Tel Aviv Diary February 13-17, 2007- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - February 13, 2007 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

February 13, 2007

I think they might have convinced me tonight. The English bloggers met in a cafe in Tel Aviv tonight and they are so professional and connected that I with my old-fashioned diary felt quite abashed. Alison Sommer who spoke, has long impressed me with her ease and adroitness in journalism and Lisa Goldman, with her clear vision and forgivingness, added more vital information. And even though Lisa eventually will force me into the 21rst century, there is something about the intimacy and privacy and publicness of an impossible-to-find journal I relish.

February 15, 2007

Here's the first try:

February 15, 2007

All right, I'm doing it gradually, the way I'm going off hormones. Here's the text i just copied from the blog: I’m going to try this out for a week. if it has cramped my style, then back to the old secret log. If I can overcome the publicness of this, then so much the better. After all I do want to open dialogues, to get ideas going. So, although it has been discussed ad nauseum I wanted to say something about sex in this country.

But first a digression: The Yiddish word, ‘Mechaya,’ meaning ‘pleasure,’ comes of course from the Hebrew word ‘to bring life to…’ Simple: pleasure returns the sense of being alive.

My mother used to sing a song about a mother asking her daughter about the kibbutz training camp she went to in Lithuania. Here’s a rough translation of two verses: “And what did you eat there, my dear daughter?” “Burnt-up Kasha, made by Masha. Mother it was a mechaya.” “and where did you sleep, my dear daughter?” “In the loft in the hay, with two ‘halutzim’(pioneers). Mother, it was a mechaya.” Now it you remember Nina Simone’s mother-daughter song about marching for the NAACP it has a similar structure:“Oh daughter, dear daughter take warning from me, and don’t you go marching with the NAACP. For they’ll rock you and roll you and shove you into bed, and if they steal your nuclear secrets you’ll wish you were dead.” And ends with “Oh Mother dear mother, no need for distress. For the young man has left me his name and address. And if we win though a baby there’ll be, he won’t have to march like his Dada and me.” My mother’s version downplays the ideology behind the daughter’s sexual revolution, emphasizing the irony and the freedom.

And although all the refugees I knew who survived the Holocaust (and I’ve known a lot – more of that some other time) expressed their belief in sexual restraint, there was also an awareness of the pleasure involved, and a rueful tolerance for reality that they brought with them from the shetl.

It was probably different with the Oriental communities, I want to say. But then I remember the Delacroix paintings of the Jewish women in Morocco, and their open sensuality, and I suspect that the mentality of the women I grew up with were similar: know about everything, hunger for everything, and do nothing unless it is permitted, or unnoticed. And it was up to the society to make sure that nothing went unnoticed.

There are more unique factors determining sexuality around here – the ideology of socialism and the equality of the sexes. And the holocaust and post-holocaust anarchy.

But there is more. Sexuality is one of the noted considerations during wars around here. In the Gulf War, for example, I kept a poetic log of the rockets, called “Between Bombardments” and noted:


“No, no sex," Eyal says. What man
can compete? This missile
gives it to all of us at once.
A war with no heroes, every man
for himself, every woman
fearing her own life,
everyone divided
from the others,
and with so many faulty options
everyone divided against themselves.

Even jerking off
can't do it.

(I can’t remember if the whole journal was published)

The other day I caught the end of some announcement on the news that Israel is high on the list of ‘performance,’ that is that the sexual average is 7 times a month and that it is a lot compared to others. Of course it could be that Israelis are big braggarts, but the fact is that it is almost always a sexual element in Israeli behavior.

Where does this lead us? Sorry, guys, not now. I’ve got a life to live.

February 16, 2007

Okay guys, here's the compromise. I'll write in my private space for now and then clean up the html and copy it to the blog. Then I can maintain my own 'letter to the world that never wrote to me' facade to myself.

So tonight I was watching a live interview with former President Yitzhak Navon and I remembered why I am here. The old elegance, honesty, strength, wisdom etc. that we learned to expect from our old leaders. That palpable hunger for equality and nobility for all: it made me nostalgic for the old times (Of course some of the contemporary politicians say similar things, but nobody believes them). The most wonderful part of this interview for me was the way he refused to answer questions that were beneath him (like whether the present president should resign) and instead expounded at length on subjects important to him (and me), like values and morals.

p.s. Navon used this occasion to point out that Shimon Peres would restore some respect for the position and, he hinted, for the state. --- What do we say in Yiddish? Every word a pearl.

Sitting in Minna Tomei this afternoon, staring out at the diggings on Ivn Gvirol Street, it suddenly occurred to me. I've been looking out at how the whole street has been dug up, and Kaplan too, and wondering why it is taking so long, and the sermons in the Mosques today suddenly struck home. We're digging a secret passage to Mugrabi.

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