Tel Aviv Diary August 10-14, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - August 10 - 14, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

August 10, 2004

No wonder i have high blood pressure. Last night I watched a program about how the government is screwing the Beduin, the night before about a little girl in Dahaisha --- every night another terrible situation I can do nothing about. The report on the economic situation released yesterday was discussed on the news and the government representative who came to defend it was almost physically attacked. Even the story about the Koreans who came here to march in support of Israel and because of whom Nathalie had even more difficulty getting through the checkpoints than normal. It's all on the news. One thing is sure - the television is not a means of government propaganda around here!

And everything is contradictory. At the same time a few documentary series get shown about increasing obesity here, the statistics that well over 10% of the population don't have enough money for food. And this comes out as the government announces new cuts that will of course affect the poor only.

August 11, 2004

The changeover from a socialist state to a capitalistic one has numerous results, most of which I despise, but some of which are amusing. The newly rich, the people with sudden money, who have to demonstrate their power with ostentatious outlays - like the Marjorie Morningstar phenomenon - the jews of the fifties in the US. For example we went to a wedding last night where there were over 500 people. And very elegant. Because I'm being dressed by Comme-il-faut for my rock shows i now know prices of good clothes. And there was no woman there wearing less than $1000.

But the wedding is interesting in other ways, even if just as an example of Israeli culture.

Some of the music was "mizrachi" or oriental - belly dancing music but without the quarter tones. Like my all-time favorite, "Rona." And some men seemed at home with this dancing as well, Otherwise most of the music was the same pop music you can hear at any wedding around the world. Although sometimes I wonder how people would react if only they listened to the words. Remember for example "By the Rivers of Babylon?" - First it's about exile from the promised land. Wooow. Then it's about how one can be singing a "love song in a strange land" if one is in captivity - perfect lyrics for a wedding.

Yeah, right. lighten up. i know - i've been hearing this song for almost 30 years at happy occasions. Still - am i the only one who's caught on?

To contrast, as I was driving into the parking garage this afternoon, and noting the extra security, a song came on the radio - a dramatic monologue: a boy on his twentieth birthday calls his mother from the army base and tells her she shouldn't believe what she hears on the news, that it's all nonsense. And he tells her not to worry, that he's strong. And then some female voices come in and sing something about angels intervening. Now that is pure shmaltz, but I left my car with tears in my eyes.

I KEEP FORGETTING TO MENTION THAT TOMORROW NIGHT THIN LIPS IS OPENING FOR NEKAMAT HATRAKTOR AGAIN - 10:OO P.M. at Barby . The price is 70 shekel because you get the Traktor too. The next one is the 23rd of September. And we'll probably do something at Beit Levick on the 14th of September. If you want to hear but don't leave your home or your car, then listen to the first channel on Sept 4 at 11:00 a.m.

August 12, 2004

Richard sent me this last week but i'm only now reading my mail - because i was busy trying to organize the reading series at Beit Levick - the yiddish writers house:

Subject: Using Yiddish in Court
In the heat of litigation, tempers often flare and lawyers sometimes have
difficulty expressing their frustrations. When English fails, Yiddish may come
to the rescue. So it happened that defense attorneys arguing in a recent
summary judgment motion in federal court in Boston wrote, in a responsive pleading,
'It is unfortunate that this Court must wade through the dreck of plaintiff's
original and supplemental statement of undisputed facts.' The plaintiffs'
attorneys, not to be outdone, responded with a motion that could double as a
primer on practical Yiddish for lawyers:
MONICA SANTIAGO, Plaintiff, v.
Civ. No. 87-2799-T
her attorneys, hereby moves this Court pursuant to Rule 12(f) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure to strike as impertinent and scandalous the
characterization of her factual submission as "dreck" on page 11 of Defendant's Rule
56.1 Supplemental Statement of Disputed Facts (a copy of which is attached hereto
as Exhibit A). As grounds therefor, plaintiff states:
For almost four years now, plaintiff and her attorneys have been subjected to
the constant kvetching by defendants' counsel, who have made a big tsimmes
about the quantity and quality of plaintiff's responses to discovery requests.
This has been the source of much tsoris among plaintiff's counsel and a gonsah
megillah for the Court.
Now that plaintiff's counsel has, after much time and effort, provided
defendants with a specific and comprehensive statement of plaintiff's claims and the
factual basis thereof, defendants' counsel have the chutzpah to call it
"dreck" and to urge the Court to ignore it.
Plaintiff moves that this language be stricken for several reasons. First, we
think it is impertinent to refer to the work of a fellow member of the bar of
this Court with the Yiddish term "dreck" as it would be to use "the sibilant
four-letter English word for excrement." (Rosten, The Joys of Yiddish (Simon &
Schuster, New York, 1968) p. 103. Second, defendants are in no position to
deprecate plaintiff's counsel in view of the chozzerai which they have filed
over the course of this litigation.
Finally, since not all of plaintiff's lawyers are yeshiva bochurs, defendants
should not have assumed that they would all be conversant in Yiddish.
WHEREFORE, plaintiff prays that the Court put an end to the mishegoss and
strike "dreck."

August 13, 2004

I have been remiss. Spent all day filming a music clip and when i returned felt a need to immerse myself in domestic matters and have the kids for dinner. didn't even get a chance to mention the fascinating appearance of ami ayalon for the mifkad on tv. He didn't say anything about Sari Nusseibeh, his Palestinian partner. But he was brutally honest about his successes and limitations and admitted that he still has about 200,000 israelis and 150,000 Palestinians - because some people backed out, taking their names off the list. Now that made me resolve to have a house meeting - a lecture and discussion - to invite them sometime in the fall.

August 14, 2004

Second and final day of filming - we did some shots in Neve Tzedek and Ezi came along. We filmed on Slush Street, and as I looked at the sign i suddenly remembered that somehow ezi is related to the Shlush family.

After that it turned out we did a shot next to Judy Weill's house - sitting in the entrance and watching the guy I'm supposed to have tried to seduce run away (You'll have to see the clip to understand this, i suppose). And we ran into an old friend of Oren's as we were doing a shot on a park bench.

The whole idea of the impossibility of doing things in anonyomity hit me - remember that old question about tel aviv: If people are so sexy why don't they make love in the street? Because everyone else would be stopping to give advice.

Tattoos in Tel Aviv. Richard asked me about this a couple days ago but i was too occupied to get to it:

It always seemed to me very strange that young people here are at all attracted to tattoos. After all the tattoos i knew as a young person were from all the Holocaust survivors I grew up with. Ignaz Winter, for example, who taught me to ride a bicycle (and I was as slow on the uptake then as I am now - maybe slower because more scared) would run along holding on to the bike with fingers deformed from torture and I would constantly look back as far as I dared to make sure he was still holding. I turned around to the first number on his arm. That number was my comfort. Anyway maybe a dozen years ago i wrote this poem on the subject of tattoos in tel aviv: TEL AVIV

They are sitting next to each other
at the bus stop
The old woman who in Germany
was 876421
and the young girl with a blue butterfly
on her bare shoulder.
We are witnesses, my daughter and me.

Now i'm used to them - tattoos on the exposed backsides of young women with low-slung jeans and shirt shirts, little decorative on the shoulders of women my age, an entire forearm tattooed on a sleeveless man, etc. etc.

But it still is strange to me.

Long ago i heard the story of a woman in tel aviv in 1950 who had a tattoo in german on her stomach - for officers only.

But i seem to be the only one connecting these stories. most people judge tattoos on a religous or aesthetic basis only. I mean that the injunction against touching blades or sharp instruments to one's body is the reason religious men don't shave, and my mother questioned long and hard about whether pierced earrings was kosher.

So some people find it a statement against the religious imperative.

And others are of the same divided mind as the rest of the world.

So tattoos are pretty common around here. But there is one guy I will never forget - who will be in my mind as much as Ignaz Winter (of whom I will speak more some other day). This guy was 18 and lived across the street from me. He was covered with tattoos - where you expect and where you don't expect. On the back of his neck, on his whole chest, his arms, his head... I used to see him a lot at the grocers' and he was at first quite intimidating, with his bald head and his body always naked from the waist up. Gradually we began to exchange a few words and he seemed very nice, very gentle. Two months ago he hung himself in the orchard next door, after apparently a number of failed attempts.

So the tattoos meant self-mutilation for him, (and i still can't even bring myself to say his name) but most people are very proud of their decorations.

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