Tel Aviv Diary - August 22-6, 2010 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - August 22-26, 2010 Karen Alkalay-Gut

August 22-6, 2010

August 20, 2010

Sometimes there are trips, and sometimes there are voyages. This one is a voyage. There is so much involved, so much to say, that I am only beginning to digest it. I'll get back home later today and begin my narratives.

August 22, 2010

As you know I have a short and irregular memory so what I don't write down today will be forgotten tomorrow. I've already begun to forget this weekend. And the photographs have not been downloaded yet.

First, was the wedding. A ceremony created by the bride and groom about their love for one another and their responsibility to the world. It took place at the northern border of Israel, in the house before the Good Fence, and the only interruption was the muezzin in Lebanon, calling to prayer. It took place as the sun was setting, and I was honored to officiate.

According to Jewish law all you need is a ring, a bride, and a groom, so the fact that I was "presiding" did no harm. And it was a magnificent wedding - true in every way to nature of the couple.

The groom came from down south in Lachish and the bride from the north, and everything about the wedding seemed like a unification of the country. The caterer was Lebanese, and we devoured all kinds of delicacies, not leaving room for the wedding breakfast which was made by the caterer's mother. A wedding in which the gifts are donated to charity is rare, but charity, says Rabbi Akiba, "saves from death." The story goes that Rabbi Akiva was told that on her wedding day his daughter would be bitten by a snake and died. But that night, as she undressed, she stuck her hairpin in a crevice in the wall, and in the morning, when she retrieved it, a snake came out as well. She'd stuck the pin into the eye of the snake. "What did you do," asked the Rabbi, "I gave my wedding meal to a beggar at the wedding. No one noticed him, so I took care of him." "You have done a good deed," said the rabbi and the preached, "Charity saves from death" I mean that if people can think of others in their most intimate moments, they deserve to be saved.

In Horshat Tal I jumped right in - well it took me some long minutes to get used to the freezing water, but once I get past that I took the opportunity of the four scrappy girls around me to play the games of the idiot. They knew no Hebrew - I knew no Arabic - I could teach them how not to swim with great articulation. We parted warmly, with no promises of the future, but I will never forget Rowan and Salim, Marianna and Shiraz, and how they could draw an old lady into the silliest of children's games.

August 23, 2010

Another stop was Banias. The last time I was there, we swam in the waters. But now it is a nature preserve and too beautiful to dirty with our bodies. The Temple of Pan was always there - and the name Banias comes from the Arab pronunciation of Pan - but now I learned that this is where Peter was told to build the church. It wasn't just the sand press that spelled out Matthew's quote in different languages, the bottles of holy water for sale at the kiosk gave it away. Well, you can't sell water from the Jordan, but you can sell little plastic bottles that pilgrims can fill up by themselves. A guard from the nature preserve helped us figure out all the changes - the different fish, the greenery, the amount of water, the half-eaten fruit (hares). It's a dry summer so the water is only a modest flow, but I remember it as a rush.

check again for photos soon.

(Sidenote -every trip into nature is also a voyage into grammar religion and history. The fish that have been reintroduced to the Banias - as well as the Sea of Galilee - is the Amnun. St. Peter's Fish. It's called Am - as in Mother - and Nun - as in fish because they carry their young in their mouths. Fish are incredibly important in the religions around here because of their fertility but also because they were the first life created by the Lord. Let's hope I got the name of the fish right, though.)

August 24, 2010

The Memorial Museum of Hungarian Jewry in Safed was one of the best parts of our weekend. All I knew about Hungary in the past I learned from Bandi Gut, who taught me a great deal about fashion, about computers, about engineering and about cursing, but very little about his background. And yet it must have been significant, since I have been searching for his and his father's history since we connected to internet, in 1985.

And one day not long ago we found some correspondence of the family with the Hungarian museum from way back. So even though we were in a bit of a hurry to get home, we stopped for a visit.

The museum is really a gem, with every aspect of Jewish life in Hungary covered. The integration of the Jewish population into the general culture is evident here, and I am not surprised that Bandi's father, Arpad Gut, about whom I have written in these pages, was a noted builder of public institutions that are still respected today, such as the thermal baths at Budapest's Hotel Gellert the water tower in siofok, the iron bridge at Oroszfalut and the Brick works at Granitgyar. It was only when he walked back from Keirgestan where he'd been a prisoner during WWI, and saw that the mood was changing, that he took his family and left for Palestine.

On another note, I don't like to make other people's private lives the subject of my journal, but the wedding on the border had so many parapersonal implications.

see in the background the sign for the good fence. While I'm talking about a wedding, we are surrounded by the memory of the moment of a union.

August 25, 2010

What about Tel Aviv? Now that the heat wave is slowly diminishing and our nerves are returning to their normal hyperactive state, the city is looking better. Some people are even turning off their airconditioners for the night. It is even becoming possible to being plans for the new year. Like where will we put our ever-growing family this year for dinner....

August 26, 2010

It is hard to describe the extent to which I am collapsing - a perfectly healthy person, unable to cope with the heat. Even though today was a kind of relief.

But we are heading into September, the beginning of school, and the high holidays. So maybe the height of all the questions I've been asking about religion are what is tiring me out. Like, when the Messiah comes, what will happen with all my implants? will I get to keep them?

And then all the questions about sinning and confessions. I know that "A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory," but I don't feel the whole thing is so simple. Like individual responsibility for collective crimes, or collective responsibility for individual crimes. I always thought that in Kol Nidre we begin with associating ourselves as one of the community, all sinners, but there are communities and there are communities.

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