Among a thousand other events in my dream last night, there was one scene in which I join a group of Arab men in a cafe at Oxford University and I say something like 'okay, let's thrash this out once and for all - let's get it decided.' They are very amused by my silly Israeli directness, and order coffee and we flatter each other for a while.
And I wake up remembering an old poem I wrote about bargaining. I think it's from ignorant armies
When I was very small
Aunt Raisel who survived the holocaust
said to the peddlar, "You call this fabric?"
Look how it wrinkles, see how it tears,"
"Why the Queen of England wears
no better wool." "And bought it from you,
I suppose. I'll give you two groschen
for this rag, no more." "No less than four
could I take for such cloth. Your mother--
who never married--taught you nothing."
"Your father was a thief before you, I knew
him well in our town." Thus she would
jew him down, and I was red with shame.
Later, each spit on the curb where the other walked,
angry and sure he'd been had.
Margalit, from Spain, took me to the wholesalers
one day for a bathing suit. Her way
was to draw close to the man
and remind him of all she had bought
before, all the women she had steered
to his store. "We have a special friendship
she whispered, with an elbow and a wink.
I think, "It'll never work,"
but we walk out with our low-priced parcel
and broad smiles. When I look back in the shop
I see him counting our cash again, grinning.
The bathing suit fades in the first sun.
Gentle Anne shops in the shuk for gifts
"That plate is lovely," she breathes,
"How much?" The swarthy shopkeeper quotes a price
I can only sniff at--two hundred is outrageously high.
But she puts the plate on the counter
and continues admiring the engraving,
the way it catches the light.
"Yes, and that pitcher--how heavy and solid it is.
My mother would just love that shade of blue."
He smiles, polishes the glass with his sleeve.
"You have such fine things here. It is an honor
to be in a shop owned by a man of good taste."
She wouldn't waste her words, dear Anne,
and never--as far as I know--lies.
The shopkeeper orders coffee for three:
I tug at her sleeve, "The price! The price!"
"It's all right," she smiles, and I think,
absurdly, of ancient women--Rebecca, Yochevet, Shulamit.
Over coffee she tells of her husband, the babies, her writing
and asks the man about his shop, his wife, living in Yaffo.
All the while I watch the stack of plates,
trays, and statuettes she has put aside.
When we've finished our coffee, and the final candlestick
has been placed in the pile,
She says, "This is all worth so much--
these gifts will please my family--
but I only have three hundred
to spend today."
They go back and forth a while and agree
with all the sweetness and quiet
Anne is known for.
We walk past the shops
carrying her parcels
carrying her peace.
Now what's wrong with this poem - for my purposes today - is the fact that it doesn't really foreground either the Arab or the Israeli way of bargaining. It just points out some distinctions in ways of negotiating.
We Israelis started out by rejecting the convoluted way of bargaining of surviving in the diaspora. We're home now - we don't need to play games. But we went a little far with it -and raised a generation of people who are consciously insensitive to others.
I suspect that the Palestinians, on the other hand, have raised a generation of people who have forgotten realistic goals.
But I'm still struggling with this stupid infected finger. So more of this later.
later this evening
Part of the latest Abu Shakra Gallery exhibit from Uhm Al Fahm opened tonight at a gallery on "Citizen Alley." (Um El Fachem Art Gallery,Albatan, POB 30010, Um El Fachem, 04-6315257) Every leftist artist for miles around was there - and all the sentiments of love and peace. The amazing thing was that from what I could see (peering over the heads of all the people) the art was great. Absolutely genuine. Lee - who's got something exhibited in the Uhm Al Fahem part of the exhibit, said I could find it on the website. But I can't find a website, and I couldn't find Lee again, or Farid Abu Shakra (whom I haven't seen for 2 years) so I don't know how to find out more about it. And I can't find the invitation right now. I'll have to go back to the gallery when it's not as fashionable.
Today's news is filled with the beginning of the building of the fence. "Good Fences makes good neighbors" I was saying last month. But I also said it can only work if it is part of a bigger strategm. If it indeed becomes only one element allowing us to cool down and think rationally. If it is built without any attempt to consider and/or assuage the local residents, it may cause more problems than it solves.
Still my self-preservation instinct makes me want to stroke the wall, to pet it, to say - you keep us safe, you hear.
Yesterday's entry wasn't saved in time and the system fell and it was all erased. And now we wake to a new tragedy - the jerusalem bus with at least 10 people killed and 20 injured (injured means a few arms and legs missing at best). The guy who blew himself up yesterday had AIDS so even that is now being used as a legitimate weapon.
I'm watching the first footage of the explosion and seem to identify among the sad injured and confused people i know and love.
The facts boggle the mind - as always - More and more people dead - I imagine always - unwillingly - the ends of days when all these people are reunited with their limbs.
The reality does not sink in.
Until the details emerge, I escape to the idyllic past. Last night we went to see Sharon Moldavi sing - Deep under Dizengoff Center. He had a new song about how his homeland is the Hebrew language - an indication of the same kind of search for equilibrium I myself am experiencing. He has opened up as a singer, and his voice carries genuine emotion. It was a great experience.
Thursday night, at a party for Ezi's coworkers (the one where the cat bit me) Some of us recalled that the last time we met, it was a tour of jerusalem, innocently arranged by the union. It turned out to be a propaganda tour rather than a cultural one, and it was the hottest day in August - and we were all incensed. I dug up the poem I wrote then - never published - because it happened just before the 'intifada' and we got distracted by the consequences of what we saw. When I looked back at it now, it seemed very prophetic, albeit naive.
A GUIDED TOUR OF JERUSALEM – September 2000
Everything he said enraged me
It was as if he were dripping
poison into my ears, even though
most of his spiel sounded perfectly
innocuous. Like that little remark
about the purity of its air.
No polluting industries for the Holy City
he said, and we all knew
that it was our own air being polluted
to make the products
that kept Jerusalem clean.
Every place he took us enraged me,
even though I do not hate this city,
and the food we ate, both at
the kosher restaurant
and the gate, was
The tunnel that took us
showed me we had created
to this town
to suit our vision
The dress of the women, Muslim and Jew,
was more similar to each other than to mine.
And the babies in their arms
clinging to their long dresses,
had the same eyes, so different
from the eyes of those
I myself have raised.
Then I returned to the perspective of Tel Aviv
and saw that I myself
am creating these distinctions
moving even the mothers of Jerusalem
from my heart – only because they live
in that city that has caused such pain.
Still, I remained
in my own land
at the Wall, enjoyed
the laminated prayer
hanging on the entrance
to the toilets, praising
the Lord who has created us all
with holes and entrances
And kerchiefed I approach the Wall
and squeezed a note in a cranny
that said: Please
arrange a little earthquake
to swallow all the holy places
without harming a single soul.