Tel Aviv Diary January 19 - 23, 2007- - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - January 19, 2007 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

January 19, 2007

Thanks to all of you who wrote. I'm still recovering, but the virus wiped out my memory.

But not my visionary powers. I have been predicting Gadi Eshkenazi as the new chief of staff, and it looks like i'll be right. But personally I would prefer Yom Tov Samia. He's got a nicer forehead.

How is it I'm reduced to talking about chief of staff? We all know how little I know about the military except for moments of inside information or inspiration. But the politics of this country bores me at the moment. Here a nuclear bomb, there a plan for nuclear development; here a threat of annihilation, there a corruption scandal. Enough already.

And even though I really wanted to reconnoiter the town today and report back to you, I had to turn homeward even before I finished my errands. I managed to make it to a little birth celebration, but couldn't even keep up my end of the conversation at the cocktail. And on my way home I passed the beach - and it was perfect beach weather. I promised myself I'd come back when i was feeling a bit better - like tomorrow. And now the weather is changing and tomorrow is going to be cold and rainy - perfect cholent weather.

January 20, 2007

One thing a day = for months i've been wanting to go to the exhibit of Tel Aviv Cafes at the Eretz Yisrael Museum. So we went as soon as the museum opened today. Many many photographs of the many many cafes from 1920-80. There was, for example, the Casino, built by Ezi's grandfather over the beach and onto the sea. A photograph, a drawing, pictures of famous and unknown people enjoying themselves in the cafe, an announcement of a renovation surcharge to be paid at entrance.

But the history of the coffee houses of Tel Aviv is too big a subject to do in one exhibit - i know this because i stood by while people commented on the pictures from the fifties. "Look girls, here's Arik, over here, the second one from the right. That isn't his wife he's with, is it?"

Even I was stricken with nostalgia, the photos of Moshe Ish Kassit asleep in the corner of his cafe, the lullaby to him written by Yacob Orland, the letter from the bohemian clients of Kassit to the municipality asking that it beallowed to stay open late hours because the customers don't get out of work until late. I too used to sit in Kassit. I too shared beer and fries with Dahn Beh Amotz at a sidewalk table. Don't get me wrong, I was never a major cafe goer - and many of the cafes i spent time in never made it to this exhibit. Some of them I've written about in these pages with nostalgia - like Olga, Exodus, Keter Hamizrach (not really a cafe, true), Stern. And others that were legendary, like Oslo. But it was such a public time, when people lived in the streets and shared their lives and professions with comrades. How could I not long for those days?

January 21, 2007

When I came to work this morning, I noticed that there was a place to park. It still took me a few hours of library work to remember that the Faculty were on strike today. And what helped me remember? The fact that more than half the books and articles I needed weren't in our library and that in thinking about how I would get hold of them anyway I cancelled the possibility of buying them because our salaries are nothing like they used to be. But there will always be fools like me who work in academia even though the conditions have become silly and there is far more money to make in the real job market. So do not fear for the universities.

I thought to find an hour to sit in a cafe today to prove that the world of coffee houses in tel aviv is not dead. But not only did i have no time - the weather was awful. Cold, wind, rain, etc. Tomorrow will be a better - warmer - day and I will meet my friends for lunch. Outside. And it goes without saying that everyone will be somewhere in a cafe at some point.

And as some of you have already pointed out, if i was not such a strait-laced workaholic i'd have a regular cafe where i sit every day for an hour or so and whoever wanted to find me could stop there.

January 22, 2007

A few days ago I complained bitterly about the university and its meager funds. But when a friend asked me if she should send her daughter to a private college instead of the university I couldn't help but shudder. Have you seen the lists of publications of the faculty at Tel Aviv University, I asked her? Maybe all the universities in Israel get less than a tenth of the budget of the University of California, but they're full of amazing and strangely dedicated scholars.

The weather is probably the most interesting news around here - not whether a new chief of staff should have been selected right now, not what is or isn't going on under El Aksa, not what the settlers are or are not doing, not escaping terrorists, but the transformation from b=b=bitter winter to glorious spring in one day. I had lunch at the hummous place in ramat aviv,

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