Tel Aviv Diary January 7 - 11 , 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from January 7, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

January 7, 2005

Haven't talked about commercials for a long time, ever since the skinny belly dancer with the Arab diners disappeared from the screen, i think. I love the cross-cultural commercials on tv (and in the movies) more than the programs usually. The MacDonald commercial where the two guys from Pulp Fiction are discussing what they call a pita bread with turkey in it (Macshawarma). "So you go into a MacDonalds and say, 'I'll have a MacShawarma, Please'?" "Right. Only they don't say please in Israel."

But my favorite for the day is the Arab secret service officers who secret a package from the enemy and it makes noises: "Bsst, bssst" which turns out to be the signature red cow on the Elite candy bar calling them. They taste it and agree, "Chocolate they DO know how to make." This kind of multi level ironic thinking would do us well in politics.

The Palestine Israel Journal publishes an electronic journal (PIJ Electronic Newsletter #2, January 2005), and Ziad Abu-Zayyad writes: "The Palestinian people are extending their arms out for real peace. The election of Mahmoud Abbas should not be ignored. The mistake made by Israel and the U.S. of letting him down when he was nominated prime minister during Arafats time should not be repeated. This is an opportunity that should not be missed"

We would do well to heed him.

It's a good message. As Khaled Duzdar.the Palestinian Co-Director of The Israel/Palestine Center for Research and information says: "give the man a chance and lets hope and work together for a better future."

January 8, 2005

Domestic evening by the fire, going through old family papers from the 1900's. I was almost asleep at midnight last night when we were driving back from Ramataim, and kept seeing checkpoints - police cars, traffic jams. Something happened. And then the news came on and it emerged that a soldier was shot on that road. It wakes you up - there are always people getting killed her and you go on with your petty life...

January 9, 2005

My friend, who spent the weekend in Ramallah, says everyone is excited about the elections - the family she stays with is voting Barghouti because he isn't part of a corrupt institution. But the news here keeps saying Abu Mazen is winning by a large margin because he's honest, logical, etc. Either way we get someone earnest to talk with at last. Now of course we have to find someone on our side to talk with them.

I am always complaining that there aren't very many genuine love songs or poems in the world - not enough at least. But there was one Hebrew composer and songwriter whose songs impressed me Amitai Neeman. He died yesterday and so his songs have been going through my head all day. Canaanite melodies and biblical-modern language with a lot of socialist understatement. My favorites are "HaNava Babanot" - with words that roughly translate to: "Please, thou most beautous of maidens, shine your light on my face"... And then she answers "Come my beloved....send out your arms to embrace me, kiss me again and again." (The idea of the song of songs language combined with dialogue is what impressed me most.) Then there's the song, "Chemdati," which comes out to something like "My Charming Woman," which gives the step by step operation of how to seduce a kibbutz girl. You know, first you invite her to the dances, then in the second verse you invite her for a walk in the field, and then you wake her up at night and ask her to come out because you want to whisper a secret to her. Lovely, right?

January 10, 2005

Once again i wrote something brilliant that i seem to have erased. Once again it was about television because I try not to write about people or events who might be hurt or endangered in some way, or things that are merely personal - but what can i say - i have a life.

And I can't really repeat whatever i wrote before because it's too depressing to write the same thing twice. And this is MY space after all so i can do whatever i want.

So i get this letter today from an Egyptian writer who really wants to be published in Israel. He just needs a translator and an agent. Now if I could translate from Arabic I'd do it in a flash. The idea is amazing to me. What a world.

This is not the first experience I have had with Egyptian writers. But it is the first time I've had a letter from Egypt like this.

Spent the evening at what may be a universal institution, but I doubt it - the coop tenants meeting - vaad habayit. Most of the people in our building have been living in the same place for well over thirty years, in keeping with the Israeli tradition of not moving. All those settlers who scream into the camera that they have been living here since ... are really very much part of the general culture. Moving is a trauma. Reminds you of some forced move in some other country. And most people here are second generation refugees. So these building meetings are very important. People have a great stake in their flats. We all happen to like each other so the emotional energy is very positive. But there is lots of energy.

And disagreements. And talking all together at the same time.

January 11, 2005

Over coffee with a right wing friend today we realized that we have one thing in common - mistrust of Sharon. Maybe this is a way to unite the country again!

So there will be no more Jaffa oranges. Just as my right wing friend was celebrating the fact that most of our vegetables come from gush katif, and i was complaining about the fact that our old orchard near Tel Aviv was dried up years ago because the government subsidies stopped, it was being decided that the orange industry in Israel has pretty much been watered down with foreign supplements and the name Jaffa Oranges was no longer relevant. Very very sad.

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