Tel Aviv Diary December 28, 2008-January 1, 2009- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - December 28, 2008 - January 1, 2009 Karen Alkalay-Gut

December 28, 2008

My sciatica, which has been more or less dormant for the past two and a half years, since the last Lebanon war, is now alive. So a nerve, half the length of my body, sears through me. It is of course connected to the war. Who can watch the agonies of Gaza in peace? But who can allow the alternative? I think of the streets of Gaza I haven't seen since the seventies, the orchards I visited then, the people with whom I shared meals, the children who played with my own. I think of the writers I've met from there in the past few years, a beautiful woman, a tall thin moustached gentleman, and so many others, whose names I dare not mention because they may be punished for meeting me. It is first the individuals who come to mind, and then the population. After that I remember the rockets that have been raining down on the south for eight years.

A few days ago I was asked to join a meeting which was going to be problematic. Since I usually function well as a mediator, and I like all the parties involved, I agreed. Well the fact that I understood both sides didn't help at all - there was no solution except legal arbitration because there was no real good will on both sides. Good will on both sides, a belief that both sides want to solve a problem. If we had that with Hamas, we'd be fine.

December 29, 2008

You've got the war covered from all the different sides. Let me take some different sides. What if I am a man in Sderot whose business has been destroyed over the past few years, and his entire self-image as a man because he can't control anything that happens to him? And he's been saying - even on tv - let's work this thing out with the Hamas so they won't throw indiscriminate rockets on the population for a while and maybe allow us to open the gates like we did before? What if you're this man and you start hearing the bombing in Gaza one day and the rockets stop falling on you? You know how awful it is to feel that terror the Gazans are feeling, but a little relief and joy creeps into you. And you remember how terrible you felt whenever the Gszans passed out candies and celebrated when your garage went up in smoke, and you feel like maybe this is the time to pass out candies too. And you are torn.

And what if you are an Arab student from Nazareth studying at Tel Aviv University? Maybe you have Jewish friends, and when you're at the university it feels almost normal. But you know that one of the guys in your class is a pilot and maybe he missed class yesterday because he was bombing. And maybe you've got an exam today and can't concentrate. But school is going on as usual, except for the demonstration today at 12 at the entrance to the university. Would you be able to take your exam?

At twelve I thought to go to see the demonstration against the war. But because it was raining, and I seem to have caught some evil cold in my chest, I decided to skip checking it out and go to my office instead. At the university a class was just getting out and students were examining the midterms that had just been returned. Jews and Arabs seemed unaware of the demonstration a hundred meters away. And when I spoke to some, this fact was confirmed. Later, when I saw it on TV, however, it looked serious.

Do I want the war to stop? I do. Do I want the years of rockets to end? I do. Is there a way to discuss this? I doubt it.

Do I justify Israel's war right now? (Gulp) Yes. The fact that 340 people have been killed does not escape me, and the fact that at least 180 were Hamas leaders does not mollify me, but I can't see the alternative. I do, however, want to reevaluate my position and the position of my country every day, with every move.

As Rochelle Owens just wrote me, "A sovereign country must protect its people. Am Yisrael Chai."

December 30, 2008

Jeepers - I was born under shelling and have been trained since youth about duck and cover, Some of the fears were not realistic (such as the atom bomb in the fifties), but I'm so tuned to it I am not totally lost when the possibility of missiles on my house becomes actual.

Anyway, I only had a few months here, a month there - nothing long drawn out. So when I was talking to a friend from Sderot yesterday, and noticed how hard it was for him to get into the poetry reading we were at, it took a few minutes for me to realize how deeply the eight-year terror of missiles is part of his life. It's in his body, in the sudden movements, in the sadness in his eyes. Every time I get a letter from someone (and I do get a few) about how Israel's killing people can't be compared to the Hamas missiles because the Hamas missiles are primitive and do no damage, I really want to scream. The missiles hitting ashkelon are Russian Grad missiles, They have little balls in them to do maximum damage, and although only three people have been killed this time around, its not for want of trying. It's because we spend a lot of energy and money on training people and building shelters.

Having said all that, I'd stop now. I'd stop bombing and wait to see if they stop the missiles. If they don't, we can start again. If they do, we can start talking.

Easy to say. We won't. They won't.

If you're upset about the UN Resolution on this subject Sign here.

December 31, 2008

Wow - the last day of the year. Although I am hooked to the reality show called "Casted Lead," and don't leave the tv, I agree with Steve King who thinks the way to end this year is with a poem by D.H. Lawrence:

There are only two things now,
The great black night scooped out
And this fire-glow.

This fire-glow, the core,
And we the two ripe pips
That are held in store.

Listen, the darkness rings
As it circulates round our fire.
Take off your things.

Your shoulders, your bruised throat!
Your breasts, your nakedness!
This fiery coat!

As the darkness flickers and dips,
As the firelight falls and leaps
From your feet to your lips!

("Look! We Have Come Through!")

Seriously folks, this war is getting serious. As we give more and more instructions to the public to make sure they aren't injured, the Hamas seems to be hiding in hospitals and mosques so that we'll bomb lots of people to get to them. I'm really surprised that only a few hundred citizens in Gaza have been killed.

This old friend of mine, who lives in Beersheva, had a visit last night from the municipality to make sure he knows where to go, how to protect himself, and who to call if something goes wrong. Another friend of mine in Beersheva told me she can't be bothered with this war - she's just going to stay in her kitchen for the rest of the war. On the other hand, Ezi drove down to Gedera today to take a friend home from work. Fortunately I didn't know about it because I would have platzed, but Ezi didn't realize he was within Grad range. Grad, our little gifts from China.

Yes, I changed my mind. We shouldn't stop. I'm flexible, and the behavior of Hamas in the past two days makes me realize we can't stop without having to face them again within months. Yet, there is something symbolic about going into the new year with a bang.

And for the new year, an old joke:

A journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Western Wall to pray, twice a day, every day, for a long, long time. So she went to check it out. She went to the Western Wall and there he was, walking slowly up to the holy site.

She watched him pray and after about 45 minutes, when he turned to leave, using a cane and moving very slowly, she approached him for an interview.

"Pardon me, sir, I'm Rebecca Smith from CNN. What's your name?"

"Morris Fishbein," he replied.

"Sir, how long have you been coming to the Western Wall and praying?"

"For about 60 years."

"60 years! That's amazing! What do you pray for?"

"I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and the Muslims. I pray for all the wars and all the hatred to stop. I pray for all our children to grow up safely as responsible adults, and to love their fellow man."

"How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?"

"Like I'm talking to a wall."

January 1, 2008

I dreamt that our pilots were dropping food baskets on Gaza. I couldn't see exactly where they fell, but i woke up with an amazing hope. Please the Lord, please Allah, and good things will happen to the citizens there.

I think I was affected by a you tube of an Arab demonstration in Fort Lauderdale with signs saying "Nuke Israel." It made me think of King Solomon's judgement over the baby claimed by two women. To want to nuke a country and make it totally uninhabitable is to cut it in half. Who would want any land destroyed - much less the holy land?

In the meanwhile we've been advised to freshen up our shelter. We're not yet in rocket range, but who knows what tomorrow will bring? And so far the national guard advice has been one day ahead of the missiles. Beer sheva decides to cancel school yesterday and a rocket burrows into a classroom in the morning. So who knows what tomorrow may bring?

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