Tel Aviv Diary December 18-22, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - December 18, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

What a mess I am today - calling wrong numbers, forgetting appointments... I even got confused driving to Beit Levinstein, that traumatic rehab hospital in Raanana that is well-known to every resident in this country.

So it is no accident that I also erased the page I wrote for the day.

But every minute is new news - this hour Sharon has collapsed - and whatever this means for him and his health, it makes us aware that even our view of the future changes from minute to minute.

Two old issues: Cats, and Museum Naming. Count on me to pick the losing opinion each time.

Even though I know I'm right.

Oh, last night's show! I forgot! Ezi filmed part of it, and Roy said some guys were filming Avak, but I forgot to see if someone was taking pictures. it was a pretty amazing event - i would have liked to go celebrate after but ezi got an earache...

December 19, 2005

The confusion and silence surrounding Sharon's stroke is very familiar to me, and quite understandable. Our national hysteria is too. The terror that our leader, whoever he may be, has been disabled, that we don't have all the facts, that we are 'lost' -

Since we don't have a real, functioning "system" of government, but have been operating with a bully government, it is doubly scarey - we don't know how to do anything without being told.

And of course we'll learn nothing from this - neither how to delegate responsibility nor how to work fewer than 18 hours a day.

But rockets fall in Ashkelon daily, and olive trees are uprooted in hate in Arab villages, and how can any government keep on top of all this? The only people who have anything in common are the extremists... No wonder netanyahu won the likkud primaries.

December 20, 2005

Rockets falling in Ashkelon, nuclear warheads in Iran, and we are frittering away our energy on petty arguments. Among palestinians and israelis the only ones with energy and direction are the extremists. And it is so understandable why people would be drawn to them - with their simplistic answers and their inability to recognize any 'other' as human.

But there are times when only extremists can save you.

An evil eye flu has taken over me and keeps me longing for bed and television, so I found myself watching Eran Sabag today interviewing Dina Porat on Abba Kovner.

Now there was a man whose drive during WWII saved many many lives. And after the war seemed to get perceived as an extremist focused on revenge.

I have an incredible respect for Kovner, and wrote a poem about him

When he was being treated at Sloan Kettering, I had the opportunity of meeting him in New York - and we talked a bit about my aunt, who was one of his partisans. Later, he was given an award in NYC on the eve of the operation to remove his vocal chords, and gave his last speech ever.

The poem doesn't do it - or him - justice

LESSONS

for Abba Kovner

1.

Since noon was for Sloan Kettering
and evenings for recovery,
we paid our visit in the morning.
Amid sofas and tea, we spoke of poetry
and other easy solutions to complex problems,
until you rose, grabbed the shawl
that hid your disfigured throat
from the streets of New York, and said,
"Time for my dancing lesson."

II

"This is the last time I will speak in public,"
Abba said to the crowd at his presentation
of a Certificate of Recognition
from the City of New York.
They'd known he was a partisan,
been told he was ill,
but not until he stood
for his final words
did they know
our loss.

III

Dare to be simple, be true
and though the cords are cut in your throat
your voice comes through,
still, small piercing hearts
born even after the dust has made its peace
with your fighting bones

December 21, 2005

"'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's," says John Donne, but he lived before electricity, and before our illustrious electric company which folded last night under the overload. Cold and dark, we turned on all the lights and the air-conditioners, and suddenly it was dark and cold. Only in some places, and only for a few minutes, but since the electric company had just lost a serious lawsuit for negligence, we could not help but wonder how the rest of the winter will be.

Every year, on the 15th of December, Ezi turns on the central heating - hot water pipes under the stone floors - for the entire building. Every year there is a bit of a shuffle as some people decide they don't want this luxury, and others, like me, know they will not get through the winter without it. Not that the winters here are so cold, but the buildings are - Designed for hot weather, the floors are cold in the summer. But this year there is a particular flurry - As the older people in the building who need it more and more get older and more passive, their voices are not heard. And there is no heat.

This is the poem about my aunt:

MALCAH

Sometimes, on a quiet summer night
I smell her flesh burning.

The shack ignited by Aryan soldiers
flares up again: the informant farmer
watches from the barn.

The women scream
as my uncle
pulls them out
one by one
leaving her
perversely,
heroically,
for last.

And there she
remains
for me
my Partisan aunt
Queen of burning flesh.

December 22, 2005

Boy do I hate Ramat Aviv G. I don't know why I went there tonight to buy glasses. I saw there was a new shop of what is called in Hebrew "pitshivkes," or trinkets, and closed my eyes before i looked in the window - bet myself that it would all be overdesigned and gaudy - and opened my eyes to find it worse than i had imagined. And the glasses I bought will probably also emerge as not only over priced but just a bit too much. I should never go shopping when I'm tired. And certainly not in G.

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