Very often a car gets stolen in our neighborhood. There is no expectation for it to be retrieved -- it has gone over to the territories, to be used by some Palestinian who wants to travel more freely at best, or to be a car bomb at worst.
There are more permeable borders I actually like. Like when I spent a 10 hour plane ride with a Muslim woman from Hebron who was responsive because she thought i was a foreign journalist at first. And then after, when she discovered the truth, she kind of swallowed and kept talking. I thought then that i'd like to break as many borders as possible. To make it easy for women like us to get to know each other and discover that we aren't monsters. "See," I said to her, "We're not really that different." "Yes," she answered, "but when you go home you get to take a shower."
I would have liked to invite her to my home to take a shower before she began her trip to Hebron, but my neighbors would have been terrified of being blown up.
My mother-in-law-s picture was in the paper again a few days ago. They've got the name wrong, but she's still a symbol of living in the days of rationing during the War of Independence. She still looks like that: Sara Gut
If she survives the hospital treatment she'll be home on Monday.
If I were buying those sofas now, instead of 3 weeks ago, I'd make a special effort to buy local work. The advertising campaign to buy local products is probably working on me, but a strange spirit of patriotism is taking over as well. I haven't been to Yaffo in a long time, or Florentin Street, or Wolfson, or the flea markets, and I'm suddenly overwhelmed with a desire to surround myself with things made here - recently and long ago, by Jews and Arabs, original and imitative.
I still don't like hotels here, but even they are beginning to look quaint to me.
On Wednesday I have a reading at Beit Hasopher - with Schulamit Halevy, the Sax player Jess Koren, and the dancer Adi Porat. I agreed to do it precisely because the Writers' Union is falling apart and everyone i know has deserted. At the time i thought it would help the Hebrew Writers' Association. But the building is falling apart, they forgot to advertise, and didn't have anyone to address the envelopes of invitation. Even the pittance they promised the dancer and the musician is now not certain. The program is about translating medias and languages. i thought it would help to expand the scope of the place. Now my friends are laughing at me that I'm even planning to show up there. Look how crummy the invitation is
. Actually it's not so crummy, but its a big file and its sideways.
The Hebrew Writers Association is such a venerable institution. The first time i ever entered the building was when Aharon and Eda Megged's son, Amos, got married there about twenty five years ago. I was so impressed with the space, the history, the sense of purpose and comradery. Now the walls are peeling, the bathrooms smell, the writers stay clear. Even the journal started by Bialik, Moznaim, has been put on hold. Infighting, jealousy, and self destructive power struggles have all but destroyed the institution. But I still believe in it. Like Tschernichovsky, the writers whose name is on the building, said - go ahead and laugh at me.
I laugh too.
The world seems to be getting more racist – okay Le Pen – but witness poor Yaffa Yarkoni too. An ageing singer, winner of the Israel Prize for her role in the War of Independence in particular , mentions a few days before a concert in her honor that seeing the Palestinians rounded up and arrested in this recent "Operation Defensive Wall' reminded her of pictures of the Holocaust. A second later she modifies the statement, but suddenly no one wants to go to her concert anymore. The concert has been cancelled. Even when she sang the classic song of the War of Independence, Babi Yar, I didn't like her voice, but she has always been a symbol of this country for me (I think I saw her sing in Rochester when I was 8). How can people suddenly turn away from her? How terrified are we?
How terrified are we? There are as many flags flying in this country as in New York after September 11.
Z said today that during the last wave of suicide bombings she was terrified but this little wave of patriotism is equally scary.
Another doctor today who was in Jenin tells about treating Palestinians - even performing operations on children. Again and again the soldiers who were there reconfirm similar stories - that they were shocked by the way the terrorists used old people and children as shields and mined their houses, that they did not bury budies because they had nothing to hide, that they tried to help the people of Jenin wherever possible.
It is becoming very hard for me to keep this journal - i want to be honest, but keep thinking about who might be reading this. When I think it may be Israelis, I want to be critical, to change things around here. When I think it may be my friends abroad, I want to talk about what is going on around here. When I think it may be people who are not sympathetic to Israel, I want to defend it. So I am ambivalent and wind up writing much less than I'm thinking.
But maybe I should see this as a challenge, an attempt to unite all the antitheses in my head. Maybe even this will help some solutions to emerge. So maybe if i keep contradicting myself i'll become large and contain multitudes. Maybe not.
In the mean time I am keeping to the original rule - write on line and do not erase.
This makes it hard for this journal to be artistic. This afternoon I recorded a radio program about Sylvia Plath's journals - and I kept thinking about the artistry of it - the sense of life as a material for art.
I think that's the opposite of what I'm trying to do here - I'm trying to explain and make sense of this political and sociological situation, and I keep giving up on the artistry of it. No repeated and developed themes, no motifs, no subordination, no prettying and shaping.
Maybe it is my excuse for not making art.
There have been all kinds of political disturbances at the universities today. Protesting a lecture by Yossi Beilin at Ben Gurion, protesting the fact that an Arab woman said in class that she would like to be a Shahida, supporting the conscientious objectors, criticizing the photographs of Palestinian victims. I'd be happy that the Universities and Colleges were waking up if it weren't so angry and intolerant on both sides.
I keep worrying about our children, all the university students who cannot learn tolerance in this environment, the children who are inheriting our angers and fears. There's a cartoon by Kevin Siers from a South Carolina newspaper where the father in an ample suicide belt says to his little child, "Someday my son, all this will be yours." here . Don Wright, from the The Palm Beach Post, and a few other cartoonists address the same subject. There have been cases of seven year old kids endangered in this way, a twelve year old forced to be a shahid. But the entire poopulation of children in this area are also being corrupted. Against our will we're teaching fear and hate and a lack of hope. Growing up in this environment can't be good for you. I understand why people turn to religion in times like this - the clarity helps -
My only advice to people is - keep doing what you believe it - try to do whatever good you can do - and don't look around
And yes, I fly a flag from my balcony.
When my daughter was living in New York she wanted to make a film about HOME, about what people think about the idea of home. She interviewed a Palestinian woman who said: home is a place I can defend with a gun. I think that stopped her in her tracks. I myself - even today - imagine home as a place with permeable walls. When Rochi was living in the apartment next door, I'd wake up and open the balcony shades and we'd talk for a while.
Here's an old poem that puts a few of these topics together, from the days when all of our kids were in the army.
On the opposite balcony Rochi hangs green laundry.
She has pulled uniform after uniform from the lines,
and now stretches out regulation long johns and undershirts,
exhibiting for me the latest in foul weather gear
for the troops up north.
Hanging on my line are enough white anklets
for a army of centipedes, olive sweaters and skirts,
and the week’s underwear. Newly shined boots
sit on the windowsill, next to a pair of black oxfords
waiting their turn. “Parents really need
vacations from military chores,” I say.
“Weekend furloughs are hell,” she agrees.
“Let’s meet in less fatiguing times.”
So from claims of a massacre of thousands in Jenin, the number has gone down to 50, 46 armed fighters and 4 citizens. That comes out to much less than the terrorists from Jenin have blown up in Netanya. I hate the accounts I keep automatically. I hate the situation that has created these accounts.
Last night we stopped at Nona's and it was crowded. Of course, says Salli, we've got a few weeks until they recoup and start bombing us again. Mordi intervenes – I think it's only a few days before the smaller bombs come in. They raise their glasses.
It seems like everything takes on a different dimension here – the idea of the conscientious objector, for instance. In the U.S. the war is far away in Afghanistan and your moral preference won't make a difference either for the people back home or for the soldiers at the Front. It just makes a statement. Here if you don't go, your friend goes in your place, maybe gets wounded instead of you. Certainly he feels less secure because he goes instead of you. And even if you object to how terror is fought, you don't object to the fact that people should not come into your house and kill you and your loved ones. So you're immediately in a far more complex moral dilemma than you would be elsewhere. I know so many people who are left wing and got out of the army years ago and now feel a twinge of guilt that they couldn't be helpful.
Maybe it is this complex situation that makes everything but the immediate irrelevant. Maybe this is why the literature and the culture are falling apart.
Whatever it is – I have the flu. Can't get out of bed without feeling dizzy. You're sick? The secretary says when I call to cancel today – everyone is sick – lower immunity when you're depressed you know.
It's true – everyone is depressed. No one sees a way out, a working alternative for the future. I still think our only option is to re-divide the whole area – into the fanatics and the people who want to live in peace. Once we get that sorted out we can start making plans.
Notice that I didn't add that the secretary wished me a speedy recovery. Some people have become kinder in these times of troubles and some have become more focused on their own survival.
In the mean time people keep asking each other what this country would have been like if Rabin hadn't been assassinated. Could it be that Arafat would have made peace with him? Could it be that all of us would be enjoying an amazing economic boom, that this whole area would be inundated with tourists? Could it be that the entire world's situation would have been ameliorated, that Bin Laden would not have been able to enlist support for terrorism if everyone was economically flush?
The last possibility was stupid – the guys who flew into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon came from wealthy families. But I keep thinking about an alternative world that we could all have been living in here, now, if Arafat had accepted the peace offer.
People keeps sending me newspaper articles, interviews, letters - right and left - I read it all. But I often come to different conclusions. Not with cut and dried facts, like Dennis Ross's interview from Fox news on April 22. He just goes over what happened in Camp David and how Arafat broke it up. Nothing much to do with that history.
But I do come to weird conclusions about media. Israelis lately are so defensive, so sure they are going to get screwed in the press that they act as aggressively to the press as they do to the terrorists. I understand how it feels to be angry about being screwed on TV but the attitude creates counter aggression. I mean if we didn't have anything to hide in Jenin, why did we close it off to the press, push around the photographers, refuse to be interviewed? And why were we surprised no one was nice to us after that?
It's not just the Israelis. There are lists going around the Internet - who is responsible for all the terrorist attacks in the world - who made the greatest medical contributions to the world - who won the Nobel prizes - They're not inaccurate, but they don't reinforce in me a love and respect for the Jewish people. Why? Shouldn't I be proud of Jewish contributions to the world and angry at Arab destructiveness? I am - but I fear this kind of approach weakens the possibility of practical solutions, and that's what I'm really interested in. If we're so smart, how come we're not happy?