Tel Aviv Diary August 25 - 29, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - August 25 - 29, 2004 Karen Alkalay-Gut

August 25, 2004

We actually have a gold medal. The excitement is so great about Gal Friedman and his windsurfing win that three other major items have been pushed to the side: 1)The minister of Justice, Zachy Hanegbi, is finally being accused of corruption, of bringing totally unqualified people into the government into his office when he was minister of environment. it was pretty obvious to everyone then, but finally there's an official criticism. The state comptroller talks about more than 40 political appointments in the space of 2 years. This is from the wonderful guy whose response to the prisoners' hunger strike last week was 'let them starve to death' 2) The Palestinians, who learn many habits from us, have tried another targetted killing today. Tareq Abu Rajab,the deputy Palestinian intelligence chief, was shot today. I wonder what the lifespan is for a palestinian leader. 3)Appropos of lifespan, 81 year old Shimon Peres is fighting for his political leadership even as we speak. He wants to join the government, and the rest of the party doesn't. I do understand his desire to influence from within, but it is really hard to know why anyone with integrity would have anything to do with this government.

The clip that is making the round of righteously indignant jews right now is the "Throw the Jew Down the Well" sketch by Sacha Baron Cohen in which he sings a straight antisemitic song in a bar to great appreciation. The idea was supposed to be that he was exposing antisemitism : Throw the Jew Down the Well. But I must admit that when I saw it i couldn't breathe for a few minutes. Nevertheless there IS an important lesson to be learned from it - not that people are stupid and/or evil, but that music is incredibly influential. And we should respect it - and USE it!

August 26, 2004

Our obsession with the olympics has one additional dimension that other countries do not have: we need to prove to ourselves as well as the world that we are not controlled by the violence that surrounds us, that we have the concerns and interests of peace-loving nations, that we have transcended - in some way - the third-world situation in which we live. Me too.

Another indication for me that this is a civilized place is the availability of poetry - how much non-profitable art can an economy stand. Today I was in Proza, a book shop on Dizengoff, and there was a whole table of poetry books and journals. I was thrilled. (My own books were not there, but there were 2 journals with terrific reviews of me.)

Tsachi (Zachy) Hanegbi: The Comptroller's webpage is here but the report isn't in English yet. In Hebrew it's Here.

I think it's time to expose yourself to art. Sommer Gallery

Time for Art

Saw Kurt Gerron's Variety (1925) today - He plays a trapeze artist whose wife betrays him with their partner. It's a silent film that has been redone many times by others - i think Burt Lancaster was the most recent reincarnation in "Trapeze." But in the more modern versions you don't see the details - the close-up of life's details like Gerron mending his wife's stocking, the slow determination to kill the betrayer, leave his wife and turn himself in. At the same time you don't see the moral dimension, the impossibility of justice, and love. It is an amazingly symbolic film for a man who ended up in the kind of moral dilemma he was in - making a film for the Nazis and getting murdered by them.

August 27, 2004

Tzachi Hanegbi - commissior of police - is supposed to investigate the wrong-doings of Hanegbi as minister of environment. I'm taking bets its going to come out all right. You?

Lisa Goldman wrote about me in Ha'aretz today. Now I can sit back and wait for reaction.

in the old days when i had a poem in the paper, or a radio program, or something like that - I would immediately get a call from my husband's ex-wife's mother. She read everything and listened to everything. She died years ago but I still wait for her call every time. Then often my mother's cousin's wife would call and comment intelligently, sometimes criticizing constructively. But she's senile now. So that's it.

Robert Rosenberg is editing a new weekly online magazine of Haaretz here. It's free for September, and the piece i read on Mazuz is great.

We took home today the OED Dictionary my father-in-law left me 10 years ago when he died. It was too hard for me to imagine it without him until now. And as I sat there, reading it, I remembered an old game he used to play with me. "Look up 'cable'" he'd say, and I would read the meanings to him. "Now the etymologies," and I would read them. "Indian," I think I read. Then he would ask "Now what does your clear intelligence tell you about the origin of the word 'cable'? I would draw a blank. "Kevel" - the word for rope in Hebrew, he would remind me, is in the bible. We played that game a lot. It was his way of showing me how fallible authority is - among other things...

August 28, 2004

Here's something that Brenda sent me that might get you AMerican people out there to vote:

The Ultimate Swing State May Be Overseas By RANDALL RICHARD, AP NEW YORK (Aug. 15) - When decision time comes this fall, the real swing votes in the 2004 presidential election may not come from Pennsylvania, Ohio or even the notorious Florida. The ultimate Bush-Kerry battleground may turn out to be somewhere more far-flung and unexpected - Israel, Britain, even Indonesia.
And both political camps say they are getting ready for the fight, courting American voters who are living overseas and taking no chances that the expatriate vote will undermine them at the finish line.
Although an official census has never been taken, between 4 million and 10 million American citizens are believed to be living abroad. Those over 18 are entitled to have their absentee votes counted in the state where they last lived - no matter how long ago that was. And many are planning to do just that.
''There's enormous interest abroad, because the whole of the world depends on the result,'' said Phyllis Earl, 72, who lives in Britain and has not voted in a U.S. election since 1956, two years after she moved overseas.
Overseas voters are considered particularly important this year. Polls suggest razor-thin margins in several battleground states, and votes coming in from abroad - a score here, a dozen there - could well tip the balance.
Contrary to widespread belief, it was more likely American voters in Israel, not Florida, who put George W. Bush in the White House four years ago - a phenomenon that has Kerry's supporters in Israel vowing to do whatever it takes to make certain that doesn't happen again in November.
Kerry's sister Diana speaks several languages and has been using them all in campaign swings throughout Europe. Sharon Manitta, spokeswoman for the group Democrats Abroad, said Kerry supporters have been active in ''overseas outreach efforts'' in Europe, Indonesia, Mexico and even Iran. In 2000, the organization had 30 overseas chapters; now it has a presence in 73 countries - including an Iraq chapter called ''Donkeys in the Desert.''
Bush, too, has advocates chasing the overseas vote on his behalf, according to Ryan King, deputy director of Republicans Abroad, which has chapters in 50 countries. Among those crossing the oceans for Bush this fall are former Vice President Dan Quayle and George P. Bush, son of the president's brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
''Be an expatriate patriot,'' says an ad planned by Republicans Abroad that also quotes former President Ronald Reagan: ''We cannot play innocents abroad in a world that is not innocent.''
After Labor Day, Republicans Abroad also plans campaign ads on the president's behalf in the International Herald Tribune and in Stars and Stripes, a newspaper with wide distribution among the estimated 300,000 to 400,000 U.S. military personnel serving abroad.
Those who doubt that Americans living abroad could tip the balance in 2004 might consider this: Various chads aside, Al Gore received 202 more votes than George W. Bush on Election Day 2000 in Florida. Only after all the overseas votes were counted, including more than 12,000 from Israel alone, was Bush's election victory certified. The margin was 537 votes.
In 2000, according to King, Israel was one of the keys to Bush's success. No other foreign country's U.S. citizens contributed more to Bush's narrow Florida victory, he said.
Harvard Professor Gary King, co-compiler of a survey analyzing Florida's overseas vote in 2000, has no doubt that expatriate Americans gave Bush his victory four years ago. And while it's unclear whether the vote from Israel alone was enough to put Bush over the top, 185,000 U.S. citizens live there - an undetermined number from Florida.
Mark Zober, chairman of Democrats Abroad in Israel, said he has no firm figures but estimates that roughly 100,000 Americans in Israel are eligible to vote in the upcoming U.S. election, and that roughly 14,000 were registered in 2000.
But how could Israeli Jews give Bush his margin of victory when Jewish Democrats outnumber Jewish Republicans by a wide margin in the United States? Both Zober and Ryan King think they know the answer.
Zober sees little doubt that the Jewish vote in New York state heavily favored Gore. But in the 2000 presidential election, Zober points out, it made no difference how Israeli immigrants from New York voted. All that mattered was how expatriates from Florida cast their ballots.
Israel is home to roughly 6,000 former Floridians - expatriates who tend to be more conservative than Jewish voters in New York and many of whom voted for Bush in the last election, Zober said.
Additionally, he said in a telephone interview from his office in Tel Aviv, many Israeli-Americans who might have voted for Gore if they were living in the United States voted for Bush because they considered him an unflinching supporter of Israel.
Once in Israel, Zober said, Jewish voters are no longer guided by a presidential candidate's position on domestic issues. Instead, he said, they vote for whoever they think will serve Israel's interests. Even this year, Zober acknowledged, many American-Israelis are still inclined ''to vote for the devil they know instead of the one they don't.''
No statistics exist to predict definitively whether Americans in Israel will play such an important role this November. But Marc Zell, chairman of Republicans Abroad's Israel chapter, is taking no chances.
Zell said his group has about 150 volunteers who aggressively started registering potential Bush voters a few months ago. As the election nears, he said, they will be holding ''parlor sessions'' at their homes to discuss Bush's support for Israel and will probably take out pro-Bush ads in Israel's English-language newspapers.
The Democrat group, meanwhile, is hoping to show American-Israelis that their adopted home is no safer today than before the war in Iraq and that Kerry is no less a friend to Israel than Bush.
Israel is hardly the only country Bush and Kerry supporters are turning to for votes. Registration drives are under way in countries across Europe, Asia and Latin America. And in Britain, home to an estimated 224,000 American expatriates, voter interest is greater than ever, according to Democrats and Republicans alike.
Timothy Spangler, who heads Britain's branch of Republicans Abroad, said chief Bush political adviser Karl Rove has come to London on the president's behalf, as have Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham. This fall, Republicans Abroad plans to take advantage of voter interest by sending representatives to register voters at businesses that employ many Americans.
Democrats in Britain are doing much the same thing, registering expatriates who have been living there for decades as nonvoters. Manitta said her group has set up a booth outside her local movie house in Salisbury, about 85 miles southwest of London, to register potential Kerry voters leaving Michael Moore's ''Fahrenheit 9-11''.
Earl, who moved to London in 1954, will vote this year for only the second time in her life - not because she wants to, she says, but because she's afraid of what might happen if she doesn't cast her ballot against incumbents who she feels ''don't have the interest of the country at heart.''
''The situation is desperate,'' Earl said. ''For me, it reached a critical point. I just felt I had to vote.''
(AP writers Laurie Copans in Jerusalem and Beth Gardiner in London contributed to this report.)

AP-NY-08-15-04 1702EDT


As we walked around some of the sleazier cafes on the beach this evening I kept thinking - who is going to write about this? I was with Lisa, who does On The Face a Tel Aviv Blog like me. And there was so much to write about! The cacaphony of musics blaring from the different cafes, the public 'folk' dancing to strange songs (like "You're a cannon, better that all the others, you're the best of them all"), the demi-belly dancing that goes with mizrachi music, the Pet Shop Boys, etc. etc. etc. I hope she writes about the scene, because it wore me out and i'm too tired.

August 29, 2004

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