Tel Aviv Diary April 18, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from April 18, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

no future yet. sorry.

April 18, 2005

I started this page and realized it was ahead of my time.

And today has just begun so i'll get back to you after the beach.

The beach is next to the medical center so I get to visit the mediterranean each time i go to the dentist or doctor. it is a wonderful compensation.

I did something and erased all i had written about charity in israel and Saul Bellow. I thought i had saved it all, but no...

For an amazing piece on Saul Bellow, read Ann Birstein's piece in Jewish Week: The Bellow You Didnít Know Trust Ann Birstein to give you an original angle on everything. She's the one who pointed out to me that Eilat today is like the Catskills in the 50's.

About poverty in Israel. Before the holidays it becomes more clear that the gap between rich and poor is growing, and it is the middle class who are kicking in. As we were listening to the car radio - an evening talk show in which the moderator was trying to raise money from people of moderate means for a seder for 100 people, $25 per person - we were watching an old beggar, almost blind with glaucoma, wearing a skull cap, thin as a rail, tap his way from car to car and filling his paper cup with small change. Of course - as Robert pointed out to me before I erased this section - there are all kinds of agencies associated with religious organizations and synagogues, and there are soup kitchens, and there are relatives, and there are still thousands of people who will not have food for the holidays.

April 19, 2005

A glorious day for the beach, but me i've got meetings from here to eternity - so once again I only the saw the sea from far. If the door of my office is open, for example, I have an amazing view... (Why do I have so many meetings you ask? Well, the number of my colleagues has diminished to the point where we have a 1:47 faculty student ratio. That means not only more students per person, but also more committees, more tasks, more contests, etc. And I belong to 5 writers associations, (chair one, board of two others) and a few academic ones too. And I have a life.

Zeev Rosenstein is going to America. I don't have all the facts about what he did, but assume that the judges know what they were doing in allowing his extradition. If only he didn't look so much like my cousin...

I keep thinking i'm going to write something on the disengagement, the way the earth is so fluid under our feet in this part of the world, but i can't get my head around the whole experience yet. it's too compartmentalized. if i were only left or only right it would be so easy.

Like Shuvi makes it. I would love to get out now - i wanted to get out in '67. But there are human beings on both sides involved, and we need a system to deal with them, as well as a heart.

Speaking of heart - apparently the news came out today that we are really bad in social services now. Bibi took the announcement with the usual sociopathic joy he expresses when someone tries to tell him he's destroyed thousands of people's lives - like yesterday when he went to visit a volunteer center for relief. People giving up their own time and money to help the poor. The woman asked him how he had the nerve to show his face there - and he, proud and happy, answered that if he didn't have nerve he wouldn't be in the position of power he was in today... or something to that effect.

Rarely do i post the many jokes that come my way, despite their great entertainment value - but this one suits my mood:

Morty visits Dr. Saul, the veterinarian, and says, "My dog, has a problem."
Dr. Saul, "So tell me about the dog and the problem."
"It's a Jewish dog. His name is Irving and he can talk," says Morty.
"He can talk?" the doubting doctor asks.

"Watch this!" Morty points to the dog and commands: "Irving, Fetch!"
Irving, the dog, begins to walk toward the door, then turns around and says, "So why are you talking to me like that? You always order me around like I'm nothing. And you only call me when you want something. And then you make me sleep on the floor, with my arthritis. You give me this fahkahkta food with all the salt and fat, and you tell me it's a special diet. It tastes like dreck! YOU should eat it yourself! And do you ever take me for a decent walk? NO, it's out of the house, a short pish, and right back home. Maybe if I could stretch out a little, the sciatica wouldn't kill me so much! I should roll over and play dead for real for all you care!"
Dr. Saul is amazed. "This is remarkable! What could be the problem?"
Morty says, "He has a hearing problem! I said 'Fetch', not 'Kvetch'"!

now I need your imagination and help - i was lazy and decided to buy kneidlach mix - then i got brave again and decided to make my own - and i'm stuck with 3 packages of that stuff. I've been thinking of mixing it with yams and zucchini and baking a kugel... any ideas?

April 20, 2005

Remember that Italian reporter I told you about a few days ago? Here is the article. Now read what I thought I told him here on the 15 of April. I probably said it all - but for the shape of his piece he picked out different things than i would have emphasized. Or maybe he wanted to protect me.

Gidon, who lives in Fiesole, translated it for me tonight, and this time it made even less sense to me. I had thought i just didn't understand the language.

April 21, 2005

Because my usual shopping patterns have been broken by the coming holiday (for example: Netsal on the web refused to sell me low lactose milk because it didn't have a 'kosher for passover' sticker and we are coming into the holidays) I was forced to confront ... shudder... the supermarket. And as usual, my fears were only partly founded. First of all in our local supermarket - just opposite Shimon Peres' apartment - are all the usual elements of the entire country, all the hi-tech jumbled together with the primitive, the orderly and the messy, etc. But the highlight of my visit were the two Arab men in front of me in line who were buying matzot. Why? I thought. We must - but you? (I think in punchlines. This is the one about the guy who comes home and finds his shrewish wife in bed with his best friend. "Moshe," he says, "I must - but you?")

Did a little tehina research too. Tehina is okay on passover for non-ashkenazis but the only tehina my family will touch lately is from Shechem, the tehina capitol of the world. So all the Israeli brands are now taking on Arab-like names - Asli, Achla, etc. They don't fool me.

April 22, 2005

I always liked Admiel Kosman's poetry immensely - in part because his eroticism and theology suit me, as well as the echoes of Buber - I and Thou and Between Man and Man. But when I met him two weeks ago he proved very un-Buber-like as a person, deriding the purpose of the conference on one panel, hijacking the other panel I was on to promote his own poetry, and interacting as little as possible with others. This would not have surprised me if his work had not been so spiritual and humanitarian (although I know in myself that sometimes my own work is much better than I am - because in a poem we are in a controlled environment, and can behave as we would like to rather than as circumstances sway us). So when we opened the literary supplement and saw a poem by Kosman, I didn't really want to read it. Then I couldn't make out the title and Ezi laughed and said it's in English in Hebrew letters. "Installing You My Lord" And the poem not only explains his seeming strange behavior at the conference, but is a complex religious piece similar to John Donne's holy sonnets. Like "Batter My Heart, Three-Personed God" this is a apostrophic sonnet wishing to have God incorporated in his being. I don't really like the computer conceit but it does work - even though it mechanizes the infinite.

And because Ezi pointed out Kosman's poem to me, I read Yitzhak Laor's poem above it "Lo the Autumn has Passed," and it moved me to tears. Period. I'm posting a translation before asking his permission but if he doesn't like it, I'll make it disappear. Promise.

Yitzhak Laor

Lo the Autumn has Passed

Here the spring has begun with shrieks, the cats
couple on the stairs, and in all events the orchards,
abandoned, flower in the place where I was born
(I know, this year we didnít go to see them, we donít have
a minute free to rejoice, our worries threaten to explode
the artery of the brain, which is the way my mother died at winterís end,
before the spring, before her pension, before the middle
of my life), and the love letters I received last fall
with such excitement, I read again and again
like a punishment, an eternal souvenir to my abasement,
chiseled in your glance, how easy it was to anoint me
with love, and you of course were already mine,
and your dark beauty and weary wise smile, shined in the dark
like a magic lantern, but I ran out, weary, a tom-cat.
Spring, the lungs still inhale deeply, our killers
lurked for us in the university, beyond the corner of today
waits poverty and still we blossom
annually, and my son, the fruit of your womb, plays
the chords of Eleanor Rigby. Each Sabbath we bless
over the colorful soup and the blood clot
swims slowly, slowly, it has time and I have a chance
. For lo thou are beautiful my bride, I love
Thee, here the autumn has passed

I'd say more but I want to look at the tranlsation again after a while and see how it sits.

In the meantime I have to figure out how to get the smell of gefilte fish out of the house when the dust storm forces us to keep the windows closed. And I don't want the smell to invade my sponge cakes. A typical prepesach problem.

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