Tel Aviv Diary May 28, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

Tel Aviv Diary - from May 28 - June 1, 2005 - Karen Alkalay-Gut

May 28, 2005

An electrical problem with my computer. i'm figuring it out. it's like magic. there is a logic in the end. in the meantime i think i will go out to breakfast on the beach.

And lunch. And dinner.

The whole town is at the beach. Especially in the afternoon. Walking down the boardwalk from the electrical station up north all the way to Jaffo. with all the different kinds of people along the way.

on the way back to the car, past the shacks left over from the grand exhibition of 1934, we passed a trance club with particularly a tough looking crowd. Lots of tattoos and muscles. And seconds before we had been sitting at comme-il-faut cafe on the beach, with its upper-middle class clientele and white damask serviettes. A few nights ago I spent the evening at a seafood restaurant a few meters to the south, where only shrimps and calimari were on the menu, and only celebrities hiding from strangers sat at the little tables.

May 29, 2005

How nice to turn away from the absolutely incomprehensible politics before us to beaches and bars. It is not that the paper is not read every day, or the news doesn't come on every hours whether you want to hear it or not, but when you suddenly adopt the rule of alcoholics anonymous - about accepting the things you can't change, the pressure comes off. Of course as a citizen I remain responsible for everything my government does, whether I like it or not, but when I start thinking like a British or American citizen, and continue the disassociation that begins with the approach of the news media between the results in the world and my government and me, i feel almost normal.

Am I being ironic? Only partially. One of the strange characteristics of part of Israeli society is the desire to analyze and blame the self. The opposite characteristic - of projecting all blame onto others - is also rampant, but I keep remembering Bialik's lines from the massacre of 1903 in Kishinev: "no words of hatred, not a breath of anger - for hark! they beat their breasts and cry, "we have sinned"? What sin? The sin of broken pots..." I'm quoting from memory but Bialik's anger was addressed to that self-destructive mentality of the Jewish people of self-blame. The new Jew, the "israeli" wanted to get away from that, because they clearly saw its suicidal results. But they swung too far in the other direction. At the same time they (we) return to this self-analysis and self-condemnation all the time. What have we done wrong? This is one of the reasons our PR is so bad. We can't present a strong simple statement ever. This blog is one of the best evidences of that!!!

May 30, 2005

Here's the piece on the English Department

And did I mention that Alicia Ostriker reviewed me in jbooks?

May 31, 2005

I don't know why I don't report about the usual subject of this journal, Tel Aviv. I've been to the usual places - the cafes, the city streets, the fun places. But even if I'm staying home, even if I'm only walking the dog around the block the city invades my senses. There is a food fair going on in the park about 2 miles from my home, for example, a melange of samples from local restaurants. It causes traffic jams that make anyone coming to meet me at least ten minutes late, and last night I could smell dough frying in oil... Why am I not there? Crowds scare me in my declining years - people step on my toes, pick my pocket... and i have the lingering fear of a bomber. So I stay home and eat leftovers in my new kitchen.

Tonight there is a reading in MAslavita - Chicky Arad, Rony Somekh, Rafi Weichert, me and i don't know what else. (7 Maslavita Street) I would also have liked to have hosted the Beit Levick festivities - but I promised Maslavita first. And it should be a great evening too.

June 1, 2005

It was a great evening, and the poetry on the stage and in the audience was amazing. Yesterday I was talking with a scholar from abroad who is writing a book on the new israeli poetry and she was claiming there is an amazing renaissance in poetry in this country. Then she left the country, so she couldn't come to the evening last night. But she was right. The only problem was the audience was not the largest, around 50, and I think it cramped the style of some of the performers. But each person there was alert, awake, excited (except for Ezi who is totally sleep-deprived what with living with me and having another full-time job).

So I would have been in a great mood this morning, except that the papers announced this morning that Ali Salem would not be coming from Egypt to Israel to get his honorary PhD at Ben Gurion. That means he will not be at Sasson Somekh's celebration tomorrow, and I won't have a chance to do to him what he did to me in Michigan about 15 years ago.

And I had it all planned.

even though it wouldn't have the dramatic impact.

Years before we were in Salzburg together, learning American Literature. There we were seated together at meals- 3 Egyptians, one Lebanese, three Israelis. I think we felt uncomfortable at first, but some of us began to take a perverse pleasure in the way others found it remarkable.

And then I was at the University of Michigan, talking about - Hebrew poetry by women - I think - and because it was a women's department, we decided that we would be informal, and perhaps introduce ourselves. Suddenly from the back of the room a deep voice, distinctly Arabic, called out "I KNOW YOU" and everyone turned around then back to me, expecting a confrontation. "Ali!" I shouted, and he ran up to hug me. Quite a spectacle. And this is his modus operandi. When he wanted to see what was really going on in Israel, he came here. Period. Took his jeep and drove. Missed the exit to Tel Aviv and found himself in Netanya on a Friday night.

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