell me what's happening!" My wife rebuffs me and disappears upstairs
for about 30 minutes and comes down the stairs in tears. "So - what the
hell is happening!", I demanded. And my wife starts to fill me into a story
that while disturbing, does not surprise me.
My upstairs landlords are soft spoken Jewish refugees from Iran who were
chased from that country in the wake of the Islamic revolution which took
grip of the country at the end of the 1970's. There entire extended family
is here in US, most within the this immediate area of Flatbush near Brooklyn
College. For a long time her husband owned a Jewerly store in Manhattan.
It failed in the 1980's recession for a number of reasons. He now works
desperately hard to keep a roof over all our heads.
His wife took a job for some time as a medical assistant for a local doctor
where she met another Iranian women, a non-Jew, who lived in Boro Park.
This women was the sole source of income for her family, as her husband was
unemployed for a long time in the midst of the recession. Over time, the
two families developed some sort of working relationship. The Gentile
Iranian Women decided to seek her fame and fortune in the US Army, leaving
her husband and children behind in Brooklyn.
As it worked out, this first generation Immigrant from Iran met men in the
US military and decided to divorce her husband. Her 51 year old husband,
Mohammad Talafourush became extremely distraught and reached out to my
Landlord for help. My landlord reached out to my wife, since we are both
Army Veterans for the 80's, and still had contacts with some people. As it
worked out, Mrs Talafourush was stationed in Korea. My wife tried to reach
some of her old contacts via the internet in Korea. But she was to late.
On that Thursday afternoon, Mr Talafourush commited suicide, killing his two
young children before his death. Neither he nor my upstairs neighbor could
understand the actions of Mrs Talafourush in the military. They were
totally unprepared for the adjustment to the wild west and life in the US.
My landlord got a phone call from Mr Talafourush where he said he was going
to kill himself. When my landlord arrived at his house, she found him
hanging in the door way, and the children dead in their beds. There were
letters in Iranian around the apartment, and a video tape explaining the
hows and whys of the murder suicide. He struggled with his children, an 8
year old girl Amy and 10 year old Tufan. to put them to death. He then
brought roses and put them on their bodies and hung himself.
A few days later his wife showed up at my landlords door, and my landlorded
ripped into her, placing full blame for their deaths on the mother's
shoulders. For days my landlord mourned the loss of the family. The
Newspapers and television news broadcasts reported the events, forgetting
about them the next day in it's relentless march to report the tragidy of
This week, the tragidy of the day was the discovery of a
plot to blow up the Atlantic Avenue train station in downtown Brooklyn in
"support" of the Palestinian cause in Judea and Gaza. Arab American's are
reeling in the backlash of the bad press from this event, as it did when the
World Trade Center was bombed not long ago. Non-Arabs residents are in a
quagmire trying to cope with the tolerance which is a requirement for our
mutual existence, and our genuine concern for our saftey. Islam and
Brooklyn are not currently meshing all that well. International events are
over flowing onto our streets. Once again, the story in Brooklyn is ethnic
strife as international events boil over with deadly consequences for the
borough. Arab immigrants are finding their way to our home, and we are
struggling to incorporate them, and them us, into our town.
And for those with short memories, this is not the first time international
politics has turned us upside down. The Potato famine caused a surge of
Irish immigrants to Brooklyn, which eventually lead to draft riots during
the Civil War. Arms of the Irish Republican Army have been captured on our
streets. Hatians were outraged over American Hatian policy under George
Bush. In the wake of the boycott of the Korean grocery store on Church
Avenue caused Brooklyn Black political leaders to demand Korean investment
in Black Brooklyn businesses. But the current wave of Arab immigrants poses
a unique problem to the borough.
Brooklyn might well be the home of the largest Jewish community in the world
- including Israel. Normally, when political problems arise overseas, the
target for frustration is not our own citizens. With the Middle East
situation, all bets are off. 2 years ago a Hamas sympathizer open fire on
a bus load of Jewish children on the Brooklyn Bridge, with deadly results.
Meir Kahane, the outspoken advocate of forced removal of Arabs from the West
Bank, was shot to death in Manhattan in front of an audience of over 100
people. The Killer, incredibly, was found not guilty. Tourest were shot
dead on the roof of the Empire State Building by an Arab gunman. If every
Brooklyn's open and was going to be tested, it is being test
copyright August 3rd 1997 Ruben I Safir
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