TEL AVIV DIARY - July 2
Stories coming in about Israeli soldiers in the Arab villages - the hardships of the Palestinians - remain extremely painful. It is also painful to note that it always corresponds with life returning to Tel Aviv.
The poetry reading I participated in last night, unlike the last one a week ago, was easier, emotionally, because of the greater feeling of security. Last week at the writers' house we decided we had to hire security, even though we have no apparatus for making payments. This week the reading was in a cafe that opened to the street. Too daring probably.
The major difference is that the reading last week was mostly by religious people from Jerusalem, who wrote about experiencing explosions, about faith, about ideals. This week the readers were mostly young Tel Avivians who talked about experiencing explosions, doubting of ideals, seeing both sides of the question.
At the hospital, where I spent the morning doing routine tests, I found myself waiting for an x-ray with a large number of young and middle-aged legless people. Last year at this time the only people I shared the long wait with were very old and infirm. I could not help but compare it with the people I saw on TV today waiting in a hospital in Ramallah. They were stressed because of the curfew, the military presence. “I can’t sleep any more,” a beautiful woman said, “I have bad dreams.” Call me up, I thought. I’m up all night every night. Then I thought of what a friend of mine said last week – that she’s tired of saving up her sleeping pills so she can take them all together if something happens to one of her children.
A Palestinian is interviewed on national television just now – he says that what the Israelis have achieved is to erase the distinction among the Palestinians between life and death. The interviewer asks if he sees a connection between the terrorism and the increased sanctions. The Palestinian repeats the assertion that there is a connection only between the Israeli occupation and the terrorism.
Then the Minister of Finance, Silvan Shalom, is interviewed, and discusses the high cost of the war and the need for economic reforms to pay for this war. The increasing recession must be paid for by a lower standard of living. “Do you see a connection between the occupation and the recession?” the same interviewer asks. Of course it would be better for us if there was peace, he answers, but we have to be realistic. The representative from the unemployed workers’ union, when asked, answered more clearly – end the occupation and there will be jobs.
I’ve been keeping this diary for over three months. Is there anything I’ve learned from this? Is there anything I’ve taught from this? Is there any possibility of progress at all?
of course there has to be progress - for me at least. i am much more convinced that left and right both have to learn more - and more convinced that only an inclusion of all the thoughts and needs can lead to a solution.
Even though it is harder and harder for me to include the extreme opinions on both sides.
And I'll be at the big "Yesh Gvul" rally at the port tomorrow evening protesting the occupation.
and not only because Sharon Moldavi will be singing as well.
Because i still believe that something can be done to improve the lives of all the people here.
Good fences make good neighbors, i keep saying. But that line from robert Frost also goes, "Before I built a wall, I'd want to know what i was walling in or out." And I'm increasingly suspicious about the positions of the wall here. There will be more about this.
Here’s an old joke newly fitted up for the current situation that Yehudit sent me:
An old man lived alone in Palestine. He wanted to dig his potato garden, but it was very hard work. His only son who would have helped him, was in an Israeli prison.
The old man wrote a letter to his son and mentioned his predicament. Shortly, he received this reply, "For HEAVEN'S SAKE, Dad, don't dig up that garden, that's where I buried the GUNS!"
At 4 A.M. the next morning, a dozen Israeli soldiers showed up and dug up the entire garden, without finding any guns.
Confused, the old man wrote another note to his son telling him what happened, and asking him what to do next.
His son replied: "Now plant your potatoes, Dad. This is the best I can do for you at this time."
Even before I wrote this down, I told it to my trainer. She told me her father used to tell the same joke about the British.
So it was quiet around here for another evening - What does this remind you of, I ask Ezi. He says - that joke about the visitor to Africa who asks if there are any cannibals, and is answered with "we ate the last one last week."
There are no explosions right now here because we're exploding them ourselves.
This is pretty awful.
And it isn't going to work for the long haul unless all of us change our attitudes.
I've got to meet Hanan Ashrawri and plan a female approach - multi-tasked, solution-oriented, practical, with ideologies aside for the moment.
Seriously - if this were my household and these were my kids - i'd first set up a project to keep everyone busy that would distract them and focus their energies. that's what a good kindergarten teacher would do. A massive agricultural and industrial project to provide basic needs for the population, and then a massive educational systerm = for both societies.
With a long range plan to gradually integrate the two societies.
I know this was loosely operating de facto before the intifada, but it needs to be done again with a more comprehensive manner. Where the infrastructure is in place first.
First, identify the needs of the populations, and which needs could be fulfilled locally - what kinds of industries could be economically introduced or promoted here. I'm treating the whole area as a single unit in this plan.
One thing we must not lose sight of here in our incredible relief at the relative freedom from attack is the fact that it is at the cost of great suffering of an entire people. As Meron Benvenisti and other Israelis have warned, "All of the measures taken in the framework of the operation to reconquer the towns and villages of the West Bank, including the "easing of restrictions," constitute collective punishment, a violation of international treaties (the Oslo Accord is an international treaty), and a violation of the laws of war and of universal-humanitarian laws. The great suffering these measures cause the civilian population cannot be justified by any excuse related to the need to fight terrorism. "
and yet, I can't ignore the fact that I am happy to have 2 arms and 2 legs right now, even though i went shopping this morning.
So if i am sure of any things at all it is that we have to treat the whole area as a single unit - to consider both sides all the time in any plan or strategy.
This is not an entirely strange concept to Israelis, including the complexities of thought about the issues here. Naomi Regan recently sent around a letter complaining that these waiverings are the reason we aren't winning, solving this problem clearly and decisively.
And there's evidence in the daily papers of our unwillingness to ignore the feelings and needs of the Palestinians. A terrible article yesterday in Ha'Aretz, sent to me by Yitzchak Laor, describes the accidental death of 2 Palestinian children on their way to buy chocolate during a break in a curfew. They were apparently killed by fire from an Israeli tank - i think they were aiming for a car next to them, but thefact remains that the kids were killed. One of them was buried with the chocolate he bought at the grocers in his hand.
The article notes that the Israeli army didn't visit the family, or view the video of their death.
Thus we continually criticize ourselves, and constantly find ourselves wanting. And try to learn.
But this learning is not always possible. Because the desire to survive is stronger than the desire to be good people.
Dear Readers - You are very kind to complain only about the Nicole Kidman popups, and not about my confused mind and my political porridge. I promise to try to find a way to get a proper website very soon.
In the mean time a line from a conversation we had with Burt and Shulamit on Friday night keeps coming back to me. He told about a wonderful student dinner in Ramallah with Americans and Palestinians. The host was so overwhelmed with the conviviality he asked, "What would it take to continue this atmosphere outside these walls?" and a Palestinian student answered, "Tel Aviv."
We spent our weekend with groups of friends, breakfast, lunch, dinner - and constant conversation about 'the situation.' Our 2 visitors from abroad still sought solutions. The conversations with people who live here center around survival, maintaining some of the amazing achievements of this society in these days when everything is under attack.
Two years ago I wrote this poem - before the intifada, but in the same enduring heat. it isn't finished because things changed so rapidly after, some of it became irrelevant, but it needs to be aired out.
Everything is impossible in this heat
Even the street smells as if it is rotting away
and nothing we long for will ever grow.
And I go home and shower and think
of the woman from Hebron I met on the plane
from New York who was just like me except she
wouldn’t be able to wash away the flight
because of the water allotment for Arabs
in the Territories.
And I am not refreshed.
Everything means something in this heat
But what it means is beyond my knowledge and control,
going off in all directions, even though
I still keep my fingers crossed for Camp David.
And I stay home and turn on the air conditioning
to clear my mind and listen to news
of people who are starving themselves because
they fear their houses will be lost
and people whose houses have been
blown up and people who keep a key
half a century old to an abandoned house,
and remember the unlocked homes my family left
(a whole village of houses)
and my brother and I as the only survivors
don’t even want to know about them
much less go about seeking reparations
and my heart goes out
to each person with a key and no door.
In the dream forest playing mind games,
I find a golden key that unlocks
all doors, and probably
all hearts, my hunger for the universal
access to all portals so strong
I feed my symbols even greater meaning
In the mean time in this heat
I dream we melt down all the unusable keys
and make from them some new machines
to refine water and clean the beaches
and bring back a healthier sun
Everything gets mixed up in this heat. I keep
looking for the little key I promised
to make copies of for everyone in the office
and remember I told you, ‘Watch, I’m putting it here,
so everything will be clear, and now I can’t remember
where it was I was sure it would be safe...