Tel Aviv Diary January 17-21, 2009- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - January 17-21, 2009 Karen Alkalay-Gut

January 17, 2009

Surprise surprise. There is a road around Beer-Sheva to Sde Boker. We missed the kassams, not by much it seems, and spent three days talking about poetry and how you can talk about poetry when there's a war going on.

The poets were all fascinating, although some were not quite as great as they themselves thought. Some of the greatest literary figures in the country shared their thoughts with a crowd of people who came from far and near. Amos Oz, Yossi Sarid, Haim Guri, Ronny Sommek and many more, spoke with audiences honestly and personally about subjects ranging from history to the chapter of the week to the literatures of the world. I'll put some pictures on tomorrow.

But right now I want to see what's happening with the cease fire. Not having tv or radio for 3 days has been maddening.

Not that I was altogether cut off from civilization. The other morning we woke up and couldn't resist turning toward to the desert instead of the classroom. We started walking along the lip of the wide descent into the desert, and discovered that Ben Gurion's tomb was right there, over there. Just then the phone rang. "Where are you Mommy?" "I'm on my way to Ben Gurion's grave." "I'm here" "Where" "At Ben Gurion's grave." So there was a tearful family reunion in what seemed the middle of nowhere. And we discovered we were surrounded by herds of ibexes who looked at us with mild ideas. They are beautiful and smart, but not really interested in us. Nor should they be.

January 18, 2009

Israel ceased fire at two this morning and we've been getting rockets all day. Of course the tunnels will be rebuilt with more weapons than before within months. All this was predictable. What was even more predictable was the discovery today of hundreds of dead buried under the rubble in Gaza. For every one of those victims there will be at least one suicide bomber.

But to return to subjects of which I have control:

Some individuals at Sde Boker

Some places:

January 19, 2009

This was a day of errands, and when i look back at all the places i visited today, and the things i accomplished, it is not surprising that i mislaid a rather large amount of cash somewhere. In each place I visited there was an interesting conversation. When I wrote a check to the seamstress, she said: "Yes, that's today's date - tomorrow is the inaugural, you know," and encouraged a long talk about how democracy is desirable even if it doesn't balance the budget always. At the bank, the teller told me that every one is so post-trauma here, they're overdrawn, confused about their accounts, and forget to pay their bills. Everything was political, nothing was just for pleasantries or just business. As she was adjusting my new glasses (not very attractive) the optician hoped we have good things to see for a change. And the woman who sold me cosmetics reproached me for sighing over the ruins of Gaza. "You shouldn't feel more sorry for them than for us," she warned. "They've killed over 120 of our children in the past few years."

The only surprise I had was when I was visiting kindergartens for a grandchild's future registration. The cheapest and best put-together kindergarten by far was religious, with the teachers wearing head coverings. This looked like the best place for my family, and as I walked back to the car, I thought maybe it was worth risking brainwashing for such a homelike, warm environment.

But the car was far away, and by the time I turned the engine on, I was imagining myself a grandmother in Gaza...

You might want something of a reality check here

and for inaugural day:

First Night in the White House

The Potomac's sunset was wonderful
and the new President
after a long festive day
falls asleep on Lincoln's bed

He dreams jackdaws
And no matter how soft he nears
and his hand
no matter what the offering
--away they fly

-- Gregory Corso

fr. Long Live Man
[New York: New Directions, 1962]

January 20, 2009

A new beginning for us all.

And for me as well - I'm taking off for a few weeks.

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