Tel Aviv Diary February 27 - March 2, 2008 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - February 27, 2008 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

February 27, 2008

Imagine you are studying at Sapir College, let's say in an English class taught by Amit Marantz. And let's say 30 rockets fall on your school one afternoon and one of the students is killed. Let's say it was today.

Wow. I LIVE here and find it hard to digest. Imagine what it would be like there.

While I was watching the headlines on the news, a good friend calls to invite me to go with her on Saturday morning to support an Arab village in the West Bank. I admit that what's going on there is pretty awful but I don't demonstrate for anything any more. And by the way, can we talk later because I'm watching the news on Sapir College. "Where's that?" she asks. "Sderot," I answer. "Want to go there on Saturday afternoon?" "Ha!" she answers, knowing the irony of it. "They are victims too."

I'm not finished - the rockets are still falling. I've got to make sure about a cousin. They're falling on Ashkelon too - those are imported, aren't they? Probably from the last border break in Rafah, no?

I haven't said anything about the ex-president's deal, i know. He's admitted to lesser charges of - like - molestation and not rape, and despite protests, the deal has held up in court. This is not a good thing for a country fraught with sexual misunderstandings. So many different societies, so little legal enforcement, so much desire.

And so much misbehavior among the leaders! Crimes of all kinds creep into the folds between cultures.

But I must admit I have always had a special personal distaste for our former president. And I know and you know that he should have been behind bars BEFORE the crimes of which he is accused.

Since I wrote that last paragraph I was inundated with emails concerning my naivete and expectations of honesty in leaders. What can I tell you - there's a difference between dirty and slimey. And you'd think the leaders of this country would have better things to do.

February 28, 2008

"I can't bear listening to the radio in this country," my ex-Israeli friend says. "Don't listen," I tell her remembering that less than 10 years ago we were activists together, and the idea of escaping society would have been an anathema to us.

But I couldn't bear it either today, the news. We're burying people, they're burying people. There has to be another way but no one is admitting that.

February 29, 2008

Of course in Tel Aviv we're still living it up - despite the rockets, the alarms, the certainty of terrible news. I looked around in Judith's cafe, where you can get Hungarian pastries just like in some mythical old country, and it was filled with old women who have in some way suffered so much in wars and/or the holocaust, and would not be able to take any more hardships. These women appear economically and intellectually sound, and well preserved physically. But I am sure they are trying very hard to block out the dangers only fifty miles away. They've had enough.

Aharon Amir. A few weeks ago I had a sudden fear that he would die soon, since he was 85, and I promised myself that even though I missed his birthday, I'd cook him some "canaanite" food, since he was so ardent about this 'indigenous'element of Israeli identity. I didn't know, until this morning when I read his obituary, that he was born in Lithuania like my parents. He was a great man, and a father of Israeli literature, and I will miss him. (He was incredibly encouraging to me as well, often invited me to send him poems for translation, and published some of them in his journal Keshet. If he didn't publish more it was my fault, because I'm a bit lazy and/or shy. But even with my strange inability to write in Hebrew and our political disagreements he was accepting and encouraging.) I will miss him a lot.

Catching up on my email and other obligations I discovered Miriam's love of sushi which like mine, focusses on Yakimono.

March 1, 2008

Thank goodness we only paper-trained our dog. Even though she goes out four times a day she still pees on the paper at home. And there is much to piss on today. What terrible developments. Katyushas on Ashkelon. Kassams on Sderot. Attacks on Gaza. Human lives targeted. And of course both sides become more and more determined. We of course would stop as soon as the rockets cease.

Life may go on amid this madness, but sometimes I can't get my head around it. So I almost didn't go to my good friend's birthday party, but I did, and I forgot everything in the celebration - until the final song of the sing along - Shalom-Salaam. Then suddenly the absence of the very thing we were singing about returned to me with such pain, How many people were killed since we began the party? How many people irretriveably traumatized? How do we get around this?

March 2, 2008

There are lots of things I don't tell you about. For example, I have been obsessed by the Galapagos Islands ever since I read Melville fifty years ago."In no world but a fallen one could such lands exist." he wrote, and I was hooked. But for years it seemed to me escapist. What could a Tel Avivian possibly see that is relevant in such a strange and distant place? Today, as I listen to the war planes flying overhead I suddenly understood the contemporary relevance. The attempt to return the Galapagos Islands to an ecologically prehuman state despite a changing world, demands the imposition of drastic laws. For example: No one can live there who was not born in the Galapagos or married to a Galapagos native. No one can hunt or even touch any of the indigenous animals or reptiles. Animals which are not indigenous must be eliminated (like the 70,000 goats which were shot a few years back). So there is something of a conflict between say animal rights and ecology.

This brings be back to Tel Aviv. How can humans create paradise? There is an inherent conflict between our concept of what is right and what is our concept of historical determination and what is practical. And we live all the time in the crease of that conflict.

I would elaborate but my computer is once again at the shop. I'm using the crap Lenovo that is too heavy and unwieldy. The Dell XPS won't be back for another week and when it comes back I still won't trust it. I may never trust it again.

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