Tel Aviv Diary May 13, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from May 18 - 22, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

May 18, 2005

I don't know WHY so few professors from Tel Aviv University have signed the petition opposing AUT's boycott. Sign here.

Spent today running errands in the heat of the day in Tel Aviv. Shenkin, Balfour, Mazeh, etc. There are a few streets totally torn up while new sewage pipes are being installed - a hole 20 feet deep at least ("How am I going to get to that building over there?" I asked the guy in the hard hat. "You want I should carry you?") I remembered Ezi's father telling stories about putting in sewage pipes in Yaffo and finding all kinds of treasures. I said, "So what have you found down there?" "Gold," he answered. "Really." "No. Shit."

Here's a great summary from Ariga THE SHAMELESSNESS OF IT ALL Wednesday, May 18, 2005 By Robert Rosenberg

One of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's favorite sayings in the days when he was promoting settlement in the West Bank, outraging an impotent Left with tactics that it regarded as trampling over the rule of law and order, was 'the dogs bark and the convoy rolls on,' meaning he could ignore all the complaints because he was busy with more important matters. One of his favorite postures was standing on a hilltop somewhere in the territories, a map in hand, and around him government officials whom he'd harangue with 'stop talking and get to work, get to work,' urging them to speed up the pace of construction of the settlements he was planting throughout the area.
This week, he wasn't saying the dogs can bark but the convoy will move but his every step was a demonstration that was exactly what he thought, and he was back in the field, though this time inside Israel, north of Ashkelon, once again haranguing government officials and contractors, to step up the pace. This time, he wants a settlement built practically overnight to absorb the 1,500 households that are to be evacuated from Gaza and the four settlements of the northern West Bank. After all, the leadership of Gush Katif asked that if they have to be moved, they be moved en mass.
This time, the 'dogs,' in any case, were not Leftists protesting his bulldozing ways, but radical Rightists proudly arrested this week in the highway closure campaign meant as a dress rehearsal for the anti-disengagement demonstrations this summer. While dozens of them were being remanded into police custody (those released signed promises not to take part in future demonstrations, promises that nobody believes they will abide by), Sharon was demanding red tape be cut for the construction - first of temporary housing, then of permanent housing - of a new series of neighborhoods in the dunes north of Ashkelon for the evacuated settlers.
Trouble is, so far only about 450 of the 1,500 households have signed up for the plan to move en bloc, and moreover, the new housing projects encroach on the last stretch of wild Mediterranean coastline open to the Israeli public. Maybe Leftists aren't complaining about Sharon using his time-tested methods for bulldozing his way through the bureaucracy, but Green organizations were bemoaning the fate of the dunes, threatening legal action. The government is putting pressure on the settlers by telling them that any of them who want to join the north Ashkelon project have to do so by the middle of next week, so the full-scale plans can be finalized for the amount of housing necessary. Sharon, in any case, is saying go ahead with construction - 'if we build, they will come,' he was heard saying yesterday, apparently not knowing it was a famous quote from a Kevin Costner fantasy movie about a baseball field in a cornfield.
There is no doubt that a malaise of corruption and disrespect for the law has spread through Israeli society in recent years. Some - nowadays mostly on the Right -- blame Sharon's tactics. Others blame the ascendancy of religious authorities who are claiming to be superior authorities as interpreters of God's laws, than the courts are, as interpreters of man-made laws. The demonstrators this week openly declared that their allegiance was to 'the Land of Israel, the Torah of Israel, the People of Israel,' a new Jewish trinity that has no room for the mundane secularity of the man-made state of Israel, except in service to the messianic movement.
Some very specifically blame the Likud central committee, which is in the thrall of an ideological crisis that began in the 1990s when Binyamin Netanyahu gave up some of the biblical homelands of Judea and Samaria and was intensified by Sharon's decision to quit Gaza and 'northern Samaria.' Under cover of the ideological crisis, the committee has turned into a den of nepotistic iniquity, where you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours is no longer a matter for backroom dealing, but conducted openly, shamelessly, indeed proudly. And when they are called to task, the political pros respond with 'everyone does it, and Mapai (the Labor Party's precursor) invented it.' But at the height of the Labor Party corruption, when Kupat Holim boss Asher Yadlin was funneling money to the Labor Party - and was being considered a candidate for governor of the Bank of Israel - the entire sum of money involved was $35,000 and it didn't even go to his pocket. And when Avrahan Ofer was caught, a s housing minister, arranging housing for his children, he didn't go on TV to say 'they started,' pointing at his political rivals, or blaming the attacks on him as politically motivated. He committed suicide, as did Yaacov Levinson, the economic wunderkind of Labor, who built up Bank Hapoalim to become the leading bank in the country, when it was his illicit dealings were uncovered. There haven't been any suicides, or even voluntary resignations by anyone in the Likud. Many blame the rise of a local oligarchy, 100-200 enormously wealthy families with extraordinary access to the political echelons, giving them tremendous power. Many of those families saw their wealth doubled and redoubled over recent years through the mass sell-off of state owned companies to them at prices that rarely were market value. And of course, many on the Left blame the occupation, which has inured the public to beastly behavior and violence. The mere fact that two sets of laws exist in the territories, just over the Green Line, one for Israeli Jews and the other for Palestinian Arabs, it's said, was enough to corrupt Israeli public life, for it was impossible to keep the two worlds, Israel and the territories, separate for 38 years, especially when the governments tried for years to blur the line between Israel and 'Judea and Samaria.'
But this is not merely about politics. Just this morning, the wife of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar was indicted this morning along with one of her sons and two of his friends, for conspiring in the kidnapping and beating of a young teenage suitor of her teenage daughter whom she thought unsuitable. The rabbi has not been indicted, even though at least part of the beatings took place in the rabbi's apartment, while he was there, because police say they don't have hard evidence he knew what was happening. Perhaps more significantly, he is refusing to step down, sending a PR flack to the radio stations this morning to explain that the rabbi is 'a very warm, very strong man, who knows how to draw a line between his personal life and his work.' That work includes being the president of the Jewish religious courts of the country, parallel to the president of the Supreme Court. The shamelessness is not only the purview of the politicians.

May 19, 2005

Here's a nice consumer horror story for you. In our cooperative apartment building, where we are on the board, we have been heating our central water heater for as long as I can remember with kerosene. Since the water heater is right below our windows, when the kerosene heater started leaking, months ago, I became agitated by the smell and the carbon that filled up our apartment. The other people on the tenants' board got into it and we decided to change over to gas. We got what we thought was a good deal, and thought life would be cleaner, healthier and cheaper. But soon after I began suffering a strange weakness, fluish symptoms and headaches. It took a while for us to realize that we were sicker at home than outside, but only when we got the bill did we realize that we were using an extraordinary amount of fuel. "Something's wrong with the mix," Ezi told Shlomo and Shlomo began to call the gas company. Apparently they weren't impressed, but they were convinced and came and saved us from CO poisoning. My flu is gone. Now all we need to figure out is where my daughter's copper poisoning is coming from...

Remember how Suha whispered in Hilary Clinton's ear that the Jews are poisoning the wells?

Tomorrow morning. Channel 10. 8:45. I try my hand at live performance. Either it works or it doesn't.

May 20, 2005

It worked.

But nobody I know saw it.

This morning's paper has a recipe for Mulokhia that Egyptian delicacy so many of my former Alexandrian friends long for. A few years ago we went to a play, "My Mother's Mullokhia" that I think I wrote about in these pages. Anyway while Alexandria and the family problems were discussed at great length, the actor and author whose name i have forgotten, made mollokhia on the stage and then we all had some. It was pretty amazing. Really.

Now I remember. The actor-writer-chef was Nissim Zohar and I wrote about it at the end of May, 2001 here . I've been at this blog for a long time, haven't I Since way before they called these things blogs.

May 21, 2005

Four Israeli women are having lunch - they've known each other for a long time and want to know each other better - and they begin talking about their language. "I don't read in Hebrew for fun," one of them says. "Its hard work. For fun I read in the language I was brought up in." The other women agree, even though the languages are different and even though they've all been here for more than a quarter of a century. A few moments before another woman told a story - about a researcher who had discovered something of hers from the camps, from the holocaust. She doesn't want to know about her past, she says. She is not the person for that kind of connection. Somehow the conversations mesh. We are all in-between. And at the same time very comfortable is this in-between life.

May 22, 2005

Sameh Zuoabi got third prize in Cannes!!! This is for a film called "Be Quiet" about a Palestinian father and son drving in a car in Israel, where the son asks questions...

He's been doing really well with the short film, having just won a prize from THE NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW OF MOTION PICTURES. I wrote about Sameh in these pages here and here, but now see how little i said about him, and how I didn't mention the conversation we had about how little recognition Arab filmmakers - Israeli citizens - get when they win international prizes. And now I see that Sameh's name has not been mentioned at all in the press. It's true that his success was overshadowed by Hanna Lazlo's win as best actress (dedicated by her to her mother and holocaust survivors - her mother is very ill and a survivor), but it is also true that he and Maya Dreyfuss also won in the student competitions. When we looked him up on ynet, however, it seems he's presented as a Palestinian, studying at Columbia, not as an Arab-Israeli from Nazareth. So the Israeli press would naturally be less interested in him... But again, the subject is one that would be of importance to Israelis...

I went to check out, because i'd heard there was a review of my latest book, but it wasn't there. I mean I like jbooks a lot, even though there have been some pieces that angered me, like Halkin's latest. But this time I discovered a review of guide books on Israel. This is an issue close to my heart, and I was very excited about it. But the books turn out to be undated - and that's because they're all 4 years old - and what good is that. when will there be a new book? i mean the country is full of tourists - don't they need a guide?

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