Tel Aviv Diary Dec 28, 2004 - January 1, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from December 28, 2004 - January 1, 2004 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

December 28, 2004

Yesterday's entry seems to have been erased. I think it was about the tsunami and the fear of people to we haven't heard from, but it is all a blur. There are about three people I know who are there right now and can't contact.

But I was busy with birthdays and birthday cakes and rehearsals and meetings and it is all a blur.

All the news here is about the tsunami, and last night around midnight when I was driving home alone from a rehearsal the Chabad rabbi in Thailand was talking about the people he had met and heard about and each story was intimate and personal. People with whom we are connected. It makes the terrible monumental tragedy something that is both overwhelming in its enormity and in its specific pain.

Someone at a party last night said that the death of Raful, our general who was drowned last month, prefigured this event. But it was immediately put down. "That wasn't a tsunami! That was a tsustiknami!" (Tsutsik is the diminuitive in Yiddish for undergrown child.)

The thing I noted about it is the way we always see ourselves in the middle of the world, as connected to everything. Yes, there are hundreds of Israelis lost at the moment in Asia, but we are only tangentially related to the big disaster. We didn't even prefigure it.

I had to add that Israel has sent a number of crews - doctors, zaka - to help with the medical and cleaning-up problems there. But apparently while supplies are being accepted from us, personnel are not welcome.

There are a few people I know whose fates we dont know yet. 40,000 people dead! Unbelievable!

People in remote areas of the world always think Israel must be a big country - "there are so many of you visiting here!" they say. That's because we are so hemmed in we love to travel. From the moment people get out of the army they are out of the country - New Zealand, India, any where that is little travelled. "Get me a deal to New York!" I call my travel agent yesterday. "I need to get out!" She registers no surprise. Everyone does that kind of thing - and New York, she knows, has sales at this time of year...

Natasha, the only person who can coax my ingrown toenail out, is just off too - for Sylvester. They've had the tree up for a week, and are planning a big party. Sylvester is getting more and more popular, but my generation of Israelis rarely think about celebrating it.

Correction: It was only Sri Lanka who wasn't interested in receiving medical aid, but that, apparently, was only because they couldn't accomodate more planes. Once again, apparently, we think we're more significant than we are.

December 29, 2004

I finally figured out about monitors and what their job is on the stage last night - about a quarter of the way into the concert. It was still a pretty good concert, and maybe when I grow up I'll know all about what to do.

Today I gave a reading for the Hadassah women on Shenkin Street - now that was interesting because there was one poem I read in both places - once for the old ladies of Hadassah and once for the younger crowd...

The elderly ladies of Hadassah, most of the English and American, were right there on the coolest street in Tel Aviv, and their reactions to the poems, and the questions they asked, showed they were not unaffected by their environment. They asked me about how influenced I was by rap music, how my teaching affects my poetry, how I saw the purpose of poetry. Their alertness, their interest and involvement in the world, must, I'm sure, be influenced by the fact that they are living in the middle of everything.

I had a few minutes to kill off of Shenkin on my way home, waiting for someone to bring me something, and found myself drawn into a shop of home made jewellry and beadwork. There was no sign outside, it was a corner shop with small windows, and you had to go up a few steps to walk inside in order to see the merchandise, so under ordinary circumstances i would have passed it up. But something about the place spoke to me, and I found a little art museum there - crocheted, woven, strung beaded necklaces, gorgeous glass and amazing colors. Lior Ben Bassat - on the corner of Yohanan Hasandlar and Avoda Street. Check it out. I can't afford it at the moment, but maybe someday I'll be 'comfortable' and be able to afford a piece of jewelry the price of my refrigerator. Until then, I'll dream about the blue and gold necklace.

At least two Israelis dead in Thailand, one Thai injured today by shelling...

December 30, 2004

With all that chaos, one of the few things that I have a contact for and that makes order, is the Chabad. They're helping out in the disaster and need money. You can call Rabbi Yosef Chaim Kantor, the Executive Director Chabad of Thailand, at (661) 837 7618 or email him at:

Suddenly we decided we would celebrate new years - we would go out to dinner. This is just because our friend has another reason for celebrating and we've actually been celebrating spontaneously together for so many new years, it has become traditional. So all the parties we turned down , all the disdainful remarks we've made, and here we're going out. But where? Someplace romantic? Nona? Someplace glamorous? Mishmish? No. we're going to the "running sushi." i can't believe the name. it sounds like spoiled oysters, but we have to remember that the insensitivity to a foreign language (english) does not necessarily mean an insensitivity to foreign food. Especially when the cooks are taiwanese...

December 31, 2004

Let the new year be a new beginning -January 1, 2005

All right, so the Running Sushi was a take-away place that got enlarged. Because we were in need of serious rejoicing, we actually went next door to "Ocean" which used to be an amazing place in Kfar Shmariayu and served a pretty elegant dinner last night too.

Most of the people seemed English or South African when we came in, but as we were leaving, a younger, not yuppy set, came in. I couldn't figure out the clientele - but i do know now that only foreigners and revellers celebrate new years around here.

On the way back we ran into a police block on the Haifa Road, a few cars, a guy with a flashlight. They were checking for drunk drivers. Then I remembered that it had been such a long time since I've seen a road block - years. Since the fences started coming up.


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