Tel Aviv Diary April 15-19 , 2007- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - April 15-19, 2007

April 14, 2007

Tonight is the beginning of Holocaust day. I was supposed to go to Yad Vashem but with the flu still lingering I don't dare. The ceremony is outside, and very cold. But more importantly, I wonder whether our emphasis in these ceremonies is correct. For the cost of each ceremony, the situation of the survivors could be ameliorated just a bit. Here in Israel in particular there are so many who have been unable to make their lives bearable - poverty, illness, loneliness. The fact that so many HAVE reconstructed their lives seems amazing to me. Today is my mother's birthday - she would have 102. She herself escaped the camps and enjoyed the relative security of the Blitz in those years, but lost all of her family - sisters brothers nieces nephews and friends - and would spend the entire Holocaust Day weeping.

Here, for example, are some of my first cousins, Shmuli, Aliza and Zama. I don't know how they died, but Zama's mother Batya Bernczyk, ended her life in Auschwitz, and Motel Kaganovich, Aliza's father, ended up in Majdanek. My brother wrote poem about this picture called "Lawnchairs" wondering what it would have been like had they survived.

April 16, 2007

The remembrance siren caught me driving on Gordon just before Dizengoff. My watch was wrong and I didn't know it was 10 a.m. I was taking Shusha to the kennel for the conference, so when I opened the door to stand at attention she thought we had arrived somewhere and popped out. I didn't respond. She looked at me thinking I would direct her, warn her, but i was involved in tragedies, in thoughts. So she crossed the street and tried to look the lady standing at the gate in the eye. But the lady didn't look back. She crossed over again closer to Dizengoff, peering at first one and then another person standing at attention, clearly confused. A man at the door of his mazda didn't notice that she jumped into his car and jumped out. It was a minute where she was the only thing moving on that busy street, and she bothered no-one. But because I couldn't give my total attention to the awful history, and she was so curious and funny, it was the first time I didn't cry on Holocaust Day.

If I'm better, I'll be at the kisufim conference in Jerusalem. We'll have to see.

April 17, 2007

Ah Jerusalem! The weight of the city, the responsibility, the strange mix of a JEWISH writers conference and the Arab waiters. What is a Jew? What is a writer? I myself am a person who writes poems. I'm a Jew - because I am, that's all.

But the internet service is expensive here and i will not be able to afford these empty thoughts until I return to Tel Aviv.

April 19, 2007

Can't resist. The excitement and ambivalence of Jerusalem is too much for me. So many around me love the city with a deep and abiding passion. Many sit next to me and point out its wonders, its learning, its humanity. I shift in my seat, want to be convinced, but feel all around the strange exclusion of the walls, the feeling that there are warm people 'inside' the walls, and people outside.

Today i finish the conference and dash to Tel Aviv, holding my fragile soul in my hands as if it may break.

I meant to stay a day or two and found myself caught in the fascination of this <"a href=">kisufim conference and the question of what is involved in being what I am. Now I'm back to ordinary life.

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