Tel Aviv Diary - July 22-26, 2014 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

July 22-26, 2014

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Last night we held the poetry evening even though the situation is so really terrible. I was expecting 100 people but maybe 60 showed up, and it was surprising that they really managed to do it at all.

We had to show up around 5:30 or so, to do sound and all that, and we stuck around to eat pita and zaatar with the guy who runs the kiosk. The show started at nine and ended around 10:30. When we got out it was very silent and the streets seemed empty. Except for police cars. And down the street a bunch of cops were standing around Haj Kahil too. We drove home and turned on the news - only to discover that while we were performing there was an attempted anti-Arab demonstration there, followed later, after we left, by a counter-demonstration.

I don't think that was the reason most of the crowd stayed away, though. It was more depression and fear. Who could be happy about all the deaths. Who could be happy with the rockets.

Of course I thought the show went well - but i was inside my little bubble

Today has been filled with sadness. The faces of young men who would have been my students. the faces of women in Gaza who look like me. And Michael Sternberg's shiva. Thank goodness he isn't seeing this.

July 23, 2014

We know nothing here - except for the numbers of people in Gaza killed, the names and photos of soldiers killed, the rockets coming when they will. Even the ex-generals I've long been in love with have stopped giving their evaluations on tv and have been replaced by talkers. Of course we should not know anything. We've been giving away far too much information as it is. And yet, it adds to the sense of helplessness.

Still, better a sense of helplessness than the chaos of the human shields.

Went to do an eye test today because I think I'm not seeing very well. The optometrist was so jumpy that I decided it's not that I'm not seeing well, it's that I don't like what I'm seeing. So we bid all a peaceful night and went home.

And that was when I saw that three more soldiers died today, when a tunnel exploded on them with a remote trigger. Three more. Every face is burnt into my memory. Every boy is in my heart.

28 tunnels, 60 shafts - so far. How many cities could have been built? how many schools, hospitals, theaters? How much of this was built with our cement? How much was built with aid from people thinking they were feeding and clothing the citizens of Gaza?

This is what I was doing while the rockets were falling:

Does it seem frivolous? To me it was total defiance, a total refusal to allow Hamas to crush the idea of humanity. Hamas does not only want to destroy us as individuals but they want to destroy the concept of individuality - that is why they put people on the roof to take the bombs

July 24, 2014

So we can sit in our bedroom and watch the missiles getting shot down outside out window. For the closer ones we have only audio since we're down in the shelter, or when we don't have time, in the hallway.

This time I had an eerie feeling. Ezi was behind me, Yelena didn't want to interrupt her cleaning and wouldn't leave, and I kept going down to the shelter. Suddenly I realized he wasn't behind me any more. I stayed down stairs with some of the neighbors but went upstairs early to find him. He was chatting with some other neighbors in the hall. "I stayed behind to get Yelena to move to a safer place." "Yes," I said wickedly, "I had an aunt married to a guy like that." What a terrible comparison. It's a completely different story. My partisan aunt was caught by the Nazis while her husband was helping some other ladies to escape. He survived the war.

In any case, it became clear to me that I was not in condition to go out to a meeting of Yiddish writers and argue with them about the constitution. We're going to a memorial service for my nephew and a birthday party later. Even that is too much. I'm going under the covers.

My own little shuddering aside, I hope it is clear to all my correspondents out there that Hamas is the spearhead of Jihad. That if we can contain this conflict we are helping the rest of the world to live without the terrors that we encounter every moment.

There is another aspect of this terrible conflict that we are ignoring. Moral degeneration. As I sat today in a very nasty meeting of Yiddish writers, I suddenly tuned out of the arguments of eighty-year-old about who is a writer and who is a graphomaniac and thought about the possibility of a missile. It was not a far-fetched thought. We'd had an alarm today and witnessed a rocket being shot down over a nearby neighborhood. So what if there was an alarm in the middle of this meeting. We'd have to go to the hall and down the steps. But these are elderly people, I thought. Would I be able to help some of them? Would I just panic and run? If I were to help one of them to safety which one would I choose? At that moment I realized that I was not fit to participate in a meeting like this, and since I had to go to a memorial for our nephew Amos, I really had to leave anyway. As I raced out to catch a taxi, I realized that most of those octogenarians were in better shape than me anyway, and that I was just having a bit of a panic thing. But what scared me most was the thought that I was more likely to abandon someone in need at that moment, that I was not at my ethical best.

July 25,2014

Boom. We can now tell if it is near or far away, if it is shot down or hits something - just by the boom. We're good at it. My mother used to talk about her expertise in analyzing what fell where in the Blitz. Tonight should be especially bad.

July 26, 2014

Today was a ceasefire that pretty much worked until eight but now we're back to missiles and shooting. Another night fully dressed.

Now we have an anti-war demonstration in the square and it has to be dissolved because of the rockets.

Ezi and I have been married for 34 years and today was our anniversary. Don't ask.

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