Tel Aviv Diary August 10, 2008 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - August 10, 2008 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

August 10, 2008

Eicha! How could it have happened?

I can never get upset about Tisha B'av.

I try - read a bit of Lamentations - watch the news - got much more upset about Georgia, the death of Darwish, the implications of Beijing. (Sorry - when everyone was oohing and aahing about the opening ceremony in China, I was shuddering at the totalitarianism of it). So the cause of the fall of the Temple are with us today - superfluous hatred.

The only poem I have about the subject is another version of a previous poem published in these pages - about a georgian woman in siberia


The woman working on my ingrown toenail
Bent over me holding her tongue between her teeth
Is often a mystery to me.

Sometimes I understand her Russian
Sometimes she remembers her newly acquired Hebrew
Sometimes she keeps silent
Containing worlds and times in her busy hands.

Today she is worried about her mother
Back in Moscow. Perhaps she is dying
And she has lived a life of woe.

There is no radio in the room,
Only her voice droning
Answers to my questions.

One example, I say,
Give me a story from World War II

In the military laundry at Tobolsk--
Where they cut a hole in the river’s ice
To get water for boiling--
The uniforms that came from the Front
Sometimes unfolded surprises
Like limbs or intestines.

In the waters of the Irtysh
All was made clean
All that is left
Is the memory of a dying woman.

Darwish, the witness of Palestinian pain, saw his dream of a Palestinian state disappearing before his eyes when Hamas took over Gaza. Where will the wanderer rest now? I always wished i could meet him somewhere in Ramallah and have lunch. I kept thinking it would happen someday, or maybe in Tel Aviv, and we could have a good kvetch together. Just now Rony Somekh was interviewed on tv about Darwish, and defended his poetry from an attack on his incitement against israel. The interviewer quoted the lines about his wanting to eat our flesh and throw away the bones, and Rony said that poetry isn't mathematics, and he teaches Darwish's poetry to teachers. And I wish even more we had been able to meet.

August 11, 2008

I keep getting asked about Rony's inflammatory remark about Darwish and how poetry is not mathematics. First of all - I agree with Rony that poetry is not mathematics. I write about my mood at the moment - and sometimes I get angry. I also agree with others who say that Darwish inflamed a public to violence and in his remarks made the prospect of peace much more complicated. But I also note that Fadwa Tuquan had similar images in her poetry and that did not prevent Moshe Dayan from meeting with her. And Moshe Dayan was right. This is a place to begin a conversation.

Yes I am afraid of these statements. I respond physically to them. And my favorite lines of Arabic poetry so far are from Mohammed Al-Maghut. I don't have them before me but the poem begins with "The horses of war are thundering towards us" and other rhetorically flowery phrases, but then it continues "and I am looking for some fat woman to rub up against on the bus, or some Bedouin to stick my fist into...." I don't even remember where I read that poem, but the idea that there is a standard public world and then there is a private one - and that private one is a deliberate aggressive reaction to a public madness - really gets to me.

August 13, 2008

Where did yesterday go? I'm sure I said something but there's nothing here. Never mind. Once I get my computer back from the shop (motherboard #3 in - what 9 months) I should straighten myself out.

One thing I thought I'd mentioned is that I found myself at the Ramat Aviv Mall the other day - with a list of things to do - get a present for my brother-in-law, a present for my late nephew's son's birthday, and some computer part from the computer store. The computer store was missing, the toy store had been moved to a corner, and the fun shop i wanted to get a joke present for my brother-in-law was gone. Instead, everything was clothes, accessories, jewellery, underwear, shoes and cosmetics. There's still a supermarket, a stationers, a book story, pharmacy, appliance store, and a few cafés. but that's it. Kilometers of clothes and pretty-ugly-dressed women buying them. This is not my favorite place, except for one thing - almost no kids. I don't believe that children should be out buying things.

It almost made me happy to see the changes in the mall, although i should be weeping. I mean for me a mall would have a large book store, a movie theater (they took them out), edible food, a hobby shop, and a place to sit and criticize people.

August 14, 2008

"Who are all these people?" A foreign guest asks me at the wedding. And I immediately name half the room. The woman next to me names the other half. I am not as good as most of my friends - they know to whom everyone is married and their children's partners and their businesses as well. Still, I do know that if they dropped a bomb on this wedding the economy and the history of this coutry would be destroyed overnight.

Tsipi Livni is under attack. Barak must be feeling very insecure about her because he's breaking his silence just to kvetch about how little she knows. Maybe he's right - she doesn't have any experience. But look where his experience got us. Look where all the experience in the world got us. Anyway I like her. And I don't like him. Perhaps a person's instincts should not be trusted, but what else do we have to go on?


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